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Kairi London: Vegan leather planting the globe with forests

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The fashion industry is facing a global waste crisis. Tired of witnessing this, Beatrix Taylor launched plant-based leather retailer Kairi London.

“I’m a bit of a plant-based leather nerd,” says Beatrix Taylor, founder of vegan leather company Kairi London. After working as a fashion assistant and seeing the constant waste behind the industry, Taylor realised change needed to materialise from the inside. The businesswoman began thoroughly researching — the part she most enjoys — into the concept of plant leather early last year. And in September this year, she founded Kairi.

The direct-to-consumer online business currently develops vegan bags, created from everything ranging from apple to grape leather. Taylor says the key to unlocking a high-end, luxurious product, while maintaining elements of quality, veganism and sustainability, was cactus.

The fashion line is on a mission to create products as sustainably as they can be created: from the design, to the production, to packaging. It underlines six main values:

  • Local: All the bags are put together in a factory in London.
  • Transparent: Kairi’s supply chain is completely honest, and all its materials are from sustainably certified suppliers.
  • Craft and community: All its products are of high quality, crafted by local artisans.
  • Materials: Its bags are all plant-based.
  • Waste reduction: Every waste material is reused, and all its packaging is completely reusable or recyclable.
  • Reforestation: Through a partnership with Treeapp, every bag sold means a tree is planted.

cactus leatherWhile the brand mainly uses cactus leather from Mexican suppliers Desserto, it also uses apple leather, vegetable-tanned leather, and grape leather from Italy. Corn leather is also due to join the range soon, using the waste left from the edible parts of the harvested plant. Taylor is constantly looking for new materials, but admits her favourite has always been cactus leather.

“It’s versatile, feels amazing, and doesn’t use much water to produce. It ticks all the boxes,” she says. Kairi currently offers a wide range of handbags including:

  • Baguette bags
  • Zig zag purse
  • Duo pouch
  • Bias purse

These can be bought at prices ranging from £45 to £295, in a variety of colours, such as lime green, black and white, taupe, and dark green.

Currently enjoying the baguette bag, Taylor says she can’t go anywhere without hers. Perhaps knowing that she helped plant an entire tree with her product also helps. The fashion company recently entered a partnership with Treeapp, which means every product sold equals a new tree planted. From Brazil to the UK, the tree company has plots all over the world.

Taylor’s biggest obstacle on her journey so far has been getting the message of sustainability out, without coming across as another greenwashed business. She says what keeps her going on a daily basis is her ethos and obsessions with plant-based leathers: “Grape leather came out the other day and I was so excited, I just started designing stuff.”

kairi londonWhile the company only offers handbags for now, the entrepreneur is determined to begin working with materials for clothing. Recently, she came across orange silk: a silky, non-mainstream plant material made from orange peel.

One day, the CEO of Kairi hopes to have a well-established range of products, with some permanent classics, and stores open across the globe. She also hopes to create partnerships with big retailers with a similar ethos, like Net Sustain and Selfridges Project Earth.

Having sold in 10 countries across the world already, including the likes of Japan, Germany and Belgium, Taylor describes her brand as 50% British, 50% international. She says her aim for the next 10 years is not only to be big, but to continue to increase her carbon offsetting too. “That’s the most difficult part about being a sustainable brand. Because as you grow, you don’t want to overproduce.”

Olivia Rafferty
Olivia is the Assistant Editor of The Vegan Review. An aspiring Middle Eastern correspondent currently studying journalism at City, University of London, she is passionate about the planet, she believes veganism is the first step to solving the complexities of climate change.