Kusuma Sparks is an environmentalist
who fought the urge to create beautiful things with textiles
Despite her youthful ambition to land a Fulbright Grant and ‘save the world’, she finally (and begrudgingly) had to admit she had a gift and passion for textiles and, in the end, she became an artisan of fine garments for women who share her vision of a better world. Maybe it was because she couldn’t stand seeing her for-a-cause friends suffer bad aesthetics. Maybe it was a rebellious act against the industry.
Whatever the reason, for nearly two decades she has devoted herself to textiles arts; wrestling with the subject throughout the US, Europe and India. She finally got the courage (and the push) to open her doors to other women who are also seeking to do good, feel good and look beautiful.
This all feels like a minor miracle considering Kusuma retired from the industry in 2009 after learning how her decisions as a textile designer were contributing to the suffering for humans, animals and planet.
Before retiring, she tried to ‘green’ the luxury brand under her charge but eventually became disgusted and disheartened by the industry; leaving her position to pursue a feel-good ‘career’ in yoga.
She became hyper sensitive about textile purchases in her own life, struggled with not buying anything at all, and,
in a moment of desperate reality admitted she doesn’t want to be a nudist, or go braless, and neither does she want to wear an ugly brown sack for the rest of her days.
So, after a decade of searching far and wide for a better way, she decided to succumb to her interest in textiles and help benevolent women discover and wear beautiful and elegant clothes in line with their values.
Kusuma currently lives in Sonoma county, California with her musical husband; well on their way to growing old together.
“There are wonderful brands out there exploring natural dyes, local fibers, and sustainable manufacturing. I want to see more of that in the boardroom, the bedroom and the party. However, the more I talked to women, I realized I was not alone- the aesthetics just don’t fit. Sustainable need not be drab or hippie. And beautiful need not be toxic, kill a human or a polar bear.
In a quest to demonstrate these, I realized just how messy the inside of the fashion industry is with lies, cheating and closed doors. Combine this with hyped-up advertising and clothes shopping is a walk through a war zone. Most of us know this on one level but in today’s world we are called to know so much about everything and it’s exhausting and overwhelming.
I’m really excited to help conscious women shop smarter, easier and happier. If we all did this we could actually solve one of the world’s most polluting problems, that’s huge.”
Actually she has been planning this business since age 6. This image is from the original sales catalogue. (Material: Silk; Cost $90; Date: 1989)
She enjoys domesticity and cooking up a storm. Her friends regularly pressure her to open a restaurant.
She speaks Venetian
(but only in Venice)
- Her favorite place to shop is the farmer’s market.
- She believes meditation is the #1 thing we can do to save the world.
- Her favorite hobby is laughing.
- It wasn’t the Fulbright but she spent a summer digging & installing latrines for a Costa Rican Village when she was 16.
- Her mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers were all accomplished seamstresses and she thinks they put a spell on her.
- Her dedicated study in psychology should probably earn her an honorary degree from Harvard.
Wearing heritage pieces that are hand-crafted, meticulous and refined is like wearing a living work of art and to be a patron of that feels wonderful. Knowing that my patronage helps keep rare (and often endangered) heritage arts in existence for future generations feels just as rewarding as supporting an elephant sanctuary. And now I get to combine the best of both worlds: artistic heritage with environmental conservation.
Art museums, Chopin, William McDonough, dance and theatrical performances (especially bhutoh), Canoeing in the Adirondacks, Lisa Kristine’s photographs, hot chai on a cold day, Ashes and Snow by Gregory Colbert, BBC Masterpiece, the puppet performer in Venice Italy, David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, exploring the wetlands in rubber boots, the words of Thich Nhat Hanh and Ramana Maharishi and John O’Donohue, Japanese Taiko, Rumi read by Coleman Barks, Ludovico Einaudi on piano (especially Elegy for the Arctic).