On an evening out in Jaipur, designer Carolina Guedes Cruz, who founded kimono and nightwear label Kleed, met with Vikas Soni, a city-based artist. He had just hand-painted larger-than-life murals in Bar Palladio, the popular restaurant and lounge in Narain Niwas Palace Hotel. (He had also worked with Marie-Anne Odejans, a Dutch interior designer, to design Gem Palace’s Mumbai and Jaipur showrooms.) Cruz was keen on collaborating with him, and keeping with the theme of her work, they decided to keep the focus on wildlife.
“I suggested the name Bagh for the collection,” says Soni, who has hand-painted a kimono with a prowling tiger. By the end of May, about 100 pieces of this will be printed for the world, of which a few will find their way to Hot Pink in Jaipur and online at kleedkimonos.com (pre-orders will soon be open, at approximately ₹23,000). Soni will make a few more designs through the year, to be made available in the latter half of the year. 10% of the profits will go to Saving the Survivors, which works with poached, traumatised animals in South Africa.
Her story so far
Having lived in Portugal all her life — and later working in branding, PR and communication, for Nespresso, Alfred Dunhill and Gucci, among others — Cruz would often go to Africa, each time finding a reduction in the white rhino population. “Its horns are believed to be an aphrodisiac, and it was sold to fund the Syrian war at very high prices,” she says. So after 20 years of being an employee, Cruz, now 44, quit her job to launch a brand that would support the cause of the rhino and other endangered animals. Kleed, meaning robe in Afrikaans, was born. She designed one collection of kimonos in May 2016, but decided to shift base to Jaipur, “because the costs are lower, and the raw materials easily available”.
Cruz does kimonos and nightwear, in both organic cotton and silk, and showed at London Fashion Week last year. She began to take part in international fairs, and got orders from luxury lodges in Africa (Wilderness Safaris) and Mexico (Cuixmala). She’s also in 69b Boutique in London. “I want to grow a business that is environmentally and socially sustainable,” she says, of her efforts to train women to produce international-quality work. The brand uses Azo-free fabric, since the synthetic chemical is a known carcinogen.