Do you believe in magic? Interview with Anne-Sophie Planet, founder of Kimaya  

If you’re looking for proof that magic exists then Kimaya’s ethical elegance will suit you. 

After more than a decade working on fashion planet aka Paris, Anne-Sophie Planet swapped city life for southern India to realise her dreams as a designer.

Following her intuition, she landed in the international sustainable township of Auroville and created her eco-conscious fashion brand Kimaya.

Sitting somewhere between the forest and the ocean, Anne-Sophie writes to me – sitting somewhere between London’s Holland Park and Portobello Road – and through the wizardry of the web we realise that we both believe in magic.

Anne-Sophie Planet 

“I just followed my heart. It was maybe the first and only time of my life where I had almost no expectations. I was really in the moment. Discovering, meeting new people, resting, enjoying life, taking care of myself.”

The first collection has the carefree kindness of a globe-trotting woman that is as interested in others as she is independent. Anne-Sophie wants Kimaya to bring out the best in you: the authentic. Naturally cool in organic cotton, banana silk and tencel with respect for ancient print techniques, handloom, dyes from roots, nuts, flowers and fruits, and for mother earth herself.

UNESCO has protected the township of Auroville since its birth in 1968 and today over forty nations from all age groups, social classes and cultures make up around 2500 residents.  It is recognised as the first and only ongoing experiment in human unity and transformation of consciousness.

Sometimes, without realising it, we live life like we’re stuck on repeat, so what advice would she give herself on arrival in India, knowing what she knows now?

“My advice would be to enjoy even more every minute of this time because living in the flow without thinking of tomorrow is precious.”

Revived with essential values: co-creation, respect for people, connection with nature and simplicity of life, she was ready to create her brand.  All of the fabrics are from India, and mostly from southern India as she is keen to keep Kimaya as local as possible.

“We are so lucky to have this cultural diversity here and so many skilled people,” says Anne-Sophie who collaborates with Aurovilian artisans from India, Germany, France, Switzerland, the US and the UK.  “Auroville is a laboratory, where we all experiment and learn how to grow individually and collectively. That’s unending education.”

   

She is aware of the part she plays as both designer and consumer. She spent the majority of her time in Paris working for small, humane designer labels, but also did a three year stint with a mass market brand. 

“I have been to factories in China, India, Bangladesh, North Africa, Turkey… Always more, faster and cheaper! I was part of the play. But in a way, we are all part of the play because we are all consumers. We often hear ‘shopping is voting’ and it is true because as the final consumer, we have the last word. If we become more conscious about the way we consume and what we consume, things will change. Not only regarding fashion.”

Kimaya is designed to challenge the idea of shopping as a mindless occupation, and to encourage us to re-evaluate the relationship society has with clothing. If shopping is voting then don’t we all have the right and duty to choose consciously and express the power of the purse?

“Of course sometimes it is challenging but it is worth the work for making a change and manifesting something. I feel grateful to be part of this adventure in constant progress, to have the possibility to do what I love most and to evolve with people from so many countries, cultures and backgrounds,” says Anne-Sophie.   

A real change in fashion may take more than one miracle – the meaning of Kimaya in Sanskrit – but I do believe in magic, do you? 

Not putting words in your mouth, but I do love this indigo batik ‘oui’ tee.

Shop Kimaya with worldwide shipping

[And don’t miss adorable accessories like the notebooks covered with misprints from the floor of a local screen-printing workshop]

©Photographs courtesy of Kimaya

 

 

 

Resolutions from Berlin Ethical Fashion Show

I packed learnings of balance in my suitcase back from Berlin (alongside this Resolution organic cotton tee by Cruba). 

I should have known it would be a knowledge excursion when I spotted my school history teacher on our flight over. Ms Hodson taught me everything I know about Berlin’s past, and I was about to learn about the future and significant hub the city has created for the international fashion crowd that likes their lewk sustainable. 

I could share spring summer 2019 trends from the Greenshowroom, now rebranded NEONYT – a combination of the old Greek and Swedish words for new,  but this isn’t a show that promotes out with the old, in with the new seasonal dressing. One could note hemp like you’ve never seen it; cullotes; the colours yellow, rose, summer black, and athleisure with a persuasion for tennis above all other sports, but the newness at NEONYT is more about optimism for a change in fashion for good. The designers showing here are about capsule wardrobes with considered additions and innovation like this clever cork bag by COSSAC. 

