I recently attended a charity event in Toronto supporting the Women’s Healthy Environments Network and Fashion Takes Action. During the fashion runway show, I noticed a well-dressed local celebrity, Olivia Chow (a local member of parliament to the Canadian New Democratic Party), walking down the runway modeling some very fashionable clothing. I wasn’t at all surprised to find out that Kali Clothing, a fashion line that combines style and ethics created by Caterina Mazzotta, was the creator of the outfit.
My first experience with Kali Clothing and Caterina was during the fall of last year. I had ordered a snood from Ethical Ocean but to my disappointment, found out later that Kali had just run out of my size in-store. After some email correspondence with Caterina, she realized how much I had my heart set on that particular snood and she went the extra mile to track down a spare one for me. During this correspondence I was thoroughly impressed with her determination to satisfy a customer but it was also quite evident that Kali Clothing was a one-person shop and that she was an extremely busy gal. It wasn’t until a recent interview with Caterina when I realized just how busy, ambitious, and dedicated the creator of Kali Clothing really is – she is truly an inspiration.
Caterina first started Kali Clothing back in 2006. She has a Bachelor degree in Environmental Politics and Culture with a focus in politics, research, and the ethical side of the fashion industry (i.e. sustainable materials, as well as local and fair-wage production). “I learned how to sew when I was a teen from my mother and grandmother. I also did internships at a few local fashion brands, including Modrobes. To hone my talents I picked up a few night courses on pattern drafting, tailoring, and merchandising throughout the years,” Caterina explains.
When asked where her inspiration comes from, she responds “I travel a lot so most of my inspiration comes from experiencing different cultures and customs and appreciating their beauty.” She continues, “but one of my other favorite things to do is to look at vintage pieces that are timeless and figure out ways to reinvent them with sustainable materials.”
Though Caterina is determined to bring sustainable fashion into the mainstream, she recognizes some of the major challenges in the eco-fashion market versus the conventional market but is not willing to compromise on her beliefs. “The price of textiles and raw materials are more expensive than conventional materials. I’ve been told so many times that I’d have a better business if I just worked with conventional fabrics but I’d rather not have a business at all if I was forced to use materials harmful to the environment and others.”
Believing that she is contributing to a major shift in consumer consciousness is something that pushes Caterina to keep going. “There is a budding eco-fashion industry happening globally that inspires me to push forward. It’s definitely more common than it used to be and consumers are beginning to recognize and demand the use of sustainable materials like organic cotton, bamboo, and tencel in what they wear.”
Presently, Caterina is still keeping up with her busy schedule, including the day-to-day responsibilities of Kali Clothing, finishing up a Master’s degree, and focusing on expanding the ready-to-wear collections for the Kali line in 2013-2014, which will include a men’s line and a formal wear collection. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll see be seeing some great things come from Kali Clothing in the future and I can’t wait to add some of these new pieces to my wardrobe.