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 as well as 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 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

{eco boutique of the week} bead + reel: layers of good

most products travel through various parts of the world and through many hands before they reach us. free 2 work

today there are a number of well-curated boutiques bringing green hearts the best in eco fashion. what sets these shops apart from one another are the diverse ethical labels as well as the impassioned individuals with varied backgrounds + unique narratives which feed their uncommon approaches to his or her small business enterprise. 

bead + reel was founded by sica schmitz, fervent social justice advocate, animal rights activist + inspired entrepreneur, who previously worked in costume design in film, television + theater. 

sica understands that our clothing tells a story, and as the tale unfurls, she wants consumers to know that there are many characters involved: from farm + tannery workers, to the needleworkers in garment factories, to consumers wearing textiles that affect their own health. 

if you peel back the layers of sica's story, you'll find more than a woman with a keen eye for design-led fashion, you'll also find someone with an abiding commitment to shedding light on industry issues such as forced + child labor, 

the exploitation of animals and the need for more transparent supply chain practices {follow her on fb}. 

in 2014 sica decided to spearhead her l.a.-based shop with the hope of telling a story of both style + compassion, "

i didn't know where the things in my closet were made, or by who, or what chemicals may be in the fabrics or dyes on my skin. i didn't think about the true cost of what i was buying on the larger world around me. i realized i need to change my clothes, change my story. i started researching which brands, which fibers, which processes i wanted to include in my story...."

bead + reel stocks some of my fave ethical labels, inlcuding made-in-the-usa labels like amour vert, animal-friendly shoes + accessories by bhavaindosole + angela + roi and artisan-crafted jewelry by natalie frigo.  

when i first started writing about eco fashion, i did general google searches, held my breath + hoped for the best. but the days of aimless eco fashion wandering are gone thanks to miss schmitz. see what all the hype is about right here.

{top image: pippin's pics 1. rachael ryen earrings / 2. natalie frigo cuff / 3. angela + roi  crossbody bag / 4. supra endura postcards / 5. eqo optics sunglasses / bottom image via bead + reel}