Why Kalarah Is on a Mission to Shine a Light on Unsung Female Designers

Why Kalarah Is on a Mission to Shine a Light on Unsung Female Designers


Now more than ever, we live in a world where fashion transcends borders, and culture can be reflected in many ways, including fashion. That is the one of the driving forces behind online boutique Kalarah, where luxury fashion from female designers in developing countries and emerging markets finds a well-deserved spotlight in the heart of North America.

Founded by Hulanda Caries in 2022, Kalarah sees itself as more than just an online store; it is on a mission to celebrate the brilliance and ingenuity of unsung fashion designers from around the world. It is dedicated to shining a light on female fashion creators in developing countries, stemming from a passion for fostering inclusivity and breaking down the barriers that have obscured their talents on the global stage.

Kalarah opens the door to a realm of discovery, offering global shoppers an opportunity to unearth hidden gems and to connect with talented designers they may not have had the chance to encounter otherwise. With a curation that includes Lagos-based brand Àga Culture and Indian label Advait, Kalarah is a haven for conscious consumers who seek unique, handcrafted pieces that celebrate culture through clothing. The world of Kalarah is one where luxury meets purpose, bringing shoppers on a journey to discover inspirational human stories through sustainable fashion. 

At the core of its values lies a commitment to fair-trade practices and the empowerment of women-owned businesses, which Caries wants to shine a light on through increased visibility and communication. “I believe that the key to increasing the visibility of designers from diverse backgrounds to a wider audience is really just great communication”, she says. “Regardless of how great a brand’s mission and story is, its effectiveness is determined by how well it is communicated.”

The Folklore Edit spoke to Hulanda Caries about investing in female entrepreneurs, what she looks for in new brands and the meaning behind the name Kalarah.


How would you describe yourself and what you do?

My name is Hulanda. I am the owner and founder of Kalarah, based in Montreal, Canada. I am an ambitious woman who strongly believes that anything is possible if you work hard.

What inspired you to start Kalarah? Tell us about the name: does it have a specific meaning?

Kalarah was conceived from a need to shine a light on unsung female fashion designers in developing countries after realizing the lack of global attention being paid to them. Our desire is to make the industry more inclusive and diverse rather than just Western-looking. We want to see a greater and more diverse representation of female fashion designers from developing countries everywhere.

In Latin the meaning of the name Kalarah is “shines”. We chose this name because it represents our company’s mission, which is to shine a light on unsung talented female fashion designers.

How did you get your start in the fashion retail industry? Did you always want to start your own e-commerce business and work as a buyer? 

I didn’t have any retail experience before I started Kalarah. Entrepreneurship wasn’t considered a traditional career option when I was younger, and I never thought of starting my own business. I remember starting a small entrepreneurial project while I was in college, but I saw it more as a side hustle than a career. I remember one day I had the idea to start Kalarah, and the next day I was doing research to find designers who could be on my site. I didn’t really hesitate.

Kalarah primarily curates its collections from female designers or women-owned brands in developing countries. How did you decide on this niche? What is the appeal of these brands to your customer base?

The economies of developing and emerging countries are dominated by micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses. Supporting businesses from emerging markets means supporting companies that contribute to create jobs, secure a sustainable future for developing countries and reduce poverty.

The number of women entrepreneurs is on the rise, but they still face challenges operating their businesses. By investing in women entrepreneurs, and helping them gain visibility, we stand poised to generate great gains. Our clients have a fondness for discovering designers from outside our borders.


Orange Culture
Orange Culture


How would you describe the fashion scene right now? What trends or collections are you hoping to explore? What brands do you find exciting at the moment?

The landscape of the fashion industry is ever-evolving and fashion trends are constantly in action. One of the trends that I am hoping to explore is gender-neutral fashion. One brand doing this well is Orange Culture, which is an African fashion brand embracing fluid dressing. I’m in love with the vibrant and colorful design.

As the lead buyer for an independent retailer that focuses on products from female designers in developing countries, what criteria do you consider when selecting brands to stock and work with? How do you identify and vet these designers?

