providing a stylish solution.
Today we'd like to share the story of KARMME. KARMME is a brand that has grown out of Imby's own desire to fulfill a personal need, reflected in her quiet ethos of simplicity and versatility. Based in Coogee, NSW, Imby's commitment to both quality finishes and timeless design ensures the brand stands forever in style, and never dates.
Imby's commitment to working with local collaborators ensure the brand is of the highest quality; from engaging with local makers, photographers and stylists, to business collaborations with Shibori Textiles, Imby understands this need to share and grow your brand’s identity.
We chatted to Imby with our burning questions about the woman behind the brand, and her insights into building her small business.
Here's what she had to say:
[TLSE] Firstly, how important is a good bag in your day to day !
[IMBY] It’s important to me because life is busy and I don’t want to make too many decisions, so my bag has to go with most of my wardrobe and be easily interchangeable. I want to know where things are and be able to access phone, keys and purse really easily. The design should not be ‘on trend’, as I don’t want to replace it regularly.
What inspired your latest collection, Desert Tales?
DESERT TALES was inspired by travels in the North West of Australia last year. Recurring colours of sage, brown, dusty pink and black in the landscape gave me the palette for the collection, and the new embossed leather from Japan gave me the feminine element to it.. The shape changed a little; the leather did not need to be folded so the size is more of a ¾ clutch and the zip a little wider. An internal zip meant that keys or credit card could be kept safe. It was one of my most favourite places to explore, so this collection will always be very special.
As a small business, how have you adapted as you've grown?
I have gone from making everything (I used to even cut the zips to lengths I needed), to having makers in Sydney do the majority of stitching for KARMME. They are experienced leather workers who have helped me create a consistent quality throughout my collections. I have experimented with different marketing strategies, worked with various photographers to tell different stories. Probably most significantly is streamlining my collections and leather supplier.
The leather is produced in Italy in colour hues specifically for KARMME. This definitely takes time and investment, but as an online store it was imperative to have consistency in imagery and products. When I started I was sourcing from Asia, and each time I returned to hand pick each hide I used, there was colour variation. As a small business, this wasn't sustainable for me, so changing supplier was a game changer for the business.
Many creative minds have an art or design practice on the side, is this something familiar to you, and how does this play into the KARMME story?
No, I can‘t draw to save myself! My daughter is a beautiful art maker, and she thinks everyone has that gift to be able to translate what they see onto paper - but I assure her we all can not!!
I also design houses and interiors for a property development business we have, so I guess I am always looking at creating beautiful, practical solutions to needs we have whether it's to hold out things or spaces to live in.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m really inspired by fulfilling a need with something beautiful. I never planned this business, it was something that has grown organically. I didn’t start out thinking I want to sell such and such to have a business, it was purely through making something I needed and through word of mouth the business grew. Growing the range now I am inspired by my travels, colours I notice, textures around me and then I try to translate that into something beautiful to fulfil a practical need.
What is your most treasured design piece so far?
I love the design of the KARMME tote; the leather used means it’s soft to sit by your body and the strap is longer - it can be full or not and will still looks elegant and relaxed. Everything I design always has ease of use, versatility and timelessness as the main criteria.
What’s your opinion on fast fashion and environmental impact?
I grew up in a generation where the only place to buy clothes really was from a couple of shops, we saved for them or mum made them. I remember the time it started to change and maybe it was growing up in Perth where choice was limited, but it felt great to have so many more options. Now I feel it has gone too far. We are drowning in ‘stuff’; there is no respect for the process, the product or the producers any more.
There is more transparency now so we can be, if we want to be, informed about how products are made and in what conditions. I think more people are caring about this but sadly the huge retailers continue to grow.
The glossy imagery and fancy stores are masking the horror fast fashion is creating in the countries where it’s being churned out. Educating the next generation I feel is key to change, and I know from my daughter’s school, they are at least discussing this issue which is a start. I pride myself on producing locally, paying fair wages to my makers, producing what I need and honoring the animal’s skin which I am using by using as much of it as I can.
How important is Australian design and made products for you?
As an Australian designer and producer, I try very consciously now to support other small businesses based in Australia. There is so much product around, it's easy to just go and buy conveniently from big department stores. But I think once you get out of that mind set and become a little more conscious of where you choose to spend your dollars, you spend less often but buy better. I am very grateful each time someone chooses KARMME, as I know they too have consciously made a decision to support a small, independent business. It’s very validating and enables me to keep growing KARMME, so I hope my decisions do the same for other businesses.
Where to from here, for KARMME?
KARMME is just about to release its first bag for men. It’s an exciting addition to the lineup, designed along the same lines as the other KARMME products - clean lines, simple and functional but beautiful. It’s a cross body satchel so that guys can carry their ‘stuff’ easily, not put in their pockets, and ask their girlfriend or wife to hold it (!!), whilst moving away from your more traditional backpack.
Image: photographed in 2019 by TLSE for KARMME.
Interview by Isabelle Clark, TLSE