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Conscious Series: Kysal

"For me, sustainability is more of a way of life. It's several small actions carried out together to make our world a better place."

19 JULY 2022
At Otrium, we are committed to a fashion industry where all clothing is worn. Our core mission is to connect excess inventory with its perfect owners, ensuring a win-win situation for brands and consumers alike, while preventing this unsold stock from finding its way into landfill. Alongside this mission, we aim to empower our customers to shop responsibly through our collaboration with Good on You, a leading impartial sustainability organisation that rates brands against three key criteria - labour rights, environmental impact and animal welfare. In line with this partnership, we are showcasing brands for whom sustainability is at the very heart of what they do.
This month, we meet Sofia Tahiri, CEO and Co-Founder of French sportswear brand Kysal, whose contemporary designs and technical fabrications are underpinned at every step by a commitment to more sustainable practices. 
What does sustainability mean to you?
For me, sustainability is a holistic way of being. It’s about how I live my private life being as sustainable as how Kysal is run. I didn’t always feel like this, but I was thinking of starting a family and realised that I needed to be more conscious about the kind of world my children would be inheriting. Launching Kysal was a bit of a revelation for me in terms of wanting to live more consciously. I used to buy a lot of clothes in multiple different colours. Now I try to shop more responsibly by buying more expensive basics that will last - an outlook that I’ve brought into how Kysal creates its own season-agnostic lines. Beyond this, the personal mirrors the professional - I try to take short showers and have banished plastic bags from our home. Similarly, I run Kysal in a manner that is mindful of consumption and the kinds of materials we use. The two worlds are completely linked.
Tell us more about the brand!
I founded Kysal more than four years ago. I had just returned from a six-month university exchange programme in New York and was fascinated by the way that athletic wear was so ubiquitous in American wardrobes. When I was on my way to study, I had to walk past a gym, and noticed that people were going in in sportswear, but then those leaving would still be wearing activewear to go about their day. This way of dressing simply wasn’t the norm in France. When I returned home, I wanted to recreate this type of clothing but for a specifically French sensibility. In the US, there’s a more extravagant approach to dressing with really vibrant colours, whereas the French tend to have a more classic colour palette. The result was that I needed to make athletic classics with a twist, to bridge the gap stylistically. I also wanted the Kysal brand to have a strong sense of ethical responsibility, and was inspired by businesses such as Organic Basics - although they didn’t have sportswear within their collection at the time.
Tell us more about the start of the journey?
My biggest fear was creating the brand alone, but I didn’t have to look far because I found the perfect support in my husband. He believed in me and in this project, so we launched the brand together just as we were coming back from our honeymoon. There were challenges along the path, with the biggest one being facing our fear and quitting both of our jobs at the same time. We realised that the brand would need our full dedication and focus if it was going to work. Running a clothing label is not the sort of thing you can do at night and on your weekends. Letting everything else go all at once was a major leap of faith, but it was so worth it.
What achievement are you proudest of?
There were opportunities to produce our garments overseas for less, but we wanted to ensure a positive impact throughout the whole value chain by having 100% of our production in Europe. It was ethically important to us for a few reasons, with one of the big drivers being that we now only need to transport product by road, rather than by plane. We have also minimised the distances that these journeys cover by working within a relatively limited area within Europe, with the aim to lower our emissions. 
Part of the first collection was made in Morocco, but now with a view to minimising our footprint, our fabrics come from Italy or Portugal. Production takes place in Porto, while our warehouse is in France. It was necessary for us to undertake production in Porto due to the specialist technical skillsets our providers have there in terms of working with our recycled polyester material. We have also reduced the number of intermediaries in our value chain to the smallest number possible, which allows us to deliver the best quality we can at the fairest prices, for all involved. 
Lastly, it is worth noting that we endeavour to produce items that are seasonless classics that can be worn for lengthy periods of time. We wanted to create items that were less about seasons and trends and more about durability. The French market tends to favour classic taste, with many preferring to buy quality over quantity. This allowed us to work easily with more classic, basic lines that we sell throughout the year, therefore minimising overproduction. We also run small pop-up collections such as our Yogi Fit capsule. These are limited run projects that feature a small number of pieces, again to fit with our wishes to move away from overproduction.
How do you pick the best and most sustainable materials for your clothing? 
We aim to use natural and organic fabrics wherever possible, and also work extensively with lyocell, a material made from wood fibres. We also use bamboo in the production of some of our garments - for example, a recent yoga line we designed. The benefit of working with bamboo is that, as a fast growing plant, it’s easy to replenish the supply that you consume quickly. One of our ongoing product development challenges is finding natural fabrics that conform to body shapes and maintain a tight fit, as required in sport. For this reason, we also work with recycled polyester when developing our lines.
The polyester we use is sourced from a company that reclaims bottles from the ocean. We work with a specialist in the field who has allowed us to use this material as a type of yarn that we use to knit our garments. Through doing this, we have no excess fabric as we only work with the amounts required for each garment. The items are also seamless - similar to tights and stockings - meaning not only are we conserving material resources, but they’re also extremely comfortable as athletic wear, due to seams not rubbing. Lastly, all of our products are OEKO-TEX certified, meaning they do not contain substances that are harmful to either the environment or the body.
Where do you see your brand in five years? What do you want to have achieved by then? 
I have so many new ideas! Five years from now, I would love to have a bigger team working with me to create more products, including collections for men and teens, that stay true to our brand vision. We would like to be carried by more retailers, to make our product accessible to everyone, as well as having a store of our own where we can really showcase the brand vision. 
What is one thing you hope others learn from your work?
There is often resistance to trusting small labels, with many people waiting until there’s significant brand recognition before buying from a company. However, when buying from small independents, you can be sure that everything that’s created has a personal touch and is made with real heart. Also, don’t be afraid to move away from trends and consume more consciously. Lastly, it’s important to believe that anything is possible with hard work. Even if you don’t succeed, see it as a lesson, not a failure.

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Conscious Series: IVY OAK

On our journey towards a fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings. Using their know-how, we can now highlight brands that are going above and beyond to make a positive impact, and label them as Conscious; allowing our customers to make more informed choices. To celebrate, we’ve been chatting to Conscious-rated brands on our platform to find out their take on being conscious as a company, and more. We spoke to Caroline Gentz, Creative Director and CEO of IVY OAK. The Berlin-based brand not only makes modern authentic pieces but is also here to make a positive impact. Here’s what Caroline had to say about the stories behind their impact: Sustainability: what does it mean to you? For me, it’s a long-term vision that involves everybody along the way: employees, suppliers, customers, and investors, and it can only be achieved with all these stakeholders working together. We are taking a holistic approach, making thoughtful choices, and giving our customers a complete insight into our products, practices, and prices.  We create timeless pieces using high-quality fabrics and workmanship, so that our customers can wear them often and for many years to come.We promote longevity and style over trends and seasonality and still send a modern, authentic and relevant message.Choose well, love what you own and treat it with respect, that’s already a start. Tell us more about the brand. Our aim is to think about and work with fashion differently. IVY OAK is for the woman who values quality, sustainability, and style. Therefore, we strive to produce clothing that has got the durability of a high-quality product at a reasonable price point but is also inspiring and comfortable to wear. Style is an individual journey of discovery, which is what makes it so exciting to me. Our customers create our brand message, not the other way around. We are following the lifecycle of our customers and try to be as authentic as we can with them and are already thinking about our customers in the generations to comeWhere did the journey of the brand start? I founded IVY OAK in 2016 in response to what I knew was an existing product demand, but with the purpose to meet this demand in a new way and disrupt the old habits of the industry.I wanted the brand to be fashionable yet timeless, with a huge attention to detail. I wanted our clothes to dress women for the most important moments in their lives, but at a reasonable price point. Wanting to be innovative meant redesigning existing structures and practices. We had to think — and act — outside the box. Having gone through the essential process of a restructure, the whole IVY OAK team is fully committed to getting involved, and this has really shaped the development of the company.  What is your background/career and when did you start working on creating a positive impact? Before founding IVY OAK, I was able to gain insights in both the luxury and the fast fashion industry. I set myself the goal to combine the best of both worlds, closing the gap between high street and luxury fashion, and putting sustainability at the forefront. I love the process of creating fashion, from the sketch until the production of a garment. Fashion enables people to express themselves and this truly fascinates me. What achievement are you proudest of? I look back on the last years with particular pride. Our team has fought throughout these challenging years of the pandemic with solidarity for each other. I am deeply thankful for the support they showed, especially for our partners and customers. We are also very proud that we were able to improve our results especially in the areas of transparency and the achievement of our CSR Sustainability goals. We were able to increase the use of eco-friendlier materials on 81% of the styles in the last season. That’s incredible and really not as easy as it may sound for most consumers. Our customers can follow our journey closely in our sustainability reports.What are you working on at the moment? We just went through an exciting brand transition. IVY OAK is presenting a new brand CI. We are proud to be bolder now and to promote the sustainability and transparency of our garments even more. For selected styles, customers will soon be able to see how much CO2 has been emitted or water used to produce a garment. We also want to use this data internally to make data-based design and sourcing decisions, to allow us to lower our impact even further. Our team is also working on introducing circular design strategies to move further away from the linear and disposable model.At IVY OAK why do you place an emphasis on increasing the longevity of clothing through quality? We believe investing in quality is worth it in the long run to protect our environment. It means you will not have to replace your clothes as quickly, you can more easily sell quality clothing via second-hand channels and less new clothes have to be produced. We need to learn to love and value our clothes again and high-quality clothing ensures that our customers can really enjoy their clothes for many years. We also try to engage with our customers to create this mind shift. In our care guide,  for example, customers can find helpful information about the different fabric types and how to care for them in an environmentally friendly way so that they last longer.How do you use Otrium as a tool to make sure your clothing is ‘Timeless’?We want to be mindful about the resources we are using and that’s why we strive to create as little waste as possible. Otrium is an important partner to support this goal. We love that Otrium offers a second chance to our unsold items from past collections. Through Otrium, these items will still find a home with customers who enjoy our clothing for many years to come. Our styles are timeless pieces for a long-lasting wardrobe. They just sometimes need another time and platform to be recognized..What do customers value most about the brand and products? We notice that our customers are no longer interested in the traditional fashion cycle and therefore clearly focus on the importance of “style “, instead of constantly changing trends. Style is something that you must discover and learn individually for yourself - that's what makes it so exciting! Style is for everyone and should be all-inclusive. Our pieces can easily be combined to look either cool or classic, meaning that our customers’ personal individual style is also a way of developing our brand message. We want people to see our clothes as a life-partner rather than a quick fling. Our customer isn’t interested in the traditional ‘fashion calendar’ and wants clothes that last longer than just a season. Our product is the obvious answer to this. Who inspires you and why?I love browsing vintage stores or leafing through fashion history books. Fashion was and remains an expression of the times we live in. Every decade provides its individual style. I love being inspired by the past in order to develop a new present — and hopefully a trans-generational future. Where do you see your brand in 5 years? What do you want to have achieved by then? For us, our 360° concept means a holistic approach. We want to integrate sustainable and responsible business practices at all levels of the company and pursue the goal of further reducing our environmental footprint and achieving maximum positive social impact. We accept this challenge with joy and are proud of every milestone reached that brings us closer to our goal. We still have a long journey ahead, especially regarding transparency and circular fashion. We’re always working on involving our customers more on our journey: re-thinking will always be our guiding principle.. What does the future of fashion look like? The last years can be seen as a great wake-up call, in terms of sustainability, local production and inclusion. Partners and consumers are gradually becoming more aware of our responsibility for the environment and are demanding changes within the industry. Our customers are already consuming more consciously and asking more targeted questions about product origin and delivery processes. It will be essential for all companies to be more transparent and to develop strategies towards circular production and business models.  What is one thing you hope others learn from your work? I’m convinced that transparency is an integral part of positive change within the fashion industry. To truly understand a brand’s footprint, we need to look at how, where, and above all by whom each product is pieced together. It might sound obvious, but supply chains in fashion (and other sectors) are surprisingly opaque. Transparency isn’t always the easy option, but it’s needed to do business sustainably. That’s why we have just started to measure the environmental footprint of selected styles to make informed sourcing decisions to lower our impact even further.How do you stay optimistic and persistent in the fight against climate change? I think that we are responsible for what and how we consume. The more we look out for one another and share our vision in supporting fair working conditions and environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, the faster we will make a difference in this world. Tell us about a recent change you’ve made to be more sustainable day-to-day?  My own behavior of consumption played a big role in starting my own business. I still wear a tweed blazer of my great-grandmother or a vintage trench coat, which I was able to buy years ago at a flea market in New York. I just recently got an oversized denim shirt from my mum, that she was wearing when she was my age. I love that and wear these styles with pride and they never get old.   With IVY OAK we want to offer exactly those go-to pieces that become classics in the wardrobes of our customers and which in the best case are passed onto the next generation. Do you have a pro-tip extending the life cycle of your wardrobe? Buy less and wear what you own more often. It seems boring at first, but you can try new combinations or have a piece altered to change its style. There are many options and every piece in your closet deserves attention. Do you have a philosophy you live by? Think differently, act differently.In the end, it all comes down to us and how we use our individual and combined power to create positive changeWhat’s a quick change people could make in terms of being more sustainable Choose more wisely and give old clothes a second life. Once you are over that amazing dress or perfect shirt, do not leave it hanging unnoticed in your closet for the next few years or worse throw it away. Look out for local clothing swaps and pass it on for someone new to fall in love with it.
Otrium continually works towards the  mission that all clothing should be worn. We do this by helping to eliminate unsold inventory and using  technology and data to change the way clothing is created and sold. On our journey towards a smarter, more sustainable fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You, the leading source of fashion sustainability ratings. We’ve used their know-how to highlight brands on our own platform that go the extra mile to be more sustainable, which helps our customers make more informed shopping choices. Using Good On You’s data, we’ve introduced the Otrium Conscious filter. And now we’re speaking to conscious-rated brands carried by Otrium  to find out more about their approach towards sustainability. This week, we chatted to Eric Otten, CEO of cashmere brand So Good To Wear, who believes that ethical fashion should be the rule instead of the exception. So what does sustainability mean to you? “People have always thought we could  take something inexhaustible from our earth, to drive  mass consumption and economic growth. Unfortunately, the reality is the opposite. Sustainability means that we have to give back more to the earth than we take” Tell us more about your brand. “Cashmere without compromises sums it up. We redesign the production process of cashmere with new and restored values. It’s a more conscious and personal process.” What’s your role… and how did you get there? “As CEO of the company, I have to be a farmer for our Nepalese business and at the same time a fashion specialist for our western business. I bring those two worlds together, always with consideration of our vision and goals.” What’s your career background and when did you start working on creating a positive impact? “I have been in the fashion business for almost my whole career. I worked for private label brands and premium brands like Wolford. After five years, I truly realised there are no limitations for the welfare of our planet and so I joined the sustainable and fair trade brand MYoMY. From there, I moved to  So Good To Wear.” What achievement are you most proud of? “Putting the whole chain theory in practice! From our own cashmere goats to our spinnery, natural dying atelier and production in Nepal to our “slow fashion” models in the retail industry. The whole chain is fairtrade,  animal friendly and committed to rebuilding the economy in Nepal.”What are you working on at the moment? “We are expanding our retail network internationally and expanding  our own cashmere goat herd in Nepal.”What is the biggest challenge on your  roadmap of improvements? “The coordination between high demands in the western world and the limitations of the relatively primitive possibilities in Nepal. Some things take more time to realise in Nepal – time we sometimes don’t have.”What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received from customers? “I have never worn a more comfortable piece of clothing than my So Good To Wear sweater – it’s physical and emotional.”What do customers value most about the brand and products? “It’s high “slow” fashion without compromises, made from the finest quality cashmere, fully fairtrade, sustainable and animal friendly”Who inspires you and why? “Stella McCartney – it became a movement of a luxury fashion brand built on sustainability.” What’s the most important aspect you keep in mind when shopping for more sustainable fashion? “I ask: is the brand really concerned about sustainability or is it a form of “greenwashing”?”Do you have a quote you live by? “Without action, we only have words.” What’s a quick change that people could make in terms of being more sustainable? “Actually, that is very easy! Start changing small and easy things in your life because it all helps: take your bike, not your car, don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth, don’t throw away food, put the light out in rooms you're not in, wash only a full machine and use biological soap, throw waste in a bin, not on the street, don’t eat meat every day and many more things that make more difference than you think, in your head and for nature.”
If you’re familiar with Otrium, you’ll know by now that we believe all clothing should be worn. We’re on a mission to eliminate unsold inventory and change the way clothing is created and sold. And on our journey towards a smarter fashion industry, we’ve teamed up with Good On You – the leading source for fashion brand sustainability ratings. Using their expert know-how, Otrium can highlight brands that are more sustainable. We label these brands as Conscious, which allows our customers to make more informed choices when they shop. To celebrate our Good On You collaboration, we’ve been chatting to Conscious-rated brands on our platform. Today is also Earth Day, so what better time to speak to a global name like adidas to find out their take on sustainability and more? Here’s what adidas is doing to pioneer changes for the better.Sustainability: what does it mean to adidas? Sustainability is part of our core belief: through sport we have the power to change lives. Sustainability, for us, is an ongoing process. We have always been involved in it and we have always worked on this topic, through the BCI Cotton Initiative, Work Labour Agreement and more. We want to provide the best sports gear using the best sustainable option available.Tell us more about adidas…  The adidas brand has a long history and deep-rooted connection with sport. Its broad and diverse portfolio in both the Sport Performance and Sport Inspired categories ranges from major global sports to regional grassroot events plus local sneaker culture. This has enabled adidas to transcend cultures and become one of the most recognized, credible and iconic brands both on and off the field of play.We believe that through sports we have the power to change lives. We will always strive to expand the limits of human possibilities, to include and unite people in sport, and to create a more sustainable world.  Where did the brand’s sustainable journey begin? Our sustainability journey began in the 1990s, becoming a member of the Fair Labor Association – an organization that helps to improve the lives of millions of workers around the world. In 2000, all our products became PVC-free and we created the first 100% recyclable performance shoe in 2019. See the timeline below for our other milestones in becoming more sustainable:What achievement are you most proud of? Back in 2015, adidas was the first brand to create a shoe made of ocean plastic with Parley (an organization that addresses major threats towards the ocean and works with collaborators to raise awareness and action projects to help end destruction). Tell us about your ‘End Plastic Waste’ mission and how it helps adidas solve this global problem?  We want to offer more sustainable options to our consumers by designing products made with recycled plastic or in partnership with other companies and organizations (such as Parley, above), as well as items that can be recycled, to stop them ending up in landfills.  How do you envision using circular techniques to help mitigate the negative impact of plastic waste and pollution? We plan to give consumers the option to return products that they no longer use to be either re-worked or recycled. Made To Be Remade is our current line made from recycled materials, and each piece can be recycled again at the end of its life.The objective is to be a platform with items made from sustainably sourced materials and to have more options for recycling old products and reducing waste. We’re also working on a new program for even more circular services. Does Otrium’s circular model help you to reach your targets with this mission?   Yes, for sure. Being more circular is key to help end plastic waste. For us, that’s giving consumers more opportunities to buy recycled products and finding more solutions for older items to be reused and repurposed.What else are you working on at the moment? We want to develop more and more. We are working to make sure we achieve our commitment to make 9 out of 10 items more sustainably by 2025. We look for new innovations, we push our customers, and we bring forward communication to support our consumer on what we can do together.What is the biggest challenge on the roadmap of improvements? Sustainability is a long journey, and we need to really put in the effort to bring this forward. We not only want to change what adidas does, but how our industry acts towards sustainability at large. We face challenges every day to find the best materials and the best way to resonate with consumers.What do customers value most about adidas and its products? adidas is a strong sports brand and we’re here to bring the best for the athlete. For us, “Impossible is Nothing” and we carry this value with us to really strengthen our sustainability journey.Where do you see adidas in 5 years? adidas wants to be the leader of sustainability in our industry. By 2025, 9 out of 10 items in our range will be made sustainably, and we will also stop using virgin polyester wherever possible (by 2024). Besides which, we want to be a more circular company as a whole by then. Do you think that through changing the historical fashion industry framework, we can achieve a reduction in plastic waste? What we need to do is to change the industry. adidas has been working and investing in sustainability for years. We want to set an example, learn from our partners and keep fostering the change. If we lead, others will follow. By helping consumers be more sustainable, our mission to help end plastic waste will keep on going.  What does the future of fashion look like? Consumers are looking for more circularity. The fashion industry needs to adapt to introduce products that last longer, and can be recycled or have their lifecycle extended, so we can make sure we are not creating more waste. This is what people want and we need to provide the solutions. Amazing work. Thanks for chatting to us, adidas. 
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