Lilabare (laila-bare) is a Made in Kenya fashion brand that wants you to rethink your wardrobe goals. Founded by Ria Ana Sejpal in 2017, the brand produces clothing and jewellery with sustainability at the heart of their modus operandi. ‘Whether it’s hand-dyed cotton in Gujarat, or upcycled post-production manufacturing waste in Kenya, we consider the socio-economic and environmental impact of everything we make.’ Made up of two components, LILA in Sanskrit is “the outcome of creative play”. While BARE represents the raw and natural angle the brand takes to create timeless products that are versatile and functional while maintaining their chic & captivating appeal. For the 27-year old designer, sustainability is not considered her brand’s USP; rather an essential element of design.
What was the inspiration behind Lilabare?
I decided to set up a brand whose model innately supports craftsmanship & heritage, and recycling. The designs themselves are supposed to be comfortable and actually chic. It should allow you to move with ease and freedom. At the end of the day, when you come home, you shouldn’t have to change out of your clothes to go for drinks, play with your kids or even do yoga!”
You attended London College of Fashion for further technical studies of the fashion & apparel design process. But interestingly, you first went to University of Bath for a BSc that covered Social Sciences, Business Management, International Development, Marketing and Sociology. Why is that?
I always knew what I wanted to do, so from the age of 16, I got work experience in fashion wherever I could. I started in the factories like the EPZ, because I wanted to see how things were made. Then I went on to do work experience that focused on different parts of the fashion industry. I chose not to do a design degree is because I believe creating is more of an artistic practice for me.
What criteria do you use in fabric selection?
Handcrafted, recycled, repurposed are things we focus on. I like to be able to trace to farm with everything I make. Has to feel super soft and easy on the skin too!
How do you apply the ethical standards to your jewellery line?
All of our brass is repurposed from old machinery, recycled padlocks and pipes. My team of artisans and I craft each piece by hand. I also work with natural shards of semi-precious crystals…
It’s interesting that you take the time to explain the meaning of each crystal to your customers…
We have a piece of jewellery that represents phase of your life, however long that journey lasts. Since these rocks have taken millions of years to form, I find that their history or known properties helps people connect with what draws them to a particular stone.
What drew you to the semi-precious stones in the first place?
The first stone I was drawn to was kyanite. It is one of two minerals in the world that cannot retain or accumulate negative energy. It’s only positive energy! I thought I’d try wearing it, so I made a piece for myself. It did give me comfort and a sense of peace, and that’s how it all started.
Do you also make bespoke brass pieces or are they available in collections?
We do both. You can even buy our wildlife conservation series, Lasting Footprints, on Jumia & Etsy now. For each piece, we plant a tree in the Maasai Mara; the origin of the collection.
Being an ethical and eco-friendly brand, what are some of the changes you wish to see in the industry?
I honestly wish it was a non-conversation to ask whether people are “ethical” or “eco-friendly”. One of my mentors defines these practices as ‘social compliance’; doing what you can given your circumstances. We should all consider what we are going to create for the next generation.
Now that you’ve run Lilabare for a year, have you found your answer to ‘is it possible to run an ethical brand and still run a successful business?
It’s entirely possible; anything is. How you get there is often a circumstantial & improvised; that’s the exciting part!