To be a part of Kalarah, brands and designers must reflect their cultural heritage through their designs, focus on unique patterns and distinctive designs; position themselves as a premium fashion brand; not be an established brand in North America, and treat their workers well. Designers must send us samples of their products so we can see the quality.

As a fashion buyer, you must get pitches from brands all the time. What is the best way to grab your attention?

The brands that most easily capture our attention are those that have an authentic story to tell. And they can tell that story through fashion.

What’s the process of curating your product assortment? How do you ensure a diverse range of styles, aesthetics, and price points while staying true to your mission of highlighting sustainable, talented female fashion designers?

When curating our store, we focus on our customers’ needs and our values. We make sure that all the products we select are within our store's price range, meet the needs of our ideal customer, and align with our brand’s standards, vision, and mission. The curated selection of products is focused on supporting women and minority-owned fashion designers and items reflecting cultural heritage. 


Advait on Kalarah Advait on Kalarah Advait on Kalarah


Are there any particular regions or countries that you focus on when sourcing fashion products? How do you ensure representation and inclusivity across diverse cultures and regions in your product selection?

Most of the clothes we have curated are from Indian and African designers. We love their beautiful print designs, vibrant colours, and imaginative textile patterns. Although most of our designers come from Africa or India, our goal is to have a diversity of designers from parts of the world rich with tradition and craftsmanship.

Could you share some success stories of female designers that you have discovered and introduced to the North American market through your boutique? How has your platform helped to elevate their visibility and expand their reach?

Advait, a woman-owned Indian fashion brand founded by Advaitha Ravishankar in 2020 was one of the first brands to be featured on our website. The brand quickly gained popularity with our customers. We have received and continue to receive many messages from our customers who are grateful to have discovered this brand, which they had never heard of and would probably never have discovered if it hadn’t been for our platform. We are proud to amplify the work of these talented designers while helping them tell their stories to a wider audience.

Sustainability is a key aspect of your store’s mission. How do you ensure that the products you stock meet sustainable standards? Are there any specific criteria that you look for when evaluating the environmental impact of these brands?

We give priority to brands that use as many natural materials as possible that are respectful of the environment in the production of clothing and textiles. We know perfection doesn’t exist, but we want to encourage designers who are doing their best to provide sustainable, ethical, quality clothing. Designers need to be able to explain the choices they make in the way they design their garments and constantly strive to produce better. 

Aga Culture
Àga Culture


How do you strike a balance between offering luxury fashion products and maintaining accessibility for consumers in North America?

Kalarah is positioned as an affordable luxury fashion brand. We offer high-quality items at an affordable price providing consumers with an opportunity to indulge in high-quality fashion without breaking the bank. With prices ranging from $80-$300, Kalarah has something for everyone regardless of their budget.

What advice would you give to aspiring women-owned brands who are looking to have their products featured in your store? What are some key qualities or attributes you look for in potential brand partners?

While having high-quality fashion pieces is wonderful, Kalarah also looks for brands that tell an authentic story that resonate with our customers; reflect their culture through their designs and have environmental initiatives.

You started in 2022, but the global fashion industry has been rapidly changing since 2020: more support for diversity, sustainability as well as economic challenges. How has Kalarah adapted to the current landscape?

The fashion world is fast-moving. In order for Kalarah to stay relevant, we must constantly learn about the changes that are happening in the fashion industry. State of Fashion report offers the best of our research and insights into the fashion industry. We’re committed to our mission and values, but not to the way we do things. That’s why we’re flexible enough to adapt to change.

Kalarah is one of the independent e-commerce partners on Connect. What’s the main reason for signing up to the platform? How does Connect meet the needs of the business?

The search for new and upcoming designers can be really discouraging. Showcasing new talents on a consistent basis is key to keeping our customers excited. The Folklore not only has an eye for discovering exciting and talented designers around the world, but The Folklore also makes it its mission to connect these fashion designers with retailers who are constantly on the hunt for new talent.

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