This bag will beautifully balance summer essentials – beach towel + big book, which brings me back to the dressing lesson I’m taking back from Berlin – balance.

Even though the city was sweltering, Berliners struck the balance in summer-wear they felt comfortable in that didn’t look like it belonged at the beach. Sometimes it is tough in the city to get the right harmony of skin-on-show, shoes that are pavement or even cobble friendly, but aren’t sweaty and Berlin handled the heat perfectly.

My strategy was a lotta linen, like this ’80s Oscar de la Renta dress (above) and Noumenon shirt (below) with trainers or a wedge. 

And a free and easy Etro wrap skirt from my local Mary’s Living and Giving Shop worn with a COSSAC t-shirt and a choker made from surplus furniture fabric by Noumenon, as before.  

The other resolution I made, actually just before Berlin was to give up gel nail varnish. I’m ashamed to say that despite making an effort to live green, my make-up bag has RSVP’d, but is yet to attend the party. I’ve swapped all lipsticks for organic Ilia shades, but I am still working through things, so next up it’s nails. People in the clean beauty scene talk in the number of chemicals a nail polish is free from – the starting point being 3-free – meaning formulas with no formaldehyde, toluene or dibutyl phthalate. I love having long nails and gel polishes kept them strong and long, albeit unnaturally, so I was thrilled to find vegan non-toxic 10-free formulas by Kure Bazaar. The nail polishes are nourishing with 85% of the formulation derived of natural origin, such as wood pulp and potato.

I’m wearing them shorter in Beige Milk whilst they repair, but the collection is full of awesome spring summer 19 ready colours like Sunset (above).  

*Content Beauty is currently  offering a free base coat when you buy two Kure Bazaar nail polishes, so it’s a good time to buy if you’re trying to cure a gel mani addiction.

The Fresh Therapies remover is designed to retain the natural oil in your nails and all of the ingredients are biodegradable, plus it actually smells good (as if you’ve just been squeezing limes).  

But as ever, when you commit to resolutions, there’s always more you can do. I’ve been a pescatarian since I was nine and in recent years I’ve removed more and more dairy from my diet. Agata, founder of COSSAC and Dena, founder of Noumenon invited me and my friend Rebecca for dinner with the team from Vegan Good Life magazine.  By chance, we sat by dietary group with the meat eaters on one end, vegans on the other and me in the middle.  There was no logic to our seating order as we were all sharing vegan plates at 1990 Vegan Living, which was, as billed, ‘hands down the best Vietnamese place.’

I’m not going vegan yet, but I’m thinking about it, and the Vegan Good Life special edition, Ethical Fashion Today is good fashion for thought.

Get your copy here

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman & courtesy of COSSAC   

 

 

 

House Museums & The Hippie House in Córdoba

The upside to taking a train to Córdoba on a Monday and realising many of the monuments and markets are closed is you get to really enjoy the neighbourhoods. 

We still got to explore the western world’s most stunning example of Moorish art, the Mezquita and the Roman bridge, which due to reconstruction most of what you can see today is also Moorish – not bad for a Monday morning’s work.  

We were also able to see two house museums that often don’t make the to-do list for a one day visit.  We loved the old Jewish quarter and although the synagogue is closed on Mondays, the Casa de Sefarad and La Casa Andalusí are open.  The respectfully restored houses are an intimate way of understanding life at that time. 

Casa de Sefarad traces Sephardic (Jewish-Spanish) history before and during the Spanish Inquisition.  It features food, music and traditional crafts with a small but perfectly formed collection of clothes and accessories with examples of gilt-metal thread embroidery.  There is also a room dedicated to women from Al-Andalus who made an important impact, but were nearly forgotten.  If like me, you like to exit through the gift shop, Casa de Sefarad will not disappoint.  Here you can find genuine handicrafts from Córdoba, Seville, Granada and places where Sephardic communities settled such as Fez, Istanbul and Jerusalem.       

