Sandwiched between preparing breakfast and before school drop-off, one Thursday morning, Daniela and Vinay found the time to sit down for a conversation about their collaboration, their values, ethics & sustainability in the apparel industry and what makes garments made from hand loomed materials so special.
Vinay Killa is the co-founder of Citrusfashions in Kalkota, India and the production house for our Launch Capsule Collection.
This interview is edited for brevity and clarity (because I certainly didn't have all my mental clarity online).
Hi, Daniela, how are you?
I am good, good evening. How are you?
Hi, I'm good. Finally, we are able to speak to each other.
It's been a little bit of a back and forth. And we made it happen!
Yeah. So how are things? Everything is under control?
Yes. So two of the five boxes came yesterday, some very exciting, and the others are underway. I think they're in LA right now. So they should come today, we'll do some photos. And on Monday, we're launching!
It's a very auspicious day, you know? In India, Saturday is the start of the new year. The Monday after is considered the beginning of the new year, which is considered very auspicious. So I'm very sure that you and your team will have all the success in this! And let's hope for the best.
Oh, my goodness. So you're saying like the beginning of the Hindu new year is on Monday?
Yeah. if you look at our traditional calendar, yeah, this is how it is.
Exciting. So amazing!
I just wanted to give the listeners a little context before we dive in:
After working for 20 years in the apparel industry, I always felt that something is a little off about how things were done. Even though I love everything about the apparel creation process, I love the yarn, the fabrics and, and everything that goes into making beautiful, beautiful apparel pieces and yet I was super conflicted.
So when I left the industry for personal reasons, I thought I left it for good. But then puzzle pieces fell into place and I decided to pursue this life-long dream of creating a clothing brand.
But before that was possible I had to create my own internal shifts. For example I had to shift from:
The apparel industry is the second biggest industry in the world wreaking havoc on the planet and the people.
What if we use the power of apparel as a vehicle for good good? And so that was kind of how can we do it for the empowerment of people rather than the exploitation of people?
I also had this old story in my mind, after working for big corporations, I believed I had to scale to at least 300 pc/style before I could make an impact.
Thank you. Thank you so much. This means a lot.
And you know, everything changed when I saw you speak at common objectives. I think it was last year, early last year!
The common objective? Yes
Yes. And I saw you speak and I thought, Oh, my whole world changed. My whole worldview changed because everything you said, was so aligned with, my values and vision. Even though I had just started to work with a factory in LA, I decided to no longer pursue that avenue and work with visionaries like you.
It really means a lot. Yes. You have to believe in yourself and what you're doing, while the results might not be very instant, but with patience and trust it will all happen. At one point of time, maybe little later you'll reach and achieve your destination, if the commitment is right, if the ethics are right, and you have a right mindset, you will sooner or later achieve your target. For us also, it was a very big challenge, to basically come out of the mass market and work into the niche market. Yet we did it because we realized that this is something that we want to do it. And while it definitely has its challenges more so than if you're working with the bigger companies. With the big companies you just have to produce some nice samples, and then you are flooded with orders. That's the easiest route and you yet you become the run of the mill. But the moment you try and do something different. it comes with challenges, but also with rewards. Working with the artisans has been rewarding, and everyone has been on a beautiful journey.
Gladly I'm able to say that, even after 15 years, we are still able to work with the artisans, in the same way we are able to provide the orders, and the looms are increasing every year.
So all said and done, I think this is something that we dreamed up 15 to 20 years back, and today, when we look back, the artisans, our team and customers, they're very happy. They don't complain that the fabric isn't made on machines but by hand.
So, our weavers have been able to achieve the perfection, which is even accepted in countries like Japan - which you know is a very, very difficult market to enter. We are also working with luxury brands like the Chanel group and even they have accepted the handloom quality.
And whatever their fears were at the beginning, we have been able to convince them. And they have been working with us for four, five seasons. And now they really want to develop more collection using hand-loom materials.
