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.

simple pleasures: un nouveau jour

Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life.
— Socrates

avignon, a small town in the south of france is located on the rhone river and was the seat of the catholic popes in the 14th century. at the heart of the historic city sits the papal palace, a medieval gothic building. once a fortress, today it is a captivating museum housing religious artwork including centuries-old paintings, sculptures + frescoes.

simple pleasures: terrain des peintres

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An environmental human rights movement is the vision under which I labor and which may, if we all work together in concert, become a self-fulfilling prophecy. May it be so.
— Dr. Sarah Steingraber

the south of france is a marvel. here, the silhouette of saint-victoire, the solitary mountain painted by post impressionist painter paul cezanne from this verdant lookout circa 1887. my love of nature is a driving force in my desire to preserve our natural resources, protect our animals + ensure the rights of all people. i'm diving into the compelling book living downstream by activist, ecologist + cancer survivor, dr. sarah steingraber. check out this feature length documentary film in which she discusses “the web of connections between our bodies and the ecological world in which we eat, drink, breath and work.”

simple pleasures: arbre de la vie

Who can say more than this rich praise, that you alone are you?
— Shakespeare

in paris, on the metro, there are posters serving up poetry for commuters on their daily train rides in each of the cars. i’m captivated by these simple, extraordinary poems written by ordinary citizens of all ages, from 7 to 77. when i travel away from paris, the visual poetry of mountains + countryside moves me in the same way, the landscape is striking, the ancient architecture something to behold. i’ll be posting photos from my travels through the south of france here and on instagram, and i’m taking you along for the ride.