eco brand: studio kimaya, building a community

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sophie planet is an eco entrepreneur with an alacritous mind + a charming french accent, and she’s telling me about her steamy morning hike through the lush woods of auroville, located in south india. sophie has moved to this small village, where she lives between serenity beach + sadhana forest.

hers is an unconventional story: this is the story of sophie’s serendipitous journey to a life of wellness, balance + ethical entrepreneurship.

auroville is an experimental town + utopian village that provides a milieu for material and spiritual awakening. and this is where sophie planet has come to live, and where she has built her ethical apparel brand kimaya from seed to sustainable garment.

sophie is recounting her first trip to india, a city that spoke to her in gray. she recalls stepping into the blistering heat + conspicuous pollution. she remembers thinking she couldn’t live here, but 15 years later, life spilled sophie right into india.

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The universe put me [in India] to push me away from my comfort zone - I’m grateful for that. Life pushes you beyond your limits every time there is a challenge.

sophie shares her youthful wow moments before creating her own eco fashion label kimaya: working for luxury fashion label burberry, having financial security, early morning walks to work through the metropolis + sunbeams of paris. at this time she wasn’t traveling much, at the horizon of her life stood her lone office work building.

sophie knew from a young age that she wanted to be a fashion designer. she would go on to study english literature before attending fashion school in paris. soon, she was working alongside her designer cousin, growing her small fashion brand, a brand built from scratch.

eventually sophie went on to work for other fashion labels; these big machines offered a life of structure, but she had the irksome feeling that there was no human connection, the focus was on money. this thought seemed perennially perched on her shoulders.

It’s really important to be connected, to foster good relationships. I know the names of the children of each worker, where they go to holiday: it’s really a collaboration, a co-creation.

and then one fateful day, while helping a friend tend to her paris bookshop, she found herself surrounded by shelves plump with spiritual books + a solicitous client who highly recommended a masseuse. the masseuse highly recommended a trip to pondicherry, india. and before long, sophie was on a plane headed to the seaside city in india. there she stepped wittingly into an ashram to meditate, and this is where she had the distinct feeling that she was home. she traveled further south, and upon her arrival to auroville, she thought, “what do i have to do to live here?”

she then wondered, “why am i asking this question?” she was quite happy in paris. but on the flight home, she found herself crying. back in france, she soon understood the tear shed. while at reike, she learned that these were cleansing tears, tears allowing her to shed the old + welcome the new, “i had something to do. the reason was because i was saying goodbye to my old life and a new life was coming. change was coming.”

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it was like a bottle had washed up on the shore of sophie’s life, and inside was the answer to her own spiritual awakening. how do we listen to our intuition when it seems to be guiding us into the unknown, a new direction, yet speaking to us so clearly?

sophie tells her story easily, as if narrating the unfolding of her favorite rom-com. it makes me believe that we are all capable of sculpting our lives exactly as we imagine in the far recesses of our mind.

a determined sophie booked a return flight to india, “the idea was to see that i didn't feel the same way, but i felt exactly the same and it was even stronger, it was home. i had to follow my intuition because i have very strong intuition. my intent was not just to live but to enjoy the present moment.”

after making the decision to move her life to auroville, and taking time to settle in, she eventually knew it was the right time to start her own ethical fashion brand. “every step is important. i have met wonderful people who were the right people [to start this eco business]: the right weavers, the right pattern makers.”

It’ important to take pleasure and love what we are doing. Then everything flows. Gratitude changes the energy around you. You feel it in you and in the product.

kimaya now employs 12-15 people, all locals, including sewers + batik dyers. sophie has created a community that envelopes her workers. “i know everyone by name. i want to empower the workers. i want to recreate something like a family.” 

kimaya uses local textiles from regional farms, “humane fabrics” including organic cotton, banana fibers + bamboo, and all clothing tags are made by an ashram in pondicherry using recycled t-shirts. sophie herself designs classic, feminine jumpers; wide-legged pants in calming hues; liquid tops, soft + flowing like the energy she speaks of. she shares emphatically, “design is so important, if it's not beautiful, men + women won't be moved to change their habits towards clean fashion.” 