Today people are talking about sustainable fashion everywhere. But we are forgetting about one important aspect or law that says very clearly that we should not waste our resources. And what better resources, one could have the human resource! If you are not utilizing human resources and only focus on 'sustainability' I just doesn't make sense! We strongly believe in utilizing the human resources. It is the one thing that we have been able to do well. And hopefully, with the blessing of God and the support of all our customers, we should be able to embark further on this journey.
Oh, that's so beautifu: The highest resource we should not waste, the most valuable one is the human resource!
I have here your manifesto, which, I love. It talks about reconnecting people to the knowledge of the past, the slow and perfectly imperfect art of weaving clothes on traditional hand loom and the skill of intricate hand embroidery. That really resonated with me. Your commitment to preserve artistry that's been passed down for generations!
When so you changed the way you work about 20 years ago. How did it start?
We started 20 years back, in 2002. And in 2007, we realized that this is not what we want to do, we were working in a niche market where we were always feeling over dominated by the buyers, with so much pressure. We had to be kind of like a machine and you keep on producing you keep on producing, keep on labeling, keep on packing, and we realized no! this is not what we want to do. We have the possibility, we have the talent to create something new. So, let us go on this path, it will have its challenges, but for sure, we had the confidence that we will be able to crack this market. And I said, as with the buyer support and the companies and God's blessing, we were able to do so, and we are still surviving after 15 years, and the company is growing. So, we are very happy that the team is increasing and everything is working in the right way as it should have been.
Yeah, that is amazing. Did you say did I hear you correctly that Chanel company is working with you?
Yeah, we we are basically working with one of it's group's companies. And we are basically working with some of the very good companies in Italy, US and Australia. It's a bit of a mixed bag, where basically now we are working with people who we know, everybody respects sustainability, they respect the handloom, they respect the artisans. And they are always ready to accept the flaws. Because you know, when you're looking at the inconsistencies in the fabric, they are not the flaws, these inconsistencies can only be seen once you're looking at through microscopic glass. They have their own pleasure, because the softness, and the feel that you get from the energy of the fabric. The most important thing is the energy that you get wearing this cloth is very important, because it goes through so many human hands, and it gives you positive energy.
Yes, yes. I love that. It's all about the energy. Yeah, because I wanted to ask you what is the difference wearing clothes that are made by hand from handloomed material versus something that's been produced in an industrialized way? Maybe even by people who are suffering?
They are basically two very different markets. If you're looking for a character in the cloth, it's very simple that once you begin the machine, it's like you're weaving tons of fabrics and everything is the same because the machine is producing the same quality of yarn and weave. But when it comes to hand, it's creating a very different character. If two people are wearing the same clothing, they will not have the same weaving pattern and the character will not be on the same place. It will be a truly unique garment.
The most important thing that one can differentiate between machine and handloom. With hand you tend to get softer fabrics. And you can see that in a piece of clothing. If somebody who is a connoisseur of handloom, they will be able to identify the fabric. It is different in that it's not that flat. It has that unevenness. It has that character which makes it different. And if you look at the colors, how it plays on the handloom and the way it plays in the machine fabric are totally different. Look at the prints, if you're doing the digital print, and if you're doing a screen print, you will see the difference. And there is a section of market which basically loves this character of handprint hand embroidery, they love these unevenness and that is where we come in the picture and that is where these people who are the supporters of this, they are the people who help us preserve the artisans. They help us preserve the culture because if they would not be buying we would not be able to do what we are trying to do.
I so want to see the artisans working and experience it myself. Some day soon I will visit!
We have the in house infrastructure for everything. And you are going to love and see how how people work on it. You know, the certain groups and they do the embroidery, the prints and everything. So I think you have to see it to feel it. You will feel it and the connection and everything will be very instant.
I'm curious. So for a shirt like this, maybe two or three meters fabric usage, how long will it take to weave 3 meters on a handloom?
Normally, four meter would take a weaver approximately between two and a half days.
So what you're saying then is that if when somebody buys a garment that is made from hand loom materials, they ensure that a wever has been able to work for two and a half days.
Yes, this is only we're talking about the weaving, then comes to dye. He's spending that time then you have somebody who is doing the embroidery, then you have a person who is doing the stitching. You are looking at basically giving employment with the same dress to different cluster of people who are engaged into different parts of the job. And what is the most important aspect: knowing where it is coming from, not going in blindfolded. If somebody asked you where the garment is made, you can very strongly say that this is how it is done, this is where it is done. And when you know that origin, your confidence, and belief in that product increases! This is what we believe personally.
Exactly! We all need to understand the connection! I absolutely believe that our disconnect in general is the core issue of our consumption problem. It's the disconnect within ourselves and the disconnect where our things are coming from. We have no connection to the humans who make our things - it's just like it's behind the veil. We don't really get to see that and therefore we are largely unconscious of what's happening on the other side of that veil!
I have one last question, we do use ivory in our collection. Is the ivory the undied version of the greige goods?
Let me check about the ivory color - I'm not sure. If it's a snow white we do need to use a color or dye process. But if it's a natural color of linen, then you need not basically put any colors into this. It just has to go through a plain washing and processing and the fabric is going for stitching.
Okay, I thought so but just wanted to make sure.
The actual linen color would be slightly off white. Yes, Ivory color is slightly off white, then definitely this is a natural linen. Then this is the natural linen. And the moment it becomes white, which is like a Snow White, then it goes through the dye process.
Wonderful! Thank you. And linen is anyway an incredible material! What I love about linen, is the high frequency, the high vibration of linen, in comparison to other materials
It's definitely a luxurious fabrics. And if you look for the summer, it's very good, because you have the kind of thing which passes and everything. So it definitely is a beautiful fabric. It has its own character.
It totally does it. And it's so sustainable too. Wonderful! I'm so excited to be able to share you and share this video with everybody.
We are very excited that we are part of the family and you really have been supportive and always have been so calm with everything. And to be very honest, with your experience that you have shared with us, and the way you work has definitely been a very good learning experience for us. And we are trying to basically put that into our system. And the way you are so disciplined with your work, and everything is so crystal clear, the update the measurements and everything. It's really nice. it's a good learning curve for our team.
You know what, it's a learning curve for us too, you know? That's why I love apparel, because I'm always learning, it's never the same! And I just loved it. In the end, you know, the development process has gone pretty fast. If we think about it. It's not even a year ago that we started talking. And here we are. Here we are launching Koryphae into the world. This is a dream come true.
I can understand you have worked very hard for it. And I seem like you and your colleagues, are so passionate about it. And that is what matters the most, when you are so much into it, and you feel it, all will go well. The journey definitely is going to be much more beautiful.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Now for me, it's really important like that the energy of love goes into the garments.
We have always believed this, right? And it works. Trust me. Yeah. People really feel that connection.
You know, it's so funny. Even the shipping people are so passionate about their work. The person who has worked on the harmonized codes is a total nerd who loves what she does.
It has to come from the top. And when you basically pass on this vibration to your team. The excitement and everything, because they always look at the people who they are being taken care of. So I think if that energy is good, it has to flow in the right direction.
Yeah, you're right. It's just like, I feel very, very supported.
I am very sure. We wish you all the best, very sure that you will have many more success. And this is going to be definitely a good launch. And let's keep our fingers crossed. And we just hope that the customers are also as excited as we all are. And they really appreciate the product very well and they see yes, we wanted and let'sdo our best.
Exactly. So I'm sending all my love over and I cannot wait to meet you and you know like in the flesh.
It will be a pleasure. You're most welcome and I'm very sure that we need to be in the city and in the office. You will definitely love the people the energy and everything around here. The CD is also very nice. So yes, you're good. We'll keep coming again and again.
Thank you so much. Have a great night. Thank you for spending your evening with with me.
it's my pleasure. Thank you so much.
Thank you. Bye. Bye