Sharon Farren spent a year-and-a-half searching for sustainable fabrics for Kokoro Zenwear, the eco-fashion start-up she founded in Dublin in 2018.
For Farren, whose ethical clothing has just been picked up in Europe by Wolf & Badger, the luxury online marketplace, bamboo proved the ideal source material for the fabrics in her Irish-made sports and loungewear range.
“I wanted to disrupt the fashion industry somehow, to make a tangible impact with ethical and organic clothing but, when I started looking into eco-materials, it was really difficult to find what I was looking for,” Farren said.
“It took a lot of travel, visits to trade shows around the world, visits to plantations, calling and meeting people, before I finally got there.”
Bamboo is becoming increasingly popular as an eco-friendly textile in fashion circles. This is because the grass is regarded as a relatively sustainable crop. It can be grown without fertilisers and pesticides and doesn’t require a lot of water.
The way in which some bamboo textiles are made has come in for criticism, however. This is because some producers use chemical solvents such as carbon disulfide and sodium hydroxide to turn the leaves and shoots into fabric.
But in the Oeko-Tex-certified bamboo fabric Farren has sourced, she believes she has found the “secret sauce” for the Kokoro brand.
Oeko-Tex is a network of 18 independent research and test institutes in Europe and Japan, which grant a certification called Standard 100 to products they have tested and found to be free from harmful chemicals and safe for human use.
"I don’t want to say who I source my fabric from or where they’re based. I’ve done so much work to find it. It took me months and months. Now it’s like my IP [intellectual property]. It is what sets us apart in the market,” Farren said.
Originally from north Co Dublin, Farren lived in the south of France for 25 years before returning home four years ago.
She has set up Kokoro with Nader Fahm, an Iranian-born aeronautical engineer and martial arts enthusiast who lived close to her in Cannes. The business is privately funded.
“We would both say we like a ‘Zen’ lifestyle, but we couldn’t find soft comfortable clothes that really suited that way of life, clothes you could wear all day long and into the night and still feel comfortable in,” Farren said.
“Kokoro is about comfort and quality. The designs are very simple. Our inspiration was the kind of minimal Asian design we both love. It’s minimalist, very simple, but hopefully elegant and comfortable.”
Kokoro sells sports and loungewear made from bamboo cotton and silk online at kokorozenwear.com.
The range includes long and short bamboo silk dresses, tunics, robes, swing vests and ‘boyfriend’ shirts, alongside bamboo cotton t-shirts, sweatshirts, tunics, shorts and pants.
Prices start at €55 for a round-neck T-shirt, rising to €475 for a bamboo silk robe. Kokoro also has a range of accessories and is selling bamboo cotton and silk face-masks priced from €25 for a pack of two.
All of the products are made in Dublin by the Complete Design Studio in Rathfarnham. In addition to Wolf & Badger, Kokoro is sold online in the US at sept-studios.com and in the Middle East on coveti.com.