Well, The Makers Tale is back with Katia, our new guest!
She launched her brand, Kalium, one year ago and has a beautiful and inspiring story behind it.
Do you want to know more?
Taking time to know how our clothes are made and who makes it is a powerful decision making tool.
The brands we choose to empower are a big deal. Do you agree, right?
So, we keep disclosuring our makers stories and telling all about it here and there. Our blog and our social media networks will be a playground for everyone interested in honest, transparent talks.
Kalium – a sustainable brand
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where did your entrepreneur journey started?
Hi! So, my name is Katia, I’m 28 years old and I am Portuguese girl that was born and raised in Germany. Since I was a child I’m fascinated by arts and design and knew that my future job should be something creative. Also, thinking about being an independent worker or work in a small group of people that have the same values were always kind a dream. My love for animals and being a good human to other people as I can be, the wish to help with the environmental issues, grew more and more with the time. In 2017, I was working for a clothes production (I graduated in Fashion Design), but it wasn’t a creative job and neither linked to sustainability. At the same time, I wanted to support brands with ecological ideologies, but despite finding several brands, I couldn’t identify with any.
These two factors made me think that it was time to be an entrepreneur. However, for me, knowledge is key, and the first step was to learn more about entrepreneurship, and I participated in two programs with trainings, one organized by the Portuguese ministry of labour and the other by “Impact Hub Portugal”. In that time I also define the entire design, both graphic and clothing itself, got in touch with suppliers and developed a business plan. In February 2019, I had the opportunity to obtain an office in the “A Praça”, an incubator in Fundão, where I work for the brand since.
What is your background?
Did you ever worked on a conscious brand before?
I can’t say that I didn’t worked for a conscious brand before, and I can’t say that I did. I was, at first, a trainee in a very well known designers atelier here in Portugal. They tried their best to always use Portuguese materials, made all the production at the own atelier and high quality clothes. The team was really sweet and a small group of people. At the factory where I worked as a client manager and a line coordinator, for well known luxury brands, they already used a high percentage renewable energy and were certified with quality standards, but the workplace environment still has a long way to work on it.
What make you start a brand with responsible production processes?
Something that chocked me a lot at the fashion industry was the collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013 where more than 1000 people died. In a lot of factories all over the world, people work in very bad conditions and in my values every human being has the right to have a secure workplace and earn a fair wage, at least. The pollution that is caused by the fashion industry is also chocking and a very serious issue that I just can’t ignore.
We want to know the
fine details. What was your thoughts at that moment?
The AHA Moment where you realized you were doing it.
When I settled down the first time to think about this sustainable fashion project, it was an amazing feeling to finally taking time for it and starting it. It just felt the right decision.
Kalium is an amazing young brand. We follow it right from the start. But we never asked you that: what it means, the word: Kalium?
So sweet, thank you so much! And, it’s a good question. I was thinking for a whole week about the name of the brand. Names as “kontrast” or “equilibrium” came to my mind, but never sounded right. After a lot of researches, I just saw what “different design” mean in latin, and it was “aliud consilium” and played matching this two words until “kalium” came out. It sound so good and I remembered that it means in some languages “potassium”, that is a chemical element essential as for the human being as for plants to grow. This reflects very good our brand values, the balance between the human (that should feel good in his second skin, the clothes), and the nature (that should be protected with ecologic solutions).
We know you design and sew most of the pieces. So, where do you get inspiration from?
I’m very curious and love to research about a lot of different themes, I think all the knowledge is kind of an inspiration, that just come at drawing and I can’t really control. But for Kalium, I try to focus on stories and history facts from the Portuguese history and culture (maybe later I want to explore other places) that give my illustration a life and even the silhouettes of some of the clothes.
Other inspirations are different designs that I sometimes see for example in pattern books that I then explore in my own way and match with a minimal pattern, in order to design clothes where people can feel at the same time “different from the trends” and comfortable. Also, the different body types are an inspiration, I always try to think on a way to design so that a lot of different body types feel good.
For the “Zero waste” products I always explore a way to make them without producing waste. Also, I save all the waste, so I can use it later for smaller products or to use as a filling.
How is the process of conception of each piece and where do you source your fabrics?
The first step is always research and thinking about the needs of a person that wants to live a sustainable lifestyle. And then a lot of sketching, asking other people what they think about my ideas and making prototypes until it fits well. The surplus fabric I source in local producers and the knit more in the north region of Portugal. Sometimes I have a sketch that I adapt to the fabric, and other times I see fabric that inspires me to a new design, it depends a lot.
For the printed t-shirts, firstly I draw the illustration inspired on a story. It’s important for me to work with quality and the most ecologic way of printing, so I prefer serigraphy. But I need to choose the t-shirts that the printing company has available, in this case for me it’s important to work with certified organic cotton and a certified fair trade company.
Still regarding the production processes. What are your main concerns and cares?
What drives you?
My main concern in the production process is to think of a way to make the clothes and zero waste products as sustainable as possible. There are no 100% sustainable products, everything makes footprints, but the challenge is to make it as low as possible and work on a product that can have a long lifecycle and approach it more and more to a circular economy.
Tell us your biggest desire. Because we know starting something new it is always a bit hard and overwhelming. If you could receive a wish from the lamp genius…
What would you ask for?
That’s so true. I would wish to not have any financial or resource restrains to fulfill all my projects in mind for a better world.
How does it feel to have your project and brand on the real world?
We always dream about stuff we do not actually pursuit.
So, you made it come true. How does it feel for you?
I just feel that a really small part of the dream is fulfilled. I have a lot of projects in mind, Kalium is one of them and still a baby, but that is ok, because the path and the work for it is the interesting part.
Katia, the founder
Where do you see yourself and your brand in five years?
In five years I hope that Kalium is a stable brand that has a good circular economy implemented, will work with new materials and will work also with small Portuguese factories where we could apply a system to be more transparent, to have good working conditions. Personally, in 5 years I hope to begin other projects linked to creative areas like illustration, and also work as a trainer in areas linked to global concerns as sustainability, gender equality, inclusion of migrants, etc. I believe that education is the key for a better world.
Thank you so much Katia! We believe that too. Transparency is one of our purposes with our Makers Tales. Telling your story and covering the tales from other entrepreneurs and ethical brands is part of our commitment to inform people right.
We are glad to have you here in Femptie, working side by side with us for a better world.