First up, can you tell me who you are, and a wee bit about your business?
Kalopsia was established in 2012 by British / Swedish duo, Adam Robertson & Nina Falk. Kalopsia began as a textiles and design organisation to challenge the way textiles was seen. We began everything by asking the question; "What are textiles?"
Today, Kalopsia operates as a Social Enterprise in Edinburgh’s busy creative and cultural port, Leith, with the aim to batch manufacture textiles products more ethically and sustainably in Britain.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day for us usually involves lots of cutting and making of products, drinking lots of coffee, and heated discussions with the team and interns over lunch (mostly regarding fashion trends and ethics in textiles). As many of our clients are actually based in London, we often have a lot of Skype meetings and phone calls throughout the day and while this is happening there is always at least three machinists manufacturing in the background. We like to think that the general feeling of our micro-manufacturing space is positive, relaxed and welcoming, though often quite noisy with all the machines and music!
Where does your passion for the industry stem from?
Our passion has always been there; we started the business to address the challenges we were facing as freelance designers. We care about the services we provide as these are services that we needed when we started out. The ethical and sustainable aspects of what we do came in later, but once we had seen the true extent of these issues we knew we had to do something about them. This further fuelled our passion and drove us to make more conscious decisions about how we produce.
Did you study? Where?
Kalopsia’s three directors have a mixed and varied background, with degrees ranging from Textiles at Norwich University of the Arts, Textiles Design at Osaka Seikei University Faculty of Art and Design in Japan, Fashion Tailoring and Design in Stockholm, to Illustration at ECA and Custom design in Bristol. We are a real mixed bag which is great and means we always have broad wealth of knowledge to tackle projects and challenges.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
This year we were shortlisted for “Manufacturer of the Year.” This was a huge honour for us and it was truly amazing to be recognised that this level. In 2016 we hosted the launch of the Scottish Government Circular Economy strategy in our work space ‘The Facility.’ This was a also a huge honour and we were so pleased to be part of the launch of such an important initiative.
Another thing that we are very proud of is some of the more creative projects we have been asked to be part of such as making and designing costumes for the international circus performance group Gynoïdes circus female intelligentsia.
Who are the influential figures you look up to for inspiration?
We don’t particularly have a figure that we look up to but rather organisations and collectives that excite us and push us to do more. Some of the key ones includes Svenskt Tenn, Bauhaus and The Vkhutemas Arts School. All of which have sustainable, mindful and utilitarian production at their core.
What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline for the near future?
We will soon start working on an order for a newly opening design museum in Scotland (but we can't say anymore about this yet...). We also have a fashion shoot coming up in Stockholm for our new additions to the Assemble collection. The shoot will feature the print works of a range of British Designers.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
We are really lucky that we get to work with a huge variety of both British and international textiles creators, and turn their fabrics into ethically and sustainable commercial products made here in Scotland. There is something truly inspiring about the range and depth of materials we get to work with. From print to weave and knit, we work with some fantastic creators and businesses.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far and how could it be avoided?
When we first opened up our manufacturing services, we were very eager to please and would often find ourselves taking on work that wasn’t appropriate for us to be doing. This put a huge amount of pressure on us and created some very tense relationships with some clients. The key thing we think you need to do to avoid this is to be clear and firm about what you can and can’t produce, both when you are working with clients but also in your media and branding. Be excited and positive about what you can do and never be afraid to turn down work that you know isn’t right for you. It can take a while to get that message right but once you do, it will completely transform the way you work with clients and will free up a great deal of your time.
What does your workspace look like?
Kalopsia is based in Leith, Edinburgh's unofficial creative quarter; located on the Firth of Forth, in the North of the city. Our micro-manufacturing space is in a industrial estate just off New Haven Road where we produce all Assemble products. Our small but efficient production space is fairly traditionally laid out with cutting tables, industrial machines, heat presses. Where is differ from more conventional manufacturers is in the construction of our systems around the manufacturing. We are always looking for the most effective way to manufacture products as well as handle orders and client relationships, which means the look and feel of our space is continuously evolving and improving as the business develops.
Who is your design inspiration?
The inspiration for the style of our print designs comes primarily from constructivism and abstraction. We have both always been really excited by those modernist mid-century ideas and colour palettes. The imagery for our latest print collection ‘Konstrukt’ (which is available to buy by the meter from BeFab Be Creative) was inspired by Leith scenery. Primarily the dock lands, and industrial areas.
The Assemble products on the other hand have been more inspired by Nordic design. We really love the minimal and utilitarian feel of a lot of Scandinavian design. Balancing design with functionality and effective use of fabric is always of real importance to us, and we were also really mindful that as we moved into producing apparel that we didn’t want to create any garments that would exclude anyone because of size or body shape, so we intentionally created a collection with simple, classic shapes that we knew would complement a wide range of people.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
We once got a very blunt and very true piece of advice from a business mentor of ours after we had another company steal our logo and branding and refuse to change it - “Don’t let people you do not respect upset you.” It sounded brutal to us at the time but we very quickly realised how right she was. We all should spend more time work on the positive, exciting things we are doing and not let the ourselves get dragged into the negative aspects of what we do.
What are you looking for from the textile industry currently?
We are lucky in this respect, as what we have been pushing for from the textiles industry for many years is beginning to happen! We are starting to see a greater shift towards more thoughtful and conscious ways of producing products and design. We are delighted to see an increased focus on the environmental and social impact of what we collectively produce as an industry. We are also so proud to see Scottish companies leading the way in many of these fields and discussions and hope that we can continue to push for solutions and be the world leaders in how we tackle them.
Find Kalopsia Collective online:
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