After Sephardic lunch at Casa Mazal Tomás Conde, 3, Córdoba we went to La Casa Andalusí. I read complaints about it being small, but I found it to be a sanctuary.  I took my time as music mixed with the trickling fountain provided an off-the-clock soundtrack.  A history of papermaking in medieval Córdoba,  Islamic furnishings, beautiful books and a Roman mosaic in the cellar didn’t seem a bad offering for one 12th-century house.

Less than 15 minutes walk form the old town you’ll find The Hippie House.  This friendly place is worth a visit if you like a rummage through secondhand clothes with some vintage gems and retro sportswear. Good for both women and men, and perhaps even better for men.  My husband had a good selection of preloved Levis to look through and left with a pair of green 501s.

Wearing a seventies dress, Luna bag Cult Gaia, sandals The poet sandal maker of Athens, jewellery The Sablon Antiques Market in Brussels, leopard print sunglasses I bought in California when I was twelve! Proving that even loved sunglasses do last, but I know that’s not helpful so check out these sixties styles from Klasik Vintage Eyewear if you’re after something unique.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

 

Seville travel diary – A week on the tiles

Nobody wants to feel like a tourist. Who us? No no, we’re trailblazers – so you can imagine our surprise when we discovered our destination of choice is Lonely Planet’s No.1 city to visit in 2018.  

If like me you have to work through some guilt before enjoying your summer holiday then Seville is your sun blessed escape.  My pre-trip guilt stemmed from a) taking a holiday when I work for myself and b) taking flights when I’m also working on what it means to live green.  

Beyond sustainability shaming yourself, holiday stresses come from many things; your work to-do list is longer than your list of tapas bars to try; you splurged on that collab bikini between Tanja’s Crochet and Adornment Studios; your pet-sitter pulled out; you’re already anticipating the urge to Instagram whilst being present; you didn’t buy that cute collab bikini between Tanja’s Crochet and Adornment Studios; the reasons to stress continue… 

The most stressful thing about Seville is scaring yourself into thinking you might never experience that much joy again.  From the moment we arrived in the city we were soothed by purple flower blossoms on the jacaranda trees.  It’s like 2018’s city teamed-up with Pantone’s colour of the year to deliver the promise of intrigue for what was to come.  

Purple is also the colour of mindfulness, so it’s no surprise that the Andalucian capital has a captivating way of bringing your attention to the present moment.     

Eat & Drink 

Seville attracts Game of Thrones fans as scenes from the series were shot in the city’s Alcázar Palace – which is stunning and absolutely on the list of things to do – but for us the main game was tapas bar crawls. 

Seville is home to thousands of tapas bars so it’s good to do as the locals do and have a drink with one or two tapas and then move on to try another place.  Wine by the glass is really great value so you don’t get stuck in one bar with a bottle and you get to sample more and branch out into the local speciality – sherry.  My husband took to ordering deliciously dry manzanilla to mix things up. 

The food is incredible so it’s hard to go wrong, but here are my absolute favourites. 

You have to have breakfast at Bar El Comercio.  Take tips from the local old ladies on how to eat churros – dipped in coffee without spoiling your lipstick.

I’m not a local lady so I also went for a cup of melted chocolate to dip my churros

We loved Bar Estrella for lunch. Away from the bustle, we stumbled across it when we lost our way trying to return to a tiny tapas bar we liked, but couldn’t remember the name of (which incidentally is La Taberna del Rey Calle Corral del Rey, 2, Sevilla).  It’s definitely a city to get lost in and we were glad we did.  We got chatting to a local guy that took us down the street from Bar Estrella to see Iglesia de San Isidoro, a church and a living example of how the building was once peacefully used by both jewish and muslim worshipers with the Star of David over one entrance and the muslim horseshoe arch decorating the other.  He pointed out Moorish tiles as we meandered back to Bar Estrella and helpfully warned us not to over order here as the tapas are generously portioned.

Casa Morales is a wonderful place to stand and eat by the wooden bar or pull up a chair surrounding the giant wine vats.  Originally opened as a winery in 1850, the family run place still attracts locals and is charming in a hectic kind of way with a printed menu that’s not worth ordering from as the dishes they actually have that day are all on the blackboards.  Definitely sample the sherry here. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the modern Maquilla Bar. Scrumptious croquettes, really friendly service and especially good if you like beer.  

Eslava is on every list you’ll read so there’s a lot of hype and you have to queue, but as this was the only time we did it was part of the experience, plus you get to people watch and sip sangria whilst you wait.  Expect interestingly arranged tapas. 

We chose Abaceria La Nina Bonita for our final dinner.  Situated in what was once a grocery opened in 1931, the setting and menu are full of character.  They deliver the food from their sister restaurant Bar Antojo,  but this is absolutely the best setting to enjoy it. 

The only evening we didn’t eat tapas and booked ahead was for slow food restaurant ConTenedor.  The menu is presented in alternating coloured chalk on a blackboard propped on mismatched chairs that the waiter kindly translates, explaining the fifteen or so daily dishes.  We loved everything about this place from the live music (on Tuesdays) to the unique wine list to the eclectic interior.  Definitely save space for dessert. 

When not taking in tiles and more traditional sights – such as the Alcázar and Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses pictured below – here’s some other ideas to get your heart going.

Shop local 

I picked-up this silver pendant below in the Sunday morning market in Plaza del Cabildo. It’s mainly for coin lovers, but worth it just to see the local men trading stamps in this monumental square.

My best flamenco experience came in the form of a visit to local flamenco atelier, Aurora Gaviño.  The shop has two cabinets of earrings ranging from big to huge.  I got these hand-painted tiles for earrings. 

 

Vintage and preloved fashion can be found on Feria, the street that is transformed into a flea market every Thursday morning.  I noted Crispa2 Vintage for the cute preloved Fendi bag I saw in the window, but it wasn’t on Feria street so there’s ironically a second Crispa2 somewhere else in the city.    

Near the Metrosol Parasol, the giant controversial wooden mushroom structure that we thought was stunning, sits some good places for conscious shopping. Verde Moscú is a great little boutique selling eco-fashion for women and men with their own brand of clothing alongside other sustainable Spanish and European brands such as Thinking Mu, Tiralahilacha and Armedangels.  I also discovered the Barcelona backpack brand Urbanita here.  Isadora is another women’s boutique just in front of Verde Moscú that is more cutesy, but stocks some cool pieces by Skunkfunk.   

There are lots of shoe shops, and I couldn’t leave Spain without a pair of espadrilles. La MallorquinaCalle Córdoba, 7, Sevilla had the best classic styles in bold colours by brands that are part of the espadrille association from the town of Cervera del Río Alhama in Rioja.

Jazz 

There’s an intimate little club called Jazz Naima Sevilla in Alameda, which is the hip district with a beautiful square and lots of bars and restaurants.  It’s free so you can poke your head in to see if you like the vibe of the music which ranges from jazz to swing, blues to funk fusion from night to night.

Triana 

Check out the Triana neighbourhood across the river where the flamenco artists, bullfighters and gypsies used to reside. Triana looks a lot more ordinary than the other side, but when you explore there are some real gems like casual local bakeries and tapas bars where we sampled our first salmorejo soup (like gazpacho, but creamier). Note: If you’re veggie then it’s worth making sure they don’t garnish it with serrano ham. The indoor food market, Mercado de Triana is also worth a visit for genuinely great local food.  

Packing list with what I wore from the Indigo crop at the top 

Indigo crop top VIMPELOVA, preloved Balenciaga skirt, Luna bag Cult Gaia (also below), sandals The poet sandal maker of Athens, jewellery The Sablon Antiques Market in Brussels, ’60s sunglasses from Klasik

Black ’80s Katherine Hamnett dress from Wolf & Gypsy VintageGeorge basket bag by MUUN from LN-CC, rope sandals Nomadic State of Mind, antique cross necklace The Sablon Antiques Market

Loyalty 2 Gaia dress Vivienne Westwood

Hollyhock dyed silk slip Local Dialect, preloved Yves Saint Laurent jacket, bag Abacá worn with a Vegan pouch inside from Noumenon, earrings Aurora Gaviño

Organic cotton shirt MUJI, skirt, sandals and sunglasses as before, preloved Fendi bag from Isabelle Bajart

Dress Naya Rea,  preloved Fendi bag as before, shell earrings from Brighton

Old Stella McCartney dress that comes out every summer holiday or wedding since I bought it in a sample sale in 2011

And finally, How bad are bananas?  Mike Berners-Lee provided my reading material about the carbon footprint of EVERYTHING.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

 

Guilt Tripping

Having recently calculated that the renovation of my flat is 4x more sustainable than one planet living, I could be feeling smug, but with two flights in the pipeline next month I am less carbon footprint proud.  Let me explain…

One Planet Living is a framework created by Bioregional to help people understand their environmental impacts and enable us to do something about it. They calculated that we’re currently consuming resources and polluting the planet at a level of 40% higher than the earth can sustain.  

During my Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable interiors, presenter Kevin McCloud surprised the audience stating that “if everyone consumed as much as the average North American, we would need five planets to support us.”  

I glared at my American husband – oblivious – sweetly snapping my 45 minutes of fame, but I need not have been so quick to judge as the average western European consumes a similarly shocking amount, and even though my renovation was good, I am guilt tripping before we’ve even left London. 

Life and love requires us to travel sometimes.  Now that I’m cohabiting with my Californian husband I’ve been flying a lot less, but last year’s London summer lacked sun so we were inspired to book Seville, which will be followed by a business trip to Israel.  At least my husband is travelling to Jerusalem to advance the message about human rights in the digital realm – so his conscience is cleaner than mine.

This post doesn’t tie itself into a sustainably packaged, non air cargo delivered answer, I just wanted to acknowledge where I am.  There are of course ways I’ll reduce my environmental impact whilst travelling by walking lots, opting for locally purified water in recyclable glass bottles and ditching familiar flavours for restaurants with locally sourced ingredients.  What a sacrifice.  I’ll also be able to do the wild thing and actually wear my summer clothes, which Londoners rarely get to do. 

Until we sign-up to a life in nothing but bamboo Birdsong knickers, increasing the average number of times we wear things is the most direct way to increase value and reduce waste in our wardrobes.

And of course, the weather in London has been lovely lately.

Wearing eco-hot Jumpsuit by COSSAC worn with a Pachacuti hat from Ethical Collection, Abacá bag from Tidy Street general store [with Noumenon vegan pouch inside] and rope sandals by Nomadic State of Mind

Above, Birdsong bamboo knickers in collaboration with Clio Peppiatt

Californian album artwork The Grateful Dead

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Sustainability in the City

I know Sex in the City has been relegated to box-set territory but sometimes I refer to my flat as sustainability in the city, because like Carrie Bradshaw, I keep sweaters where my stove would have been.

Reflecting on the moment I decided to turn my kitchen into my wardrobe and started the journey towards a more sustainable life, I am getting ready to join Friends of the Earth, Salvo and Edward Bulmer Natural Paint for a Grand Designs Live talk on sustainable sourcing tomorrow.

Designing my home with sustainable materials inspired me to dress differently, but now that I’m trying to live more consciously I feel guilt for a wardrobe full of clothes accumulated over a decade working in the fashion industry.  And of course anything I “Toss” gets donated, sold, given to friends or recycled, but as you educate yourself about sustainability, guilt inevitably follows.  

When you really look at the manmade change we’re creating in the world, it is scary and to quote the SATC film scene above, “a lot of s**t went down here, attention must be paid.”  However, the awakening that is brewing won’t be achieved through sustainability shaming.

I experienced a refreshing moment for the sustainability movement when  I met designer Masato Jones the other week.

Masato was speaking on a panel for Fashion Revolution and reminded the audience of a SATC episode where Carrie skipped dinner out to buy something she really wanted.  He joked that’s the kind of feeling you have to have when you buy something because then you will truly treasure it.  Like working with salvaged materials, where pieces are often hard won, it is polar opposite to the immediacy we’re used to where we can have things so quickly – often before we’ve had time to think if we really liked something or even needed it.

That’s a long winded way of saying that Masato gave me the excuse to dust off my SATC box set and my guilt (wearing one of his organic fair trade t-shirts as a dress). 

Join me at Grand Designs Live  in the Grand Theatre at 12noon Saturday 12th May 2018.

Reclaimed wardrobe above made of wood salvaged from 100 year old industrial buildings in the north of England and a mix of vintage, ethical and sustainable sweaters.

Lips above credited to Ilia’s brilliant pigments and organic ingredients.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

I want my time with you : 24 hours in Brussels

My husband and I suffered a bout of food poisoning this week, but off he went to his conference in Brussels and off I went to join him for the weekend.  Since completing the Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label I have been conscious to wear more of my wardrobe more often – but also conscious that Brussels is home to some incredible vintage shops, I packed super light to save space for some new old treasures.

“I want my time with you” reads the new artwork of Tracey Emin lighting up the London station that welcomes everyone arriving from mainland Europe via the Eurostar.  It’s said to be a love letter to Europe over Brexit madness, but the words are a fitting memo to oneself before you go shopping, and before I share my favourite places to shop in Brussels.

Sustainably speaking, “I want my time with you” is kinda like Livia Firth’s advice, every time you shop, always ask yourself “will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”  In other words, make sure it’s love.

Shop Local

The navy jacket I’m wearing above is by Natacha Cadonici.  I was rerouted dropping my bag at the hotel when I found Natacha’s studio and shop and fell for the bomber made in Brussels using fabrics from a couture house in Paris.

Shop Vintage

The Sablon Area has some gorgeous boutiques and on the weekends The Sablon Antiques Market is a must.  Find the stripey tents before the 15th-century Catholic church, Église Notre-Dame au Sablon and you’re in the right place for antiques including high jewellery and fashion jewellery like this bakelite ring I found from Caroline Michils’ stand.  Complete with a portrait of someone’s loved one, I didn’t need convincing… this ring will definitely be loved.

On my second visit to Gabriele Vintage, I actually made it to the back of the shop to see vintage shoe heaven (the first was a fly-by on route to Bruges).  I don’t often buy vintage shoes, partly because my feet are a size 38-39, so I usually avoid the embarrassment of seeing if they will squeeze into pretty teeny-tiny shoes with no clearly marked size.  The shoes are handily displayed by size at Gabriele Vintage and include a good selection of 38, 39 and 40s dating from the ’40s to the ’70s.  These suede block heels are from the ’60s – worn with shiny ’90s trousers I got on Brick Lane in London.

Whilst in the area, check-out the beautifully curated edit of designer vintage and preloved pieces next door to Gabriele Vintage at Isabelle Bajart.

And the window styling at Ramon & Valy on Rue des Teinturiers gives better outfit game than Instagram.

Eat

As you can imagine, traditional moules weren’t what the doctor ordered in our case, so we went for Ethiopian where it is customary to eat with your hands. We tried the intimate exchange called gursha – where you scoop up the first taste of stew from the sharing platter and feed each other.

We got carried away with the first food we’d eaten in two days and kept feeding each other for half the meal. *no food positioning necessary, this over-share is permission to puke now*

Seriously though, even with a sensitive stomach this restaurant was too good to skip dinner.   Fashion aside, I would go back to Brussels just for the food at Toukoul.  We loved this restaurant.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman

 

 

Six Items Challenge : Little White Dress

It seems appropriate to end my Six Items Challenge for Labour Behind the Label in the little white dress I started in.  I wore my white Reformation dress to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary and it got me thinking…

I have too many clothes and although I am on a mission to make my wardrobe more sustainable, I still face fashion urges to buy something new.   Even if it is beautiful and ethically made in organic cotton, I still need to learn that less is more.  What I am saying is that I am not holier than thou.  Weirdly though, the one time that arguably justifies a shopping trip (one’s wedding) I actually wore a dress I had owned for years.

It wasn’t from a previous marriage (not mine anyway) or a sample sale where all sorts of this is too good to resist scenarios run through your mind – strangely it was a student loan purchase for my photography degree.  Nine years later, wise enough to recognise love at first sight kind of craziness and the value of a 1960s Courreges hanging in my wardrobe, I couldn’t get married in anything else.

One of my takeaways from the challenge is to think of buying clothes like choosing a life partner.  Find out what they’re made of and ask yourself if you’re excited by the prospect of being seen with them years down the line.

©Photographs Reclaimed Woman