We spoke with Rachel Evans and Jesse Schiller, husband and wife, yoga teachers, and founders of KOOSHOO. They do a lot of good with their organic and natural accessories to make you feel good and look good, which is all good to us. We found out why we’d all love to feel a little more kooshoo, how to shop smarter and more responsibly, and why headbands are so much more than an accessory.
What is KOOSHOO?
KOOSHOO is from Norfolk Island, a tiny subtropical island in the South Pacific. This is where the famous “Mutiny of the Bounty” descendants live, and Rachel is an 8th generation islander. Kooshoo is a way of life on the island; in the native Norfuk language it means ‘feeling good’. When we were trying to decide on a name for our business we wrote out all of the values that we wanted it to embody: transparency, love, excellence, friendliness, playfulness and joy. It didn’t take long to realize that every one of those values in practice led to people feeling good. For us, kooshoo is a filter we use every day on our decision making asking ourselves: “is this decision leaving everyone feeling kooshoo?” If yes, then we know it’s a great fit for our business and our lives.
We love your icons that symbolize how you do good business. What responsibilities do fashion brands have in a better world?
If it were up to us, fashion companies – and private companies as a whole – would take it upon themselves to be the stewards of our planet. Governments have their roles in protecting environment and people, but ultimately money talks, and if our world’s private companies have a better world in their priorities, then that’s exactly what we’ll get.
As for the fashion industry in particular, well, it’s got a long way to go.
Fashion is currently dominated by fast fashion, a term used to describe big fashion manufacturers who can take a garment from concept to store in as little as 2 weeks. Incredibly, they then offer said garments at ridiculously low prices – like $20 for a pair of jeans.
Prices like that may be great for our wallets, but the fact is: IT IS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.
Fast fashion comes at an extreme cost to both humans (see the Rana Factory collapse from Bangladesh in 2013) and our environment (the average American tossed 68lbs (!!!) of clothing and textiles in the garbage last year). Big fashion has done a masterful job of hiding what they don’t want you to see behind the curtain, allowing us, the consumer, to see only a pretty garment with a great price tag.
To us, the best way to get away from this method of consuming is through education. We believe that by knowing the story behind the products we as consumers buy, we make smarter choices. This is why we take such care to teach people about the inputs of our products.
At the end of the day, we as consumers vote with our money. Each purchase shapes the future we want to see. As we demand greater transparency and fairness and demonstrate this by where we spend our money, manufacturers will take note.
When you say you’re out to make everyone feel good, you don’t just mean your customers, do you?
We work on many levels to help everyone feel good.
First, we believe that it is our responsibility as a business owner that everyone in our supply chain – from those growing the textiles to those wearing them – be treated with respect and kindness. This is why we use only organic and natural materials, dye using low impact dyes and work with ethical, family-run businesses for manufacturing. It’s incredibly important to us that the people at the other end of the supply chain – the side we never see when buying clothes in a store – are being treated with the respect and love they deserve.
Second, we celebrate the incredible, beautiful diversity that we are as humans. To us, fashion is so often about conformity, the notion that to be accepted you need to look a certain way (i.e. pants that make your booty look a certain way). That type of fashion has its place; but it’s not what we do. When we design products we’re constantly mindful of celebrating people’s individuality. We design products to be worn several different ways, ensuring that the products compliment you. We believe that fashion can be a tool for self-love and self-expression and we know that when we are allowing ourselves to be uniquely who we are, we’re feeling good.
Third, we believe in giving back to our communities. We donate a portion of profits to a charity based in Vancouver’s downtown east side, the poorest neighbourhood in Canada. The charity, Karma Teachers Centre for Yoga and Meditation, offers community, support, yoga and meditation free to the people of the neighbourhood. Last year KOOSHOO’s donation provided classes for 1000 deserving individuals. The Centre works extensively with homeless youth and impoverished women, amongst others. To us, working together with partners like Karma Teachers is what being in this world is all about.
Rachel: I teach a style of yoga called kundalini yoga. Yogi Bhajan (the Master of Kundalini Yoga and the teacher that brought it to the West) strongly recommended that Kundalini Yoga Teachers wear a white head covering of natural fiber while teaching for their own personal upliftment and protection when handling the powerful energies. I learnt about this while doing my training and began my exploration of ways to cover my head!
My challenge was to find a head covering that performed (stayed on my head in all yoga classes), was made out of natural materials, felt good and was an expression of me! I soon realized I couldn’t find one anywhere! This is when I took it upon myself to start designing different headbands that were versatile enough that I could style them to wear both out on the street and while I taught Kundalini yoga. Genius, I thought, a headband as flexible as me! We made them with organic cotton, in a couple designs and with subtle shades of white so I could always have the freedom of wearing what felt right each day. Voilà – I’d found my home in ‘head coverings’.
Jesse: It didn’t take us long to realize that beyond kundalini yoga there was a lot of demand and a big void in organic and natural accessories. Right from the beginning we thought of all the yogis, runners and hikers that would love a high performance natural headband, but we’ve since learnt that people use our headbands for every conceivable use. Some of our favourites: a non-toxic head covering for chemotherapy, a chef’s headband, an ear warmer in chilly climates and even bandeaus!
Do you really believe your Journey Shawl will make people feel good?
We designed our Journey Shawls to be taken on all life’s adventures and comfort you along the way. It can dress you up for those special occasions, cover you up for those perfect beach days and then adapt again however else it’s needed, ensuring that you feel your best in every situation. Each is dyed by hand in the world’s only solar powered dye house right in downtown Los Angeles. The effect of this is that though the variations are subtle, every single piece is unique, just like us as humans. It was designed to be worn at least a dozen (though truthfully many more) ways.
Our Shawl is made from Tencel, a super-fibre created from the pulp of sustainably harvested Eucalyptus trees. It’s the cleanest and most durable of the man-processed natural fibers (bamboo, modal, rayon…). Only 3 ingredients are required to convert the wood to fabric: pulp, water and a solvent (99.9% of the solvent and water is recycled batch to batch, making it a closed-loop manufacturing process). As for how it feels… people love it’s strength, the way it holds color and the way it drapes (the way it hangs from the body) but what gets most people is the incredibly soft silk-like feel.
What came first: the business or the romance?
The romance, by a long ways. We met and began dating in first year university 13 years ago while both on exchange at a school in the south of England. Getting from there to here has been a series of adventures and discoveries, getting to know both ourselves and each other.
About 6 years ago we were both working “career jobs” in our respective fields – Rachel in communication and graphic design, and me in international sales. We got to a point where we were spending far more time apart than together and we made a life-altering decision: to quit our jobs and travel together to Asia on a one-way ticket.
Over the next year we spent every minute of every day together, travelling across Asia and laying the foundations for the life we wished to create for ourselves, which ultimately meant cultivating the seed for our future business. We finished our travels with a beautiful wedding at the family home on Norfolk Island with many friends and family from around the world. On coming back to Canada we knew we wanted to create and build a special business together. We officially began the process the summer of 2010 and began selling product in November 2012.
First up is expanding our team. In November Rachel and I will be welcoming our first child into the world and we couldn’t be more excited for the adventures to come. Though the little’un won’t be sending out thank you emails any time soon, you may catch them modeling some baby gear in the not-too-distant future!
As for what’s next on the product and business side… well, we’ve got two primary focuses:
1. We are incredibly proud of the products we currently make (and have the testimonials to back that up) but could safely say that 99.9% of the people in North America that would love our products don’t yet know that we exist. If you’re reading this article and want to help us in spreading our word, it’d mean a ton to us if you shared our story through social media and word of mouth. Thank you!
2. This fall we’ll be releasing a few new colours to our already popular line of headbands and by next spring we aim to introduce a range of exciting new items.
Thanks for taking the time to get to know us. If you have any questions about what you’ve read or simply want to say hi, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. We love meeting new friends.