Kalilo: experience the joy of slow fashion

                        Short sleeved t-shirt locally made in Mongolia

                        Locally made in Mongolia from natural un-dyed

We sat down with the founder of the eco fashion brand Kalilo to talk about sustainability, the beautiful meaning behind the brand’s name, and the challenges of being a business owner in this current social climate. Read our interview below:

  1. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I’m Daiva Liutkute, the founder of Kalilo

I love indulging in new cultural experiences, meeting new people, and constantly learning about the world. I am a huge advocate of quality and simplistic designs which is truly represented across the brand. With Kalilo, I want to bring the joy of handmade clothing by working with small businesses where artisans are ensured fair wages, good working conditions and receive fringe benefits.

  1. Describe your brand in a few sentences.

Kalilo is a slow fashion brand with a passion for chic & minimal style very much reflecting our Swedish roots. We are committed to promoting moderate consumption and only work with timeless and purposefully designed products made in small batches.

We do not merely provide products, it’s more than you see. It’s made with lots of love and care by our handpicked suppliers, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is what sits at the core of Kalilo.

  1. What does sustainability mean to you?

I think that sustainability is an amalgamation of environmental, social and ethically conscious production and consumption. Green Strategy’s definition of “more sustainable fashion” is something that I relate to the most when it comes to sustainability in the fashion industry. Fashion inherently is not sustainable, but we can all contribute to make it more sustainable by consuming and producing more responsibly – buy something not because you can or because you feel the pressure to follow the trend but because you love it. A fashion that is about timeless, mindful and quality style that you can connect to emotionally is the fashion we should strive for. 

  1. Where do you gain inspiration?

My biggest source of inspiration when it comes to design is nature. It is a timeless and constant cycle – look at the seasons, spring comes every year and yet every spring is full of life and beautiful, you never get bored and always look forward to it. 

Being part of the slow movement and promoting conscious production and consumption in whatever way we can to contribute towards a better future helps Kalilo keep going.

On a personal level, “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try” by Stephen Kaggawa inspires me to keep pushing and trying new things.

  1. What’s the story behind your brand’s name?

Kalilo –  Nepali: कलिलो English: adj. tender, delicate

Coming up with the brand name was no easy task. A name that was short, meaningful, easy to remember, and connected with our vision. We pondered for months. As they say good things take time, patience and hard work. We needed a lot of that. The result of it all was Kalilo.

The logo was not easy either. It had to be simple and something that embodied and carried the brand – Kalilo. The sapling in the logo literally draws out the meaning of Kalilo. The tagline “More than you see” is there to show that a handmade product is more than a mere product, it’s a story and a work of art. There is a lot more to it than you see.

  1. What inspired you to create your business? How did it all start?  

I started Kalilo with the idea of how current mass-producing brands engage with consumers over mere business transactions with a lack of story within them. I wanted to create Kalilo in a unique way, with a soul and a story. I want people to know there is a person behind this, we are different, we want you to be connected to Kalilo whenever you engage with us.

We started with Nepal and chose to work with small businesses in Nepal due to my personal love for the country, its natural beauty, and other compelling reasons of course. Nepalese handmade cashmere apparels were highly known in its historic days, way before the rise of fast-fashion, socio-political situations and dwindling cottage industries started to kill small industries and traditional craftsmanship. With Kalilo, I want to help revive Nepal’s artisans and support small local businesses.

  1. What are some of the products you have created that are closest to your heart? Please share them with us!

I am totally in love with Yak Wool and I would say that all the types of wool are quite special to me. At the moment, we have limited options but we are looking forward to expanding our collection, so stay tuned for that! These are three different products that are close to my heart for various reasons:

Shawl Soyak is special, this product ended up being a happy accident actually! We were quite skeptical about its size, it felt slightly big and we quickly realized that perhaps, using a knitted scarf as a size reference for a woven piece was not a great idea. However, Shawl Soyak grew on us eventually, its generous size means it’s very versatile and can be worn in several ways. It’s undyed and only comes in its own natural colourways – gray/brown and can easily complement any outfit.

Another garment that is extremely special to us is the Moli sweater, our bestselling product. Moli is everything but loud, its simplicity is in line with our brand philosophy when it comes to design, which is inspired by Scandinavia’s minimalism and timelessness. Made using almost half a kilo of the finest responsibly sourced cashmere, it makes it heavy, soft, and warm. We want people to truly enjoy this conscious and guilt-free luxury.

Scarf Lapu. When we decided to make scarves from bamboo and especially charcoal bamboo, we didn’t quite know what to expect. Bamboo isn’t anything new, however, they are usually used for socks and undergarments and mixed with cotton. To our surprise, it turned out extremely nice and in terms of comfort, it’s absolutely amazing! Produced from charcoal bamboo, this signifies that scarf Lapu is dye-free and only comes in shades of its natural hue – grey.

shawl soyak
moli sweater
scarf lapu
  1. Where do you sell your products?

Our products are available on our online platform and at certain sustainable marketplaces. In addition to this, we also offer our products through various boutiques and retailers through wholesale marketplaces. We are always seeking purposeful collaborations and expanding our reach.

  1. How did you adapt to the current situation? What are the challenges you faced and how did you tackle them?

The beginning stages of the growth of the Coronavirus led to a complete denial for us, we refused to believe what was happening when it wasn’t declared a pandemic yet. As a fresh new brand, we are used to the continuous change in the performance of orders and the use of different channels. We accept the behavior of the business gracefully and view it as a learning opportunity for growth.

Initially, we hadn’t seen an impact on the made-to-order requests and business operations in Nepal continued as normal. However, soon after, we found ourselves realizing the extreme impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods, and business in general but we continued to work with our partners in Nepal as a gesture of goodwill.

During such a volatile and unpredictable atmosphere, we started to doubt ourselves and question whether it was worth continuing to proceed with our business operations. I believe this was fear speaking for itself, as we saw a vision of not only a change in the production process but also in the dynamics of our blog posts, social media engagement, and marketing.

Amidst all the difficulties and challenges, we were able to accept the situation and believe that there are great positives to celebrate too, where we have seen businesses come together and support one another representing such solidarity. We believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we will do everything to continue our journey at Kalilo!

  1. What are some of your proudest moments as an entrepreneur?

It’s hard to believe that Kalilo was just an imagination a year and half ago, and now it’s a reality that has come a long way! Some of the proudest moments for me has been when reputable design studios have approached us to be featured in their fashion shows. Vogue UK had recognised us too, but we could not afford their pricing at the time. This gives us massive confidence in knowing that we are doing the right things as a brand which motivates us to continue moving forward!

  1. What do you think the near future looks like for independent/sustainable brands like yours?

I think the future is bright for independent brands. If you take a look at the consumers today, they are conscious about what they purchase, we see consumers becoming more curious about the impact of products on people and the planet. We have seen a shift in behaviour, from slow travel to slow fashion, now slow lifestyle is catching up and that is only good for independent brands.

It is within our DNA to stay unique. In an era of accessibility and mass production, where the same items are owned in abundance, we aim to deliver artisanal and handmade products which by design are unique and in demand. 

One of the most positive things that have become apparent during this lockdown, is the impact of our choices which has resulted in the healing of the planet. There is no denying that we need to do more as citizens of the world, this is also something that will attract people towards small independent brands that produce in small batches, or locally and have an inherently low carbon footprint.

  1. As a sustainable brand, what are your biggest challenges?

The biggest challenge for us is financial sustainability. We hold ourselves to very high standards and are always trying to be more sustainable, but this comes at a cost – our garments are more expensive than mass produced ones. There is still lack of awareness and not many people are willing to pay this extra cost. How can a young and independent brand like us survive without customers and sales? 

  1. What are the real tangible actions Kalilo takes towards sustainability?

We only produce in small batches in carefully hand picked small factories where artisans are ensured fair wages and good working conditions. We only use high quality natural fibers to ensure that our products last long. 

We are part of the climate positive workforce program from Ecologi (https://ecologi.com/kalilo) and we also give back 2% from every sale on our online platform to the causes we believe in.

For cashmere, we are switching to OEKO-TEX 100 and/or GOTS certified yarn from manufacturers that also have certifications to prove that they care for the environment and animals.

Our yak wool products are locally made in mongolia using natural un-dyed yak down – they only come in the natural colors of yaks. From the collection of yak down (local co-operatives in Mongolia) to sorting, washing, de-hairing, spinning and knitting, everything is done in Mongolia. Having the whole supply chain in a single region has not only environmental but social benefits.

Going forward all our labels/tags are made using OEKO-TEX 100 certified recycled polyester and we will use GOTS certified and fair trade organic cotton dust bags.

We use DHL GOGREEN service to provide climate neutral shipping. 

Above are just the few things that we do currently or plan to implement soon. We are always trying to be more sustainable and we know that we can do more. Knowing this keeps us humble and inspired. 

  1. What can be improved in this sector?

I think the areas that need improvement in this sector are education and transparency. We have to educate people that there is more to a garment than it’s monetary cost. You might pay less for your t-shirt than your coffee and be happy about your purchase, but what about the human/environmental cost? Who made it? Where? How? We need everyone to think about the real cost of fashion.

  1. What are some encouraging words of advice you would give to currently emerging businesses?

The best advice I can give is to have patience and prepare yourself for the small bumps, especially the ones that you hadn’t even considered – there will definitely be some along the way. When I started Kalilo, I never thought it would be so hard to pick a name. We came across various appealing names but registering the business with any of those names was a challenge. Business names must be validated across the EU and even if there is a partial match to an existing business it is a big no-no. I suggest avoiding buying a domain until you are fully registered with the brand name you truly desire.

Shop Kalilo today at Eco Fashion Labels: https://www.ecofashionlabels.com/pages/seller-profile/kalilo

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Written by: Chantal 🙂

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