“it’s important to do things with consciousness. it’s important to take care of the planet and its resources. the way we do things is so important: to do things with kindness towards the people with whom we are working. gratitude changes the energy around you. you feel it in you and in the product. it’s all about co-creation and connection to people.”

by the end of our conversation, i’m a bit mesmerized by sophie, much the way she was spellbound while sitting in the ashram, years ago, in india for the first time. i ask her how she balances it all: life, a burgeoning business, self care?

“meditation every day helps me to be grounded and connected to life and people. i also take a walk in the forest every morning and evening. it’s important because it gives love to my body and it gives me energy.”  

it seems to make perfect sense that sophie has come to live in auroville, on the outskirts of sadhana forest; sadhana means you are using everything as a tool for your well being. and i think this is exactly what sophie is doing, putting her energy into her community + its people, and giving the world products prepared with love, care + positive energy.


eco mode: wearing gifted kimaya organic cotton top with vintage skirt and thrifted jacket. check out my instagram to see how i style the fab banana silk shorts + this wear-with-anything top.

eco gift guide: 11 perfect cold weather essentials for him + her

you know what to expect here at eco voyage: kind finds for all the kind souls in your life. kind finds are gifts made with respect to farmers + factory workers; made with respect to the earth and its delicate ecosystems; and made with respect to animals. this season, find top ethical fashion pieces, perfect presents for him, her and you, all sustainably produced, made of organic and innovative eco textiles, and always cruelty-free:

embassy of brick and logs

1/ embassy of brick and logs: the coat embassy has eco coats for every season. wait, the puffier the better, you say? check out their puffer coats, free of down, full of cool. another fab animal-friendly and earth-friendly brand making perfect parkas is wuxly. one more transparent company making eco outerwear is hoodlamb. these brands are all fur free, feather free + leather free, so you + the all the furry critters of the world can be free.

jan n june

2/ jan n june: the beanie every year i lose something, a beanie or a glove, no matter how hard i try not to, no matter how vigilant i may be. jan n june has these toasty little fellas for your head. i personally love gray, but if monochromatic makes you sleepy, wuxly also has some dynamite choices for a punch of color.

mara hoffman

3/ mara hoffman: the two piece mademoiselle hoffman knows how to design fun. add a splash of eco + a dash of color to your wardrobe with some sophisticated separates or playful frocks.

reformation

4/ reformation: the trousers this brand is in the running to win the eco sexy award for gals who like a high-waisted jean, vintage-inspired trousers or swingy little dresses that flatter and move. get your velvet on for the holidays here.

people tree

5/ people tree: the sweater a fair fashion brand offering everything to keep you comfy + warm on chilly days from head to toe including organic cotton, knit jumpers because it's time to bundle. armed angels also brings us ultra cool, cozy jumpers with lots of style. people tree + armed angels are renowned in the ethical fashion industry as one captains of the eco ship.

hfs collective

6/ hfs collective: the belt bag do you bum bag? as a gal who has never really followed trends, i have not been especially drawn to these seemingly wonderful little life organizers, but lately the fanny force has been strong. can you imagine having your hands free to do as you wish? someone strap a belt bag on me, stat.

swedish stockings

7/ swedish stocking: the hosiery i do a fishnet stocking love. now, give a girl a stocking made out of recycled textiles, in a sun-powered facility, with zero-waste production, and it’s a match made in eco heaven.

signe

8/ signe: the turtleneck i discovered turtlenecks at a young age, and i’ve never looked back since. i’m not sure why these high-necked tops make me so happy, but you’ll find the soft organic cotton so cozy and the feeling of being cocooned in one super versatile pices that mixes + matches with your pants, skirts + overalls is a good one. baserange also carries a sensual diaphanous version for your holiday soirees or a ribbed version here.

nae

9/ nae: the boots gold boots, black boots, chunky boots, however you take your kicks, nae has got you covered for the holiday with vegan variety galore. also on tap with cool picks are beyond skin and bourgeois boheme with something for the punk in your circle and something for the sophisticate too. i wear my editor boots from bhava pretty much day + night, but if you’re like dolly parton who has a wig for every day of the year, and you crave just a lil variety in your life, you might want to switch out your kicks with this winter flair from bhava. you’ve got plenty of choices, boys+ girls!

hoodlamb

10/ hoodlamb: the scarf it’s a cold, cold world. dear fair fashion brands: i’ll take all your soft, cozy hemp + organic cotton scarves! jan n june also has an extra big, blanket-like scarf for those of you seeking a lenny kravitz moment.

