Who is actually behind Kalani?
Bruno Van Steenberghe, a 41 year-old International Trade graduate. He’s a passionate, ambitious and dreamy entrepreneur.
Can you tell us more about your career path?
I learned and developed a technical expertise for textile by traveling for 18 years around the globe and spending lots of time in textile factories to learn from the field.
I started my career in 1999 with a first experience which lasted 12 years in the “conventional textile industry” as the person responsible for the quality, product development, sourcing and marketing of a Belgian promotional clothing brand.
“an in-depth soul-searching as well as a new approach to sustainability”
Later, I had another soul-searching moment, in 2009, which gave me the desire to pursue my career with a much more ethical and ecological focus, contrary to what the textile industry is used to.
How does one train to know so much about sustainable development?
In terms of sustainable development and the social and environmental aspects of the textile industry, I self-trained myself full-time for almost a year in 2010. Indeed, I thoroughly analysed all of the environmental standards across the globe, as well as the social standards and various projects in the textile industry, I spent a lot of time reading and meeting people, participated even in specialised conferences. Then, I decided to finally put this theory into practice in a Belgian company of sustainable professional clothing for almost 5 years. This experience allowed me to acquire international recognition as an expert in sustainable development within the textile industry, for which I’m still very often solicited for.
We have the great ambition to change the world in terms of “sustainable textile”. These are fascinating projects for which I collaborate solely as a volunteer.
Since August 2016, I have become a board member of Textile Exchange Europe which currently owns several certification labels for ecological textiles (including organic cotton). However, it’s more importantly, an American non-profit organisation which brings together the representatives and organisations of ecological and organic cotton from across the globe (brands, producers, farmers, associations, international institutions, NGOs, activists, specialised press, and so on…) during international events. The aim is to launch projects and initiatives to improve the industry, generally speaking, and inspire a majority of brands and people worldwide.
Where did this idea of creating Kalani come from?
Late 2015, I concluded a 5-year consultancy mission in the clothing industry and I aspired to creating a new project in my area of textile expertise, but in terms of bed linen. I had this idea for quite some time and I was also surprised to know that a majority of people sleep in basic bed linen as they’re not as expensive and don’t look so bad in shop windows before actually using and washing them several times.
“We spend, on average, more than 30% of our life in bed”
I started working on this project early 2016, and after having carried out market studies and surveys, I was utterly convinced! We spend, on average, more than 30% of our life in bed, but so few people actually sleep in comfortable linen as they’re considered too expensive. I thus decided to rise to the challenge and offer an alternative solution: commercialise a high-end super comfortable, 100% organic and Fairtrade cotton collection of bed linen, with a full transparency of all costs and unbeatable prices, for a very soft price, in other words affordable, for a few dozen euros more than basic linen, basically 50% cheaper than other luxury brands providing the sme quality but not necessarily organic nor Fairtrade.
How did you solve this problem?
Quite honestly by working simply and with a “light” structure by using, on the one hand, the Internet to directly sell my products (without intermediaries) and on the other hand, my 18-year experience in sourcing/production to manufacture our collections in factories with no go-betweens either. While also respecting my personal convictions, never compromising quality and thanks to a savvy mix of unique details, ethics and ecology. And voilà, Kalani was born 30 November 2016 much to the delight of our customers who are so far 100% satisfied and very opinionated in terms of how the Kalani bed sheets have changed their way of considering bed comfort.
Firstly, as it’s part of my personal values and convictions. Secondly, as I have already studied the question very thoroughly and after having travelled for more than 18 years abroad and seen the impacts of the textile industry, I could never have envisioned launching a new project such as this one in 2016 without it being organic and mindful of people and the environment. Lastly, contrary to the food industry where organic production brings real value to consumers, the direct advantages in the textile industry are less tangible.
It’s far more complicated to convince consumers as there isn’t really a market for it in my opinion as well as a real demand for this type of product. It’s therefore up to the brand to decide whether or not to use an organic production, to sell its goods to everyone and anyone, to try and convince organic skeptics that it’s just as good in terms of tangible quality and offers plenty more of additional direct and indirect advantages. We do not wish to be exclusively classified as an “organic/Fairtrade” brand. Therefore, we have worked hard to develop products accessible to all. Afterall, our products are high-end lifestyle items.
Afterall, our products are high-end lifestyle items.
All in all, I would say that Kalani essentially sells an affordable range of ultra soft and luxurious bed linen and as the icing on the cake, it’s actually all organic and Fairtrade. Those who aren’t interested in our range shall maybe start to wonder why as it’s an issue that concerns us all on this planet.
What about you Bruno, tell us about your dream…
My dream is to change the comfort level of a million people who currently sleep in low end linen as it’s much cheaper and doesn’t look so bad in a shop window, that is until you actually wash it and use it a few times. My dream is to also convince a majority of these people that we actually spend 30% of our life in bed, that sleep is thus essential and that investing a few more euros in bed linen is worth it. This shall change the conception they have of bed comfort and more importantly, it shall have a much bigger effect in terms of social impact (for production workers and cotton farmers), environmental impact as well as health and human impacts,
“I simply aspire to creating a brand which would have a holistic impact and positive influence on a maximum number of people (clients, employees, suppliers, production workers, organic cotton cooperatives and the homeless in Europe). Indeed, for everyone has the right to “fall asleep soundly and safely”.