Kleed Kimonos, founded by Carolina Guedes Cruz is the luxury loungewear you need to own. Born out of Carolina’s two utmost passions: fashion and wildlife. The vibrant collection offers sophisticated and comfortable pieces, and each purchase also supports wildlife conservation efforts. In fact, 10% of Kleed’s sales go to a project in Zimbabwe that focuses on stopping rhino horn trade and fighting poaching. According to Kleed Kimonos, even fashion must have its cause.
What’s the story behind the company?It all started when I was a little child and used to go on vacations with my grandparents to our summer house in Algarve, south of Portugal. My mornings were amazing with views by the Alvor Bay, incredible breakfasts, and my grandmother was always very chic in her kimonos which she used to buy abroard. She loved Asia, and she was a very aesthetic woman. Today, I have a passion for loungewear and sleepwear because I grew up watching my grandmother walking in our garden with the most unique silk kimonos. Since I was young, I dreamed about having a loungewear business.
How does the brand embody both fashion and wildlife? The last 15 years I have been traveling to several countries in Africa, which is another passion of mine – Africa and wildlife. It all started with my first safari in South Africa with my roommates that were living with me in New York. By that time I was studying Communication at Marymount Manhattan College, and at the same time doing an internship at W Magazine. I immediately fell in love with the African bush and I knew I would return to Africa very soon. And I did after some months, but this time to join a wildlife conservation project in Namibia where I stayed for one month. After that, every year I fly to Africa to help vets and conservationists working to save endangered species.
In life, most of us have to work and I idealised a work that could fuse wildlife and fashion. So, I started to think about this idea 10 years ago. I wanted a project that would allow me to travel to Africa, to stay connected with fashion, and at the same time, one that could support a cause which I believe in.
How does nature inspire your collection? Nature and wildlife make part of my day. Every single day I read about animals, Africa, conservation… etc. As I said, I wanted to link my passions and above all contribute to a more sustainable world. Nature inspires me, and it inspires my brand and what I create. I always want to produce pieces related to Africa and wildlife. All Kleed pieces have either an African name, an animal pattern, or an embroidered species on the back. My first collection was like that, and it will always be this way. This brand is for those who like loungewear, special pieces, nature and above all – those who want to buy ethically.
Why loungewear, in particular? Loungewear, because I love it. You either buy expensive luxury items or you go for mid-stream and you will be dressed like everyone else. And last but not least, because there is a space in the Portuguese market for a brand that is between the luxury and the mid-stream.
What is the overall design and construction process like? I start thinking about the collection very early.
I get inspired all over the place: on the street, in parties, magazines, beautiful places, color matches – everywhere. If something touches me, I simply let my creativity fly and it ends on something. Then I buy the fabrics. I buy what I like at that moment, then something will come up based on that fabric. I don’t know what I am going to do, but I know I love them. Then, I create a set of pieces, all related, with a sense a logic and always thinking about different types of clients. Then, I make the first samples. Sometimes they go through modifications of all kinds until I reach the exact piece I was thinking about. After all samples are complete and approved, I ask four or five people which I consider to have a sense of fashion and a sense beauty.
Then the process of production starts. I work with a small atelier in Lisbon with a tailor, a woman who is a perfectionist and who immediately fell in love with my brand and the story behind it. I didn’t understand (and I still don’t) about production, stitching details, etc. It’s a whole new world for me; I feel I am on a Fashion Safari. I was used to doing the buying for several brands I worked for such as Gucci, Alfred Dunhill, etc. where you get to see the finished product.
Where do you find inspiration for your collections? Everywhere. I read loads of fashion magazines like Porter, Vogue Paris, Vogue India, Elle – everything. I read, I have wildlife and Africa whispering in my ear every day, and I have this thing about contributing for a cause. I think all of the people who have a business, or are starting a business, should care about sustainability and should contribute to a cause with part of the business revenues. Therefore, because I contribute to the wildlife cause, 80% of my inspiration comes from nature and goes back to nature.
Sustainability is a must that you brand adheres to; how do you support sustainability in your practices? It is. I care for the wild because I work with African animals and I have more information on it than most. I know the extinction reality and it’s very sad. In 10 years, there will be no elephants in Africa and rhinos are already extinct. We have to take care of the planet because if we don’t, there will be huge problems in the near future and animals play an important role on planet earth. So, I decided to go for the rhinos; they must be bread in order to balance the slaughter done for the rhino horn which is traded for medicinal and status purposes in countries like Korea, China, and Vietnam. I help an African reserve called Imire Safari Ranch which is fully dedicated to breeding rhinos in Zimbabwe.
How do you hope to see the company evolve over the next year?I want to improve quality, the production process, and after all is well and settled in Portugal – I would like to expand the business abroad to Paris, London, New York, and mostly the safari lodges in Africa. I want to be seen as a fashion brand with a purpose, and not only another fashion brand. A loungewear brand who launches cool and sophisticated products to the market, but one who is concerned with sustainability.