saya

11/ saya: the hair accessory what’s a boy or girl to do when the goal is to unearth something truly unique, something that can’t be found just anywhere? how about hand crafted baubles from my favorite shiny treasure maker soko: the artisan jeweler or a singular hand carved hair pin from reclaimed wood that is both one of a kind + quite utilitarian from saya. gift them or wear them when you’re feeling like reaching for a little handmade magic. made with pride + made with love.

don’t forget the tip: remember boys + girls, if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. and with the holiday season upon us, think of gifting experiences like tickets to movies, museums or plays or fun outings! and if you’re up for a fun treasure hunt, peek into you nearest vintage shop or secondhand shop for preloved goodness and recycled fashion that can look just as spectacular as what you might find in big box shops! if you’re going to shop, shop small!

until next time, stay green dear hearts!

eco brands: 7 joggers to live in this winter season

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joggers, the modern classic, with their soft fabrics, tapered legs + elastic, ever-so-forgiving waistbands, who can ask for anything more? this fall and winter, stay warm + cozy in the year’s most enduring + endearing pants: the jogger. here are seven eco fashion labels bringing us fair trade, ethically made + organic textiles to create the trousers that keep on giving.

amour vert

this los angeles based eco fashion label brings us affordable, black ribbed joggers, made of modal, for easy breezy style. wear ‘em with sneakers or wear ‘em with heels, but you’ll definitely be wearing them for comfort + style.

baserange

this paris designed natural brand with a commitment to clean production brings us simple, sexy garments including joggers in white, nude + black. oh, and if your heart desires tangerine or canary yellow velour joggers, well, velour joggers you may have, right at your fingertips.

krochet kids

this organic cotton jogger comes from the ethical fashion label, krochet kids, founded by the infamous male trio creating jobs around the world and bringing us those fab hand-knit beanies. here, these beautiful joggers are hand sewn in peru and come in a happy shade of blue, for those of you missing your jeans, but still drawn to the undeniable allure of the jogger.

jan n june

from hamburg, with love, the dymanic female duo behind jan n june bring us one of my fave designs: a slim, relaxed fit jogger with the most flattering cut, and yes, pockets. organic cotton, in nude + black.

miakoda

new york based sustainable label offers yoga apparel, atheisure wear and gorgeous everyday basics in organic cotton + bamboo including high-waisted trousers and these fabulous, i-dream-of-genie slouchy joggers.

people tree

this u.k. fair trade brand offers organic cotton trousers {in black + navy} with a weighty feel which adds a sense of luxe to the essential day wear piece.  for girls who want comfort + style from their trousers.

theo the label

this independent australian clothing label offers hand-crafted cotton joggers with the most fantastic pockets in the world. oh, the places we will go and the things we will carry in our perfect pockets!

until next time, stay green dear hearts!

eco brand: kindom, recyled fashion never looked so good

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there's an expression i like to use + i use it often: "until kingdom come" - i use it when i know there will be a long wait for something - like my favorite vegan chocolate bar to be restocked or when i'm rushing to meet a friend, but the dryer at the laverie is in super slow mo and won't release my favorite trousers from its jaws. i was happy to discover the eco brand kindom this summer because this is exactly the kind of ethical label that i love to wear. 

i'd been searching for a fresh summer dress for my capsule wardrobe, something easy, something singular with a little urban edge: i had to laugh when i found this sustainable frock as it occurred to me that "kindom" has finally come, and the wait is over {yes, you know i love a clever play on words}.  

here is a transparent slow fashion label that produces apparel with respect to the environment + its workers and seeks to create employment opportunities for indigenous people to preserve ancient traditions of handicraft as well. how does one fashion brand make this happen? by producing a perfectly willowy column dress for the minimalists of the world; a demure, celestial dress adorned with planets and stars for moon-gazers like me; and boho graphic tees for girls with sustainability + style on the mind. 

let's start with the ingredients: sometimes we want a simple garment to do all the work for us, especially on a hot summer day or a sultry night. light, breathable fibers do a happy eco girl make. kindom uses organic cotton, bamboo, hemp, and tencel to craft their designs. they also use discarded stock inventory that would otherwise end up in a landfill. 

the designs are made with active girls in mind, with comfort clearly a priority. i've strolled the streets of chicago in this fun, cosmic dress; i've investigated new york city's vegan scene in it; and i've explored paris farmers markets while wearing this easy, breezy number and it's quite chameleonic - fitting into any milieu with its modern cut + an unexpected print. 

this frock is the kind of design that people stop + ask me about. it's with feverish excitement that i share fashion notes: this dress was made by happy hands from recycled textiles!

those of you that know me here at eco voyage or follow me on instagram know that i like my looks to be fuss-free, but i do love a plucky piece with personality, and a design with a little something special is always welcome in my closet. as i hop from daytime outings to evening soirees, i always look for pieces that can keep up + wear well. 

i'll be easing out of summer and into cool-weather months by wearing this dress over a black turtleneck and pairing it with my faux leather moto jacket + vegan booties, because this is one piece that will see many wears on this green gal's slow fashion journey.

check out kindom and their newest line of brilliant bags hand dyed by artisans and hand-embroidered by the t'boli tribal people. this is the future of fashion, boys + girls.

this post was written in collaboration with kindom. all views are honest + my own. 

eco brands: 7 ethical labels offer the perfect white tee

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previously, we explored the world of statement tees, for those who do care, and yes, there are many that believe what we wear does reflect our values of love and compassion. today, we meet the quiet, quintessential wardrobe staple, the little white tee: think of her as the statement tee's shy, self-assured little sis.

the plain white tee is a modest, versatile piece that has been worn by our favorite impassioned artists, activists, musicians and literary figures throughout history. the perfect blank canvas, the white tee is a closet staple that allows us to create daily ensembles that mirror our moods + allow our inner selves to shine out. my inner artist revels at the endless possibilities of constructing a visual that reflects and translates my personality to the world.

my favorite author truman capote, who penned breakfast at tiffany's, wore them. james dean and marlon brando famously wore them. and the inimitable fashion icon + humanitarian audrey hepburn wore them. whether you choose to pair your breezy tee with a well-worn pair of jeans, high-waisted culottes, relaxed shorts or your best secondhand skirts, it's a low-key yet highly functional addition to any wardrobe.

here are seven brands bringing us the best in eco cool white tees, made with love under fair trade standards + made with organic cotton:

1. amour vert

a sustainable fashion brand in sunny california that makes classic staples from organic textiles. casual t-shirts and feminine tanks + camisoles in multitasking colors. the perfect ballet tee with scoop back. 

2. by signe

a danish fashion label making sustainable + feminine easywear. scandinavian minimalistic womenswear made from organic fabrics. the perfect fitted tee with round neck line.

3. de smet

from the heart of new york city, a slow fashion brand defining relaxed refinement and placing the utmost importance on longevity in construction and silhouette. an update to the basic t-shirt, designs are made to order + handcrafted with upmost care. the perfect mock neck tee.

4. freeset

handmade by survivors of sex trafficking in west begnal, india, freeset provides stable, dignified employment, as well as access to healthcare, literacy education, and other key social services –transforming lives, families, and communities. the perfect boxy boyfriend tee that every girl needs in her closet. 

5. groceries apparel

eco-friendly california-based fashion apparel brand. sexy, casual + comfortable tees made with organic fabrics and non-toxic dyes. the perfect deep v, flax linen tee. 

6. know the origin

fairtrade and organic ethical fashion brand from the u.k. offering full transparency. committed to a 100% transparent production process. the perfect crop pocket tee. 

7. wildlife works

fair trade organic cotton fashion made by a kenyan eco factory which employs local workers who now have a sustainable means to live without poaching. the perfect boxy, oversized tee. 

people tree*

*bonus: people tree is the mother of all ethical + environmentally sustainable fashion brands, established in 1991, and based out of london and tokyo. the fair trade fashion pioneer and online garment retailer constructs clothes from environmentally-friendly materials including organic cotton. the perfect daily essential tee. 

the little white tee allows us to shape a personal exhibition of our inner selves via our sartorial choices; sometimes it's a bit modern and sleek, a little bit cubist; other times it's our inner rebel that shines through, a little dadaesque; and still sometimes we choose a more traditional path to our daily ensembles: a little realism for our daily encounters + tasks. looking for the perfect graphic tees? statement tees right this way!


eco mode: top by de smet / vintage pants from depaul thrift shop / shoes secondhand / vintage straw purse from chicago beehive / artisan jewelry from soko