Today I want to introduce you to Alenka Repič, the founder and creative director of the Slovenian Company KAAITA.
I’ve fallen in love with this brand of sustainable products and Miss Claire Home
will be proud to host Alenka’s laundry bag.
It was about 12 years ago when Alenka started Kaaita. In an Indian language it means “plant a tree”. This phrase also symbolizes the Company’s green essence.
She started with consulting and providing services to companies, but then, about three years ago, she switched to end customers, offering them personal and home accessories.
I met Alenka and we had a short interview focused on her business.
Where does your passion for fashion come from?
Well, I’m a woman. That explains it all J I kind of love it and I hate it at the same time. I love simple clothes and most often perceive them more as design pieces. What I don’t like about fashion is its speed; its need to artificially create new styles every 3 months or even less. That is why Kaaita is beyond seasons and fashion trends. We thrive to create products and messages that are timeless.
What inspires you in the creation of your objects?
Beauty. Design. Simplicity. And most importantly the opportunity to improve the lifestyles of our customers. Even if it is just a playfully swinging on your rocking chair at the age of 73 (that is what my mum does with our interior swing called Ding Dong – that I find it fabulous) or abandoning the use of plastic bags at the supermarket with the help of our Grocery bag. Usually I get the idea for a new product while desperately searching for the perfect one that I can’t find. Then I decide to create it with the help of my dream team.
The Hendee bag is made with a special kind of paper. What brought you to use this material and how long did you have to search for it so that it satisfies the need for lightness, waterproof, capacity and versatility?
I really love this paper. Its texture, smell, touch and the endless possibilities to create with it. While observing the novelties my desire to create something new grows exponentially. I came across Tyvek®( a registered trademark of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company) about five years ago. It is used in many industries but not often used for accessories. That’s what got my attention, while what kept it was the fact that it has all the prettiness of crumpled paper but is far more wear and tear resistant. Like any good relationship, it survives everyday commotions and joys, looking even better at the end of the day. Being durable yet lightweight, water and tear resistant led us to come up with many ideas, we have made quite a few prototypes out of it, but the idea to create a simple shoulder bag out of it won our hearts. However, don’t be fooled by its paper-light first impression, this bag is – thanks to the clever material – a heavy-duty urban carrier.
How is the bag made? Could you tell us the process you use to create it?
We use a special environmental and health friendly technique to colour the Tyvek®* paper. Unfortunately you can colour it only on one side, the second side remains white due to the coating that makes it impossible to colour. To overcome this restriction, we sew two layers of paper together to create one layer painted on both sides. This feature led us to the idea of colouring the interior in a slightly different shade. That is how a colour palette that is all dreamy and subdued was born. You can now choose between six colour combinations: WET SAND, WARM STONE, BIG BLUSH, LOST ISLAND, MIDNIGHT SWIM or DEEP ASH. Because of many features hidden inside, like a big and a small pocket and two strings: one for keys and one for a small pouch, it is quite difficult to rotate a bag in to its final position. After doing that it is crumpled like real paper, slightly scratched, but that is a feature, not a bug. Your Hendee will also change with wear and the patina it develops will reveal its true hidden beauty.
Is there a patent?
No. My years of experience have led me to believe that it doesn’t make sense to protect legally if you are a small company. We have done it numerous times. And we have been copied numerous times too. The following legal process is long and costly, something we cannot afford. That is why I decided to sharpen our focus on building a strong and unique brand. You can copy a product, but you can’t copy the personality of Kaaita.
Where can we find your creations?
You can find them all around the globe at our stockists or on our web site www.kaaita.com.
We also saw your felt products, the slippers and laundry/grocery bags in particular. Tell us about their manufacturing process.
They are all made woth felt produced from recycled plastic bottles. The felt is so soft it is hard to imagine what it is made of. And it is so thick, it can be sewn only by very strong industrial sewing machines, especially the felt we use for slippers. We print silicone soles on it to prevent slippage.
Will the Kaaita project grow with new products?
Of course. We have lots of new things coming up. For example, we plan to launch a lunch bag before Christmas. It is designed for all those urban people that take their lunch to the office or home. And guess which material it will be made of?
Your fashion is sustainable. Sustainability is a topic that should be very important to the end consumer. Is that something that is perceived or not?
Sustainability is in our DNA, in business terms, it is our strategic pillar. Working on issues like responsibility towards environment, nature or society is something that does not “pay off” in the short run. It is a strategic decision that has definitely defined us through the years. Our customers are the ones that value that and it means a lot having them on our side. Being able to consistently deliver sustainable products is also especially important to our bigger clients, for example companies or corporations, ordering personalized series.
Thank you Alenka for this pleasant conversation; I definitely love your products and your style!