I love discovering new fitness brands, especially when their ethos totally strikes a chord with my own. This post sheds light on the enchanting bohemian collections of House of Dharma, a brand of earthy-toned beautifully-designed resort & activewear founded by two sisters (and best friends), Kayleigh and Carrie Curneen. Their operation is based partly in Bali and partly in Ibiza (where I first met Kayleigh years ago), and the clothes have a unique aesthetic which I’ve not encountered elsewhere; it’s a blend of free-spirited ancient silhouettes/shapes, impossibly soft and relaxed floaty materials, tribal patterns and themes, gorgeous natural tones, and ethically sustainable local production values. The result is glamorous, feminine, chic, and effortlessly inspirational! I met up with the founders in London’s Primrose Hill for a full interview on all things Dharma. Click MORE to see the pictures we shot, along with reading their responses!
FITNESS ON TOAST: What drew you to want to start your own clothing brand, and what did you think was missing out there in the market?
KAYLEIGH & CARRIE: We’re best friends and sisters, and share a love for travel and exploring new cultures. We decided we would like to leave London and spend more time in two of our favourite places; Ibiza and Bali. We considered the lifestyle we wanted to live and decided that creating House of Dharma (Dharma meaning purpose, the ‘right’ life choice) was a perfect way to explore our bohemian spirits further whilst tapping into our creative sides. We’ve a love for all things bohemian and a love for different cultures and styles, so creating a clothing and lifestyle label made perfect sense to us. It happened organically as an extension of ourselves and what we love!
F.O.T: Can you characterise the unique aesthetic of your clothes, according to your own vision?
K&C: The label is an extension of our lifestyle – people named us the sun gypsies in jest, as we love to follow the sun! Our clothing and designs are based on this. We take inspiration from all cultures and the label was born out of our passion to travel and explore.
F.O.T: Where do you take inspiration from when designing your pieces?
K&C: Our past travel experiences, latest explorations, new cultures, bohemian lifestyle… We’re very much an Ibiza brand, as we’ve been going there since we were very young. We live there and take a lot of inspiration from the raw nature of the island. The colours we use are very earthy and natural, and the styles are a reflection of mother nature, tribal cultures and bohemian influences.
F.O.T: I love the way your brand is so ethical; can you tell us more about that?
K&C: Ethical production is key to the ethos of our entire brand. We employ local families in Bali, working in the ‘cottage industry’ side of fashion (i.e. small, sustainable family businesses as opposed to large factories and power houses). Some of our ‘factories’ are small Balinese family homes where we sit on the floor and drink tea with the workers while they show us their progress. We believe it’s integral to maintain local customs and traditional methods in order to maintain good, strong and long standing relationships with our workers and to work in a way that is fair to them and us. All our products are hand made. We use natural dyes and fabrics wherever possible. All our packaging is recycled, from our business cards to our shopping bags and wooden swing tags.
F.O.T: What are the logistical and technical difficulties / achievements involved in your design that people don’t see?
K&C: There can be a lot of production issues working in fashion – it’s important to ensure you have a good team around you to deal with this. Quality control must be constantly monitored to ensure high standards are kept. It’s also very taxing living and working in extremely humid 40-degree heat. Being northern-European, this takes some getting used to but while exhausting at times the sunshine and the warm weather make us much happier people! There is also a lot more to do than simply design. We manage our own business relationships, source stockists and do PR, advertising and accounting (etc.) completely in-house. We are a small start-up and believe it’s important to be involved in all aspects of the business ourselves. Achievement-wise, it’s great fun working with your own family, and also much easier when you know someone so well to cut to the chase. Because we have a similar style, we find working together and creating designs together happens rather organically and we feel that these achievements happen very naturally!
F.O.T: What’s your favourite fitness class?
K&C: Yoga without a doubt. We try and practice at least 4 times a week but sometimes its hard to fit it all in. We always feel energised yet relaxed after practice. The benefits are amazing, other than the obvious muscle toning, yoga helps with massaging organs, flushing out toxins, flexibility and joint lubrication in a way other workouts don’t. It’s also a great form of meditation, and very calming.
