The two innovative women behind KONTRAST believe fashion and sustainability can work well together. Find out how Hedda and Kine manage to empower women in Nepal, through their green and fashionable business-model. The passionate and dynamic duo sat down with Spiff for an interview, and we were literally blown away by their intelligence, empathy and ambition.
Full name: Hedda Wilhelmine and Kine Homelien
From and current city: Oslo and Copenhagen
Education: Copenhagen Business School (both) and Textile and Design studies at UCC (Kine)
Occupation:Entrepreneurs behind KONTRAST Project
Dear Kine and Hedda, thank you for doing this interview. We love following your exciting startup! How would you describe your life today?
Thank you! :D Our life with KONTRAST is variated, but exciting. We started over a year ago, but there are new challenges all the time, and no day looks the same. That, however, does not mean that every day is fun! This is a typical cliché about entrepreneurship, but a true one. Kine also go back and forth to Nepal to work on the production of our clothing line, to make sure that the supply chain is sustainable and functioning, and then we hustle with the rest on an everyday basis…
Oh wow. Impressive! What do you love the most about your life right now?
The flexibility and varied tasks. And the trips to Nepal 😊 In addition to our business, we are also in the (very early) process of making a documentary. So, trying our best to be organized and business-minded entrepreneurs is great, but the fact that we can combine it with using our creative side is even greater. That’s the nice thing about being the boss - you decide. However, it can also be hard, as you have to push the buttons everyday to make anything happen. Many days, we are like 'Which button? How hard? How many times?', you get the picture… It can be confusing, but most of the time it is pretty cool.
How, when and why did you decide to start KONTRAST?
After the earthquake in Nepal, April 2015, we started to sell jewelry that we designed and made, in order to gather money we could send to our network in Nepal (Kine used to live there). People responded well to the jewelry, we sold quickly a big quantity, and we figured; two young minds, with lots of opinions about how things should be run and done: let’s make it a business. A social one, however, with the aim of positive environmental and social ripple effects for communities in Nepal. BUT, it also needs to be hot, fresh and cool, and not just about 'saving the world' . The design must be brilliant, and the products must spread joy on a daily basis for the owners.
After a year of developed products and websites, we embarked on trying to sell KONTRAST to stores. We took our fresh samples of clothing from Nepal, borrowed a car and a tent, and went on a roadtrip/roadshow in Southern Norway. It somehow worked, so now we are present in actual stores as well as selling online in our webshop 😊
Very cool! What has been the biggest challenge for you as a startup?
Well, earning and raising the capital that it takes to make the business stand on its own feet is a big challenge. And we don’t say that just because we are interviewed by the blog of a savings app! This is a challenge for most businesses in the beginning. But other than that, it is interesting to see how some customers really care and think it is cool with the whole social/environmental aspect to our business, while others really don’t care that much, and solely look at the design. We want to be a company that is appealing to both kind of customers, but it is at times challenging to know what to emphasize in our marketing etc.
That is very understandable. What would you say has been the highlight so far while working on this project? Any ‘aha’ moments?
Every time we are able to transfer 30% percent of the profit from our jewelry to Steps Foundation Nepal, (working with women’s legal guidance and health education), we feel like it’s a highlight. Seeing our clothes on models on a runway a couple of times has also been great. Oh, and the first time a complete stranger bought a shirt in our online shop - also pretty fly!
And when it comes to aha moments; every time we are in Nepal we get them. Streamlining the production process is challenging when you work with hemp as a textile, at a small factory with nine people, and a natural coloring process that takes weeks, - it’s ALWAYS new things to learn. But the biggest aha moments are when we learn new aspects of the Nepali culture, which makes us understand why this or that happened.
So inspiring. At Spiff, we are all about investing sustainable, and we salute you for promoting slow fashion. Do you believe having a green company is seen as important these days?
YES.We really do think that this is the way to go these days, and forever. With the world looking the way it does today, we don’t think there is any other way, to be frank 😊
Has anything in particular during 2016 made an impact on how you see the future ?
There are good and bad things happening all the time, which alters, changes and readjusts our worldview. But well, Trump winning the presidency was not exactly uplifting when it comes to the symbolic meaning of the things we care about: women’s empowerment, and the environment in particular.
There are however a lot of awesome things happening all the time, and we tend to focus on those.
Why is empowering of women an important cause to you?
Because it is the one thing that has the greatest ripple effects to every part of society, and the universe, really. We see it as the starting point to solve most other issues.
We couldn’t agree more. How would you describe your personal relationship with money?
When you are starting a business, you realize the worth of every dime more than ever. Luckily, both our own personal relationships with money are quite sober, so we don’t conflict too much on how to manage what we have in the business. Yet, we both like to splurge sometime, but it always feels better knowing you have some backup. We like to organize our savings for occasional splurging 😊
Do you save and/or invest money today?
We both personally do. For now, everything we earn in KONTRAST (except from 30% percent of the profit from the jewelry) gets reinvested in the company.
How is Spiff going to improve your life in the future?
We think Spiff could be a GREAT tool for each our respective savings and dealings with our own money, but also for KONTRAST as a business. It could be used as a transparent and practical tool for our friends and family to support us, if they have an eye for a specific project we are working on.
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
One thing? Well, related to the other question, we think that equal opportunities for men and women, as well as equal worth of both genders (because that’s two different aspects of gender equality) would change the social, political, financial, environmental and cultural issues of our time.
And oh! If we could add one more thing, we wish that more people would wear hemp textile because it is an awesome textile that is MUCH more environmentally friendly, and beats all other textiles to the punch !
Great answer. Now tell us... Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully with a thriving business, that give us the opportunity to pursue other social projects in Nepal and elsewhere. It would also be cool if our documentary goes well! KONTRAST will always be a dynamic business, and partnerships/cooperation with other businesses or institutions would be a priority when we grow bigger.
For example; we have a secret nerdy dream about getting a research project together with an official research institution of growing hemp in Norway up and running (it is illegal right now) - because it can be used as a textile, in furnitures and even in construction. For the record, it CANNOT be smoked, if anyone are questioning our motivation! :)