Anjelic Kumedzina, mother of three and founder of KOOKOO BUT KIND is a firecracker. She is strong, she is beautiful and her energy is mesmerising. The passion she has to change the way we all live and her dedication to our world is stellar. Her brand, started as a side project has now exploded and is stocked in mega retailer John Lewis, in the U.K., as well as through her website. We spoke to Anjelic about her brand, life and the future…
Lemon:What makes a brand sustainable, and what questions should I be asking myself when looking for a truly sustainable brand?
Anjelic: A sustainable fashion brand should have a focus that goes beyond the production of its clothing – what else are they doing to have a positive impact on the world?
If I think about KOOKOO BUT KIND, sustainability starts at the very beginning. We spent a long time choosing the supply chain and UK printing factory to partner with because we wanted to ensure they matched our ethos as a brand. We looked at work conditions, fair pay, and the entire production cycle as well as their energy sources and suppliers. The factory we use even banks ethically and uses less water, which means their carbon footprint is very positive.
We then looked at the materials and made a commitment only to use organic cotton – ensuring that it’s produced using no pesticides and doesn’t affect the climate. And in order to eliminate plastic from our production, we also use vegetable inks exclusively when printing rather than plastic based ones which has the added benefit of being super kind to children’s skin.
We then assessed how our products and packaging arrive to consumers. To avoid contributing to the single-use plastic crisis or general waste, we want to minimise our impact on the planet, so all of our packaging is made out of recycled materials, and we even have plant-able clothing tags too!
Everything we produce has a secondary purpose, for example our cardboard boxes can be reused for little keepsakes, our tissue paper doubles up as colouring paper and our biodegradable bags can be put back into the planet in a kind and gentle way.
We also plant trees and buy an acre of land for every 100 items we sell with our conservation partners to reforest.
So we really do ensure that every step of our production process is sustainable.
So what should you ask yourself when you’re looking for a truly sustainable brand are…..
- What are they doing beyond what you see? Is it a brand with purpose? How are they contributing to protecting our planet?
- Where is it made? Where in the world are the clothes made and how ethical are the conditions of any non-UK partners. What if anything are they doing to respect and give back to the local community they are operating in.
- Are they greenwashing? Look beyond the 100% organic cotton label. What else do they do. Are their products organic but sent in plastic?
- What do they do with unsold clothes? We only produce limited runs to avoid waste and will only reproduce collections if the demand is high. Where we have any clothing that doesn’t meet production standards we give it away to a selection of children’s charities.
Lemon: What are the most important ethos of KOOKOO BUT KIND and how do you showcase this?
Anjelic: Kindness is at the heart of our ethos because it permeates into every element of what we do as a brand and as a business. It’s not just in our ethics; it is our vision.
Our collections reflect kindness on a number of levels. Take our future leaders prints, which showcases children who’ve made a tangible impact on the planet. This design includes children of different ethnicities and faiths, children wearing a patka and a hijab, so not only is it promoting kindness in diversity, but it also normalises multiculturalism amongst children whilst promoting the message that it’s ok to dream big.
Mindfulness is also an essential element of our brand. Every aspect of the brand has a positive and considered message. Whether it’s the BE KIND collection or the ENDANGERED collection, which highlights animals under threat of extinction, we fundamentally believe that kindness makes a big difference. Sadly, most of the issues with the climate and endangered animals are man-made, if we paused and looked at our behaviour with a slightly kinder lens, we could make huge shifts.
We are big on kindness; even science proves that acts of kindness are good for you. Whether it’s kind to the people around you or planet Earth, the world will be a much better place, with a little more kindness and the fact that we can influence and create significant change through our actions as a brand and our collection is exciting.
Lemon: If you had three words to describe KOOKOO BUT KIND what would they be?
Anjelic: Be Kind: Kindness is fundamental to our DNA. Not only in our production processes but also in how we operate as a business.
Bold: Our colours are Bold. Our tribe is bold. We recognise that you’ve got to be bold, to make a difference. We encourage our customers to be bold because we are trying to stand for change and promote that being different is good.
Conscious: We’re trying to raise global consciousness. Not just around what’s going on in the planet but also of individuals wearing our clothing. Each hand-drawn illustration in our collection raises awareness of social and environmental issues at an early age. Anyone who wears one of our t-shirt or sweaters is not only raising the consciousness of themselves but the people around them. This consciousness will eventually change the world.
Lemon: What makes you tick? What is the most important thing in your world? Who is your inspiration?
Anjelic: Driving positive change has always shaped me, even in my professional life before KOOKOO BUT KIND.
I am an agent of change and have always been described as such. Making a difference or making a change, however small, is what makes me tick. As a small business owner, when you’re growing, you can doubt yourself because you’re in a competitive world. But even if just one person understands something new about someone else’s culture or about an animal that they didn’t know before, it means that I have indirectly influenced that change. I think it’s really important to live a life of purpose.
My family, my husband, my three beautiful children, my parents, my siblings and my friends – are the most important people in my world. They’re the people that drive and inspire me every day.
My children because they see the world as it should be. A world where everyone is equal, and anything is possible!
My cultural heritage. My mother is Brazilian, my father is Indian, my husband is half Togolese and half Ghanaian, and our friends are extremely diverse too. We celebrate being multicultural and want to live in a world of celebrated difference and equality.
Lemon: What’s the next project bubbling away?
Anjelic: Covid has been a challenge as it has put a hold on a lot of our fun projects, but we still have things bubbling away behind the scenes. First, there are the actual collections themselves, and then there’s our ambition to lead with purpose and be a catalyst of change.
We’re launching our THE TRIBE by KOOKOO BUT KIND, which is a club for kids (and families) who want to make a positive change to the environment. There will be a dedicated section on our website filled with lots of fun activities, ideas and a calendar of KOOKOO BUT KIND events.
Then there’s the collection. We want to take sustainability one step further, so we’re exploring innovative technologies and fabric. We’re aiming to diversify our collection next year with a broader selection of upcycled products. We’re looking to explore using other sustainable materials like grass and bamboo and even looking to product for toddlers too.
Lemon: How do you make a brand accessible to all, not only as a purchaser but as a curious window shopper? How do you find ways to educate people and interact with them?
Anjelic: As a small independent business, we’ve used partnerships to make us more accessible to customers. We’re currently part of the John Lewis Great British Pop Up and hope to have a presence in selected stores throughout the year. We chose John Lewis because they share a lot of our ethics in terms of quality, sustainability, and fairness as a brand. So we’re trying to make it accessible through really kind of considered partnerships.
We’re running a special Collaboration with Nat Geo Kids because they are a phenomenal brand on a mission to educate kids about the natural world and how we can save it, just like us.
In the meantime, you can sign up to our newsletter or follow us on Instagram. We’ll keep up to date with the latest collections, ideas about how to be kind to yourselves and the environment as well as any activities that we have planned.