F.O.T: Do you have a go to healthy snack/meal?
CARRIE: Because I have a bit of a sweet tooth I like to make “Bliss Balls” which are great for energy and sugar craving and taste just delicious. The ingredients are all healthy and they are super easy to make. You just blend up ground nuts of your choice, coconut oil, dates, raw cocao powder or chips, maca powder, roll into balls and dust with coconut shavings! YUMMY! Also, living part of the year in Asia we also have access to fresh young coconuts. Coconuts are just magic! They are a wonder food. The benefits are just unbelievable. They stabilise blood sugar, heal and hydrate. Also, avocado – on ANYTHING!
F.O.T: Have you discovered any healthy exciting dishes in Bali?
K&C: The Balinese style of cooking can actually be fairly healthy. They use a lot of fresh ingredients; chopped coconut, garlic and chilli, using an incredible variety of fresh vegetables and spices blended with meat or fish. Gado Gado is a favourite dish, which you can pick up at a local street stall or warung (local eating place). It’s a raw salad, served with cooked tofu and a ground roasted peanut sauce; delicious!
F.O.T: What’s your fitness ethos?
K&C: Moderation for sure! We both organically have very active lifestyles so we’re actually quite fit without having to over-think things too much. We’re always on our feet and dashing about the place. Since being in Bali we’ve also taken up surfing as a hobby; getting beaten up by waves is actually oddly rewarding a great form of exercise ! Catching some sunrise surf can really energise you and set you up positively for the day ahead. We also love walking / hiking, diving, yoga and dancing until the early hours; you don’t even notice you’re exercising when it’s fun. Food wise, again moderation is key. We’re lucky that we love healthy foods and tend to make delicious yummy and nutritious smoothies most mornings with whatever we can find to throw in the blender. We also strongly believe that if you want a naughty cake or some ice cream, don’t deny yourself, eat the delicious food. Enjoy! and don’t beat yourself up about it afterwards. Balance, balance, balance!
F.O.T: I love travelling and frequently feature active travel on the blog. You obviously also love travelling… what does it represent to you?
K&C: Travel has always been important to us. It opens the eyes, helps you discover who you really are, as you’re exposed to new challenges and adventures on the open road. Situations you otherwise may never discover, meet people you may never get the chance to meet… Discover colourful cultures, new traditions and of course, sample delicious and exciting foreign foods.
F.O.T: Fave adventure destination?
K&C: Oooh there are so many! We love to be adventurous and go off the beaten track whenever possible. We recently took a trip travelling through Central America which was certainly full of adventure. We went backpacking and took night buses from country to country. Highlights were hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, through the majestic Lost Cities hidden in the dense Amazonian jungle in Peru. Immersing in the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, hiking, snorkelling, camping, kayaking, diving and cycling. Taking the terrifying “Death Road” mountain bike tour in La Paz Bolivia with sheer drops, which has been dubbed the most dangerous road in the world!
F.O.T: The place you love to visit again and again?
K&C: Ibiza, it’s our second home and we spend at least 4 months a year on the island, having been visiting annually since we were children. Its free-spirited, bohemian-chic vibe has been a huge influence on the House of Dharma label. We love how varied the tiny sun kissed island can be; from yoga, meditation and chilling in the rural north with its pine clad treetops, secret beaches and secluded coves, to the all night raving, bustling old-town and chic, bohemian beach clubs in the south.
F.O.T: Unforgettable destination?
K&C: This is a tough one as there are so many unforgettable destinations where the memories will live on forever! A few that really stick out are Palawan – an island in the Philippines. It truly was unspoiled paradise with stretches of tropical beach without another soul around. Also, safari in Kenya with the family was magical!
You can buy Kayleigh & Carrie’s beautiful creations on their website HERE, with free worldwide shipping! Plus, 20% of profits go to charity. Faya x