Recycled Leather Goddess
Updated: May 6, 2020
Set down with Kathleen, a fabulous female entrepreneur and founder of OPUS MIND, an up-cycled leather accessory brand that was born out of her personal experience with the problem our industry has with waste and pollution. Lean back, grab a glass of water and enjoy Kathleen's green business journey.
Tell us a little about your business and what you do?
OPUS MIND is a brand that stands for mindfulness and offers premium product made of upcycled material. It speaks to an audience who is conscious about him/her inner journey and external footprint.
In 2017, I had worked more than a decade in the industry from design to production, operation and retail. I was deeply conflicted with what I saw as the status quo for overproduction. I believed we could do better and that people cared about a sustainable fashion. And after years of research, I believe that a circular fashion with innovative processes to lower waste is the next evolution of fashion. Being able to recycle existing resources into beautiful design pieces, while using clean energy and chemical free processes, will be one step to minimize the negative impact the fashion industry has in terms of pollution and waste.
Mindfulness has been an important factor in creating the business. Myself, having worked hard to climb the corporate ladder, was left burned out and confused with why. And so practicing mindfulness enabled my own well being and clarity. It became clear that I wanted to focus my effort into bringing more mindfulness to people who, like me experienced career exhaustion, and was seeking mindful products that are sustainable.
The word sustainability has been used a lot lately and I'm curious what does it actually mean to you?
Sustainability is imperative. Climate change is happening and I believe everyone has to contribute in order to have meaningful change: governments, corporations, and individuals. In the level of corporation, they have the most impact in making choices that can be positive to the environment. For example, choosing a post-consumer recycled cardboard packaging instead of commercial grade plastic.
While working for Chanel, I had raised the issue of waste but with large corporation, it takes time to implement meaningful action. And so with Opus Mind, I decided to create a brand that stood for lowering waste.
For me, sustainability is
Minimizing the depletion of our resources through using innovative materials that are recycled/upcycled
Lowering our carbon footprint by using clean energy, and investing in carbon offset
Focusing on creating great timeless designs that people love. Move away from the idea that fashion is seasonal and disposable.
Because of my past experience working for Dior first and then Chanel, I had an expertise in “Maroquinerie” (leathergood) I was trained and saw the complex leather industry. It appalled me when seeing some of the horrible practices. Now Chanel have taken some actions already and declared last year that they will stop using fur or exotic leather. But the area of waste has not been raised. In starting Opus Mind, I toyed with the idea of using vegan leather, but upon more research, it was clear that it was not a better solution as many vegan leathers are actually made of polyurethane, more plastic. And so upcycling leather is a more sustainable solution because it lowers factory waste and, at scale, it can actually lower the production of new leather.
What inspired you to create a sustainable business and why do you think businesses should be modeled in this way?
My journey started when I experience a burn out. I worked in an amazing company and was on my way to advance my career but I arrived at a point where I could not function normally. I took on meditation and breathworks to cope with the stress and what opened up is my realization of how our well-being is tightly connected with our environment.
Having a deep understanding of how the industry worked, I knew that it would be hard to shrink the industry but to change the model into a circular one was more probable. Making the company accountable for what they create seemed so simple. However, companies do not change unless there are government regulations or market incentives. I knew that with more awareness, the customer will 100% choose a more sustainable option.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Nature is my most inspiring source. I enjoy going on long hike. I get equally excited with the feeling of standing on top of a canyon in awe of nature’s grandeur or staring at a droplet of water slowly dripping down a fresh spider web. Knowing that many of nature’s beauty will not last to future generations because of our man made industry saddens me.
Do you have a favorite Opus Mind piece?
My favorite Opus Mind piece is the circular backpack, the very first item that was launched. The reason is that I am not at all a backpack wearer. In the past, my perception of a backpack was very utilitarian and that it was either made for traveling or sport. So I designed a very minimalist one so that it is sleek and seamless. One other reason for simplifying the components of the backpack was to adopt the circular mindset. So, at the end of its lifecycle, we can detach the panel and either re-use it or repair it or recycle it.
How do you encourage your customers to think more sustainably?
I try to reach a broader audience about sustainability and most people tell me that they had no idea how polluting the fashion industry is. So I always encourage them these three things:
Be curious - Ask questions
Be mindful - without judging, understand that most people’s intention is to do good. It’s just the definition of “good” is different.
Be the choice - bring reusable bags with you during grocery shopping, don’t take single-use plastic cup/straw, etc.