Interview with Renata Hori, CEO & Founder of KNOT
During the Startup Weekend Berlin Social Innovation in March 2015, I’ve met the emerging designer and social entrepreneur Renata Hori. Renata, who is originally from Sao Paulo in Brasil, lives in Berlin and is the person behind the award-winning sustainable fashion brand KNOT. She moved to Germany for her Masters in Sustainability in Fashion at ESMOD, which she completed in 2014.
KNOT was recently nominated by the German Federal award for the Bundespreis Ecodesign and won the “Form 2015” award from Bundesverband Kunsthandwerk. She was also awarded for ‘Excellent Design and Sustainability’ in August 2015 by the European Economic and Social Comittee (EESC) and won the silver award at the Creative Conscience Awards 205 in London, UK.
1. You studied Marketing and Communications in Brasil and then moved into the sustainable fashion industry. How did you get involved with social entrepreneurship and fashion?
I came from a family where my grandmother was a seamstress able to make bridal dresses and my grandfather was a tailor. Since I was young I grow up around fabrics, papers and fashion magazines. My grandmother used to make almost everything for myself, included brand pieces that in her opinion were not well sewn or made. That’s when I’ve learned the importance of quality and handmade.
My grandma was the person who influenced me the most, and following her social behaviour I have learned how to interact with people.
2. What motivated you to turn KNOT from a university project into a real business?
Nothing was planned, I was looking for job and I just got no. So, suddenly I saw one competition – Creative Conscience in London and I decided to apply. I got a big yes and after this I kept applying to other competitions. And just like that, I got the first, the second, third, fourth awards and exhibition.
3. What are the challenges when entering the fashion industry as a young social entrepreneur aiming for more than profit?
In my opinion is trying to prove not just to yourself, but to everyone that you can succeed. I like quality, style, unicity and handcraft, however I do not believe that sustainable products have to be boring or unfashionable. So, I try to always incorporate these attributes in my designs. I rather prefer to produce bespoke products with a touch of design than just using sustainable materials in common patterns.
4. You state that you incorporate CSR strategies into the fashion industry. Can you tell us more about it?
The marketing plan uses CSR strategies like creativity (Design), scalability (Collaborations), responsiveness (Social Agenda), Glocality (‘’think global, act local’’) and circularity (Waste management).
5. You won several awards and were nominated for the eco-design for using golden grass and renewable resources. What is special about the grass and the production process?
The golden grass is a flower that is naturally gold without any pesticides, dyes or chemicals and grows only in Brazil in a specific area called Jalapão. This is what helps to make the material so unique besides its colour. At the same time, the use of this material for handcraft, also helps to prevent the extinction of one of the endemic hotspots (Cerrado) on the world full of rich fauna and flora.
6. To produce the hand-made bags, you work with regional craftspeople in Jalapão in Brasil. What are the challenges working with people in Brasil while being in Berlin?
I should say the only thing I saw during the whole process were challenges. No internet, no quality control and different ways of working. I used to say during my studies that my dream was a Skype or email form of communication in this village. My only form of communication with my artisan was ‘’WhatsApp’’. From the size of the rings to the diameter everything was made by pictures and sent to me as message. This was a completely crazy process. On top of this I had to work it out with the Brazilian World Cup, soccer passion and their time delivery.
However, since I went to this village during my research time, I got to know the best artisans and their character attributes. This way, I created trust between us. I believed in simple but qualified people to deliver the best product they could. They got to know how much I value quality and how picky I am. My artisan used to say: ‘’ Renata you are very exigent with perfection!’’ Well, I think he got to know me pretty well.
7. What advice or tips can you give to aspiring (social) entrepreneurs and change-makers?
Be patience, be brave and don’t give up as many things start to go wrong. And actually they always go in a different way, just to shake us up. Then, if you keep on eye on the right people around you, you can’t fail!
8. What are your future plans with KNOT? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
My plan is putting KNOT in contact with big fashion names, environmental engineers, project managements, scientists, buyers and anyone able to use their knowledge to help increase the creation of a new product range. The big aim is the creation of the Jalapão Centre of craftsmanship, where the future generation of artisans – children – will learn the importance of this material, waste management, product value, and also pushes the Brazilian sustainable development. I want to unify all the artisans and make them work together, not just for me, but for a big environmental cause that also benefits themselves. I believe in collaborations and connections to support my vision, expand visibility and increase market niches. That’s my dream!
We wish Renata all the best with her future endeavors and plans, and thank her very much for this interview! If you want to learn more about KNOT, then you should check out this video, visit Renatas’s Facebook page or Website.