Karuna Dawn - Sridevi Blair



1. Tell us about Karuna Dawn. 

Since a very early age I knew that I wanted to use my life for something greater and bigger than me. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but it was a desire that never went away. I’ve had the privilege of travelling through many countries and experience first-hand beautiful village communities where people lived a slow, intentional and a more harmonious life that’s in sync with their environment. I was exposed to the beauty of their handicrafts and the skill and precision of their artistry which would have taken years to perfect. From hand-block printing to weaving to stone and wood carving to fine arts painting – every piece capturing the soul of the maker. Although I’ve seen profound beauty, I’ve also seen stark poverty and desperation. I knew I wanted to help but didn’t know how. In 2019 I saw the story of Nasreen Sheikh, a former child worker forced to work countless hours for less than US $2 a day. This story touched me deeply and crystalised for me, the way I want to create change and make a difference. Her story showed me how disconnected we are from one another and how we’ve moved to a wasteful, mass produced and meaningless fashion industry. As I began to research the industry, I was staggered at the devasting impact to people, animals and the planet and felt there must be a better way, where both profit and purpose can co-exist.

So, with the support of my loving husband, Scott, and his quiet, calm words of
encouragement, Karuna Dawn was launched in 2021.
Scott, shares my passion for the brand and we’re both aligned in living in the moment, being content and living a life of purpose from the heart.
The creation of Karuna Dawn is our platform to offer conscious and compassionate consumers, a brand they can trust and have 100% confidence it is ethical, sustainable, vegan & cruelty free. At the heart of the brand is our mission is to uplift as many lives as possible. One of our core beliefs is that our shared compassion has the power to move mountains.

2. Your products are all high quality, ethically made. Tell us more about that. 

Our current range showcases 4 beautiful collections. Each collection is distinct and unique. We want to show the vibrancy and beauty in handmade, sustainable products that don’t follow mainstream trends but rather showcases true artistry and creativity. All of our products empower and support women, artisans and workers.

Organic Cotton Tote Bags – We collaborated with 2 wonderful organisations in Nepal and Rajasthan, India. Both our partners are members of the World Fair Trade Organisation which means they are audited by WFTO to ensure they put people and planet first. Our partner in Nepal is a social enterprise providing employment and opportunity to those fleeing abuse and trafficking and starting fresh new lives. Our partner in Rajasthan employs rural communities and keeps their traditional crafts alive.

Upcycled Denim Bags – It’s staggering that globally, there’s one garbage truck of clothing waste dumped into landfill or burnt EVERY SECOND! Upcycling is an important element to forwarding a circular economy. This range is made by our Mumbai partner who create our stunning upcycled denim bags stopping garments from going to landfill. This organisation works with local self-help groups with the aid of NGOs who provide training and equipment to women from marginalised communities.

Handwoven baskets – These beautiful bags are made from grass-like reeds that grow along the riverbanks in Sri Lanka. The bags are made by a Women & Co-op in Sri Lanka whereby the income earned helped to financially support the families either as supplemental income or as the main source of earnings.
We are proud to empower women and to be able to support this women & co-op. One of the first orders they received was from Karuna Dawn.

Leaf Leather – our Flagship Collection – This stunning collection is made from fallen leaves. Our Thailand partner works with local, rural communities to create the visually striking leaf leather range. Their innovative plant-based leather has received a lot of wonderful feedback from our customers and continues to be our most popular range.

3. Tell us a bit about what "fast fashion" is and how it is damaging the

Fast Fashion is the mass-production of cheap clothing bought and cast aside in
rapid succession as fashion trends change. This insatiable appetite for clothing has resulted in disastrous consequences to human rights, the environment and the degradation and exploitation of those most vulnerable in society. It has produced a race to the bottom in search for cheaper production of clothing.

The average person buys 60% more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as what we used to 15 years ago - generating a huge amount of waste, