Helen, founder of CAES
@caes_store sustainable, timeless fashion.
Behind the scenes at CAES
Sustainable Fashion: An Interview With Helen de Kluiver of CAES
To celebrate the launch of edition 2 of conscious fashion line CAES on our site, we chat with CAES founder, Helen de Kluiver. CAES was created on a basis that fashion does not have to be fast or seasonal, and speaking with Helen about what sustainability means to her, it is clear to see how her own personal values align with her collection. Read on to learn more about CAES’ new line featuring some innovative fabrics and Helen’s daily sustainable rituals.
Where is home for you?
Home for me is in Amsterdam with my husband and three year old daughter.
What drives you to live a sustainable life?
That’s easy for me. It’s important for me to think about the future of our children and beyond. And take good care of our planet as long as we are here.
Have you always been sustainably minded in the way you live your life or is this something that has evolved for you?
It is something I grew up with – we always got fruit and vegetables from a farmer and our holidays were always surrounded by nature. My father was a scientist and during his illness he did a study of nutrition and what it did to his body. He already spoke about sugar as a poison 25 years ago, so in that sense we grew up very consciously with food and that you should eat as pure as possible. I also think that after the birth of my daughter I have become even more sustainably aware. You have such a huge responsibility over another person and you want her to grow up in a world that is as beautiful as possible. That really puts everything in perspective.
“Besides the right materials, sustainability to me it is also about working with people who truly care.”
Tell us a bit about the reason you started CAES – did you work in fashion before or did this desire to create a sustainable brand come from a specific moment?
Before launching CAES I worked as a designer for many years on huge collections that had to fall within a strict framework of seasonal styles, budget and time – as is the case with most fashion brands. But for me personally it just didn’t feel right anymore. I had a strong desire to focus on quality and designing items that would not be limited to one season only. To be able to really give my full attention to each piece, take my time and really love the end product. That was my dream. I toyed with this idea for some time but was finally brave enough to take the first steps at the beginning of last year. I envisioned smaller collections in “editions” rather than seasons, with qualities and colors that would remain timeless and wearable year-round.
The first thing I did was look for the right suppliers who shared my vision. We ended up working with family owned companies in Portugal and closely follow the production process because everything is made in-house. They are all very dedicated and truly care about their people. To me, this is at least as important as the quality of their work.
The origin of the name CAES is two-fold. I wanted it to embody the importance I give to clothing items; the way they are worn close to your skin every day, protecting your body like a case. It’s the reason I value high quality materials with a luxurious feel. Secondly, CAES is phonetically the same as my father’s name “Kees”. He was a great scientist and true inspiration to me, and sadly passed away when I was a young girl. This is my way of honoring him.
How did you formulate the sustainable ethos of the brand and production?
I wanted to create a sustainable label in all aspects of the business. In my opinion, the world needs to shift from consumerism and being only profit-driven to a more caring place. Care for each other and for our planet. Besides the right materials, sustainability to me it is also about working with people who truly care. Not just in production, but every person you encounter along the supply chain. We are working with some amazing companies that are continuously working on improving their processes and making better choices.
We are also thinking about how to package and ship our garments more responsibly. It’s an ongoing quest and can be challenging at times, but we are committed to do our part. At CAES we believe sustainability is no longer an option, but a requirement.
The gap I am hoping to fill in the market is where sustainability and design meet. People do not have to compromise on design when making sustainable fashion choices. I design all pieces with fashionable, inspiring women in mind. With this in mind, I created “CAES world”. It’s a magazine highlighting some of these real-life women where they talk about what inspires them.
Why is “organic” an important aspect of manufacturing for you?
We care about the food that we eat and what kind of products we use for our body. I also think it’s important to use the right materials for the clothes that you wear. You wear them on your skin, so they better be right!
You have two new fabrics in season two that look amazing, vega and lenzing – can you tell us a bit about these innovative, ethical materials?
Vegea is a great alternative to leather, it is made out of waste from the wine industry. The name VEGEA comes from the combination of VEG (Vegan) and GEA (Mother Earth). The fabric is characterized by a high content of vegetal/recycled raw materials such as vegetal oils and natural fibers from agroindustry. They always come up with new developments.
Ecovero is a super nice alternative for viscose. Lenzing EcoVero is made from wood pulp from trees from naturally grown, renewable and FSC or PEFC certified forests. These trees grow in Europe and the pulp is produced in Austria. The company that makes the material EcoVero is Lenzing AG. They are focused on maximum sustainability. The chemicals used to dissolve the wood into pulp are used over and over again. In addition, the bleaching of the pulp is 100% chlorine-free and compared to the production of viscose, there is 50% less emissions and only half the amount of water and energy is used.
What are the environmental issues that concern you the most and how do you personally go about tackling them?
At the moment I mainly focus on the use of plastic or rather, not using plastic. The items must be packed and transported and you want to do that in the best possible way, so that no damage occurs. We found this amazing company who produces compostable poly and shipping bags. When you finished using them, you can just put them between the food and garden waste and they will disappear.
What are life’s small pleasures for you right now?
To be with my family and friends. It is something I have come to realize during this period. The only thing I really missed was a simple drink or dinner with friends. Valuable friendships are so important to me, that’s what really gives me energy.
Do you have any health or wellness tips that you are following?
I make soup with everything and use a lot of different vegetables. A big cup of soup really feels like a vitamin boost. I can recommend it!
How do you inform yourself throughout the day? What are you listening to, watching, reading?
I like to listen to podcasts while running. At the moment I have just started my schedule again. I am currently listening to Clare Press’s Wardrobe Crisis as she talks to various guests about sustainable fashion. I used to be able to read a book within a day, that now takes a little longer with my young daughter!
“Everything was on pause for a moment, so there was time to think, to examine and to adjust certain aspects of life and business.”
How are you winding down at the end of the day?
At home with my family or taking a long bath!
What is making you feel optimistic at this time?
It is terrible what is happening right now and what impact this has on a lot of people. But there is also a certain awareness arising, and I am talking about the fashion world too. That we want to produce more consciously and be more transparent about the entire production process. Everything was on pause for a moment, so there was time to think, to examine and to adjust certain aspects of life and business.
Finally, what does sustainability mean to you in these unprecedented times?
Doing the best you can, I learn new things every day. You don’t have to do it right, but try to keep learning. And try to think about the actions you do and what impact they have. By adjusting little things and being more aware, you already make a difference.
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