A blend of sheer hard work and passion, a combination of fashion with sustainability, and a series of stories, led to the birth of brand Kleed. The label not only carries a story behind it, but is also created with a soul and a purpose. Brainchild of Carolina Guedes Cruz, this sustainable loungewear brand celebrates her love for wildlife, indigenous textiles and travel. She tells us how as a child, she often visited Africa with her mother. Today, as an adult, she has imbibed the colours she witnessed, the aromas she inhaled, and the breathtaking sight of animals in the Savannah into her label.

Since the very beginning, as the thought struck her, it was certain where she was headed. “I have always had two ruling passions in my life—Africa and fashion. However, in order for both these worlds to meet, my brand needed to contribute to a cause that made sense to me. I found my calling in the Rhino Conservation initiative,” Carolina says.

Sustainability has always been part of what defines her brand, and not just as a marketing ploy. “The world is changing, fashion is changing and we are responsible for preserving this planet. It is the only one we have and is fast running out of natural resources,” she adds.

Why just loungewear, we wonder. She takes us on a throwback trip where as a child she remembered her grandmother adorned in Chinese silk Kimono that stayed in Carolina’s memory and made her search for an exquisite one for herself. Little did she know that her search would take her into designing something for herself and today, creating it for a cause. It’s called Kleed Kimono.

In order to make such pieces, her design and construction process has multiple steps involved. “I travel to India twice a year and at least as much to Africa. Both the countries are key to my design and construction process. When I arrive in India, I generally do not have an idea as to what will I be designing. I visit suppliers, spend time with locals, and visit wildlife sanctuaries. After a week, I start making decisions, based on what I have seen, my own creativity and on what I would like to see people wearing,” she says.

But, the story doesn’t end here. In fact, it is just the beginning. Each of her pieces has an exquisite print, detailing and a lot of different ways to blend fashion and nature together. In every collection, she likes to maintain a continuity of fabric. For most of her collections, she sources fabric from Kabul, Afghanistan and Rajasthan, India. For her latest collection, The Voice of Wild, she sourced ikat-print fabrics from India.

Each of her storyboards has a unique tale to tell. We couldn’t resist but ask her about her connection with elephants that we noticed in a recent campaign. “It was for The Voice of the Wild collection, which was inspired by an elephant sanctuary we visited in India. It rescues mistreated elephants from circuses. We shot our collection with those rescued elephants,” Carolina says. She moved to India for a month to create the collection, visiting markets, monuments and wildlife sanctuaries.

Carolina is inspired by everything that touches her heart and catches her attention. She then starts to weave a story, often sitting in the garden of a hotel she is staying at. She then creates an exhaustive storyboard that consists of collage of images, fabrics. With a lot of designers turning their attention to sustainability, what is it that everyone requires? As the fashion industry is waking up to this cause by promoting organic fabrics, making sure there is no usage of plastic, fair trade is practiced and there is less carbon footprint, what can consumers expect? “In my opinion, when one launches a business, they must be sustainable. They should think of protecting the planet as a part of their business model,” she adds. Kleed Kimonos, for example, started by supporting Rhino Conservation in Africa. Today, it is working with different organisations to source 100 per cent organic fabrics, recycled paper tags and cloth bags. “I would like to reach a point where I can say my brand is 100 per cent eco-friendly, from A to Z,” Carolina says.

Carolina wishes to start selling in stores, lodges, resorts and hotels across India, the US and Canada. Watch this space for more.

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja

Chitman Kanwar Ahuja is a feature writer at L'Officiel India. She is a silver jewellery hoarder and an aesthete of all arts. You can find her unraveling new stories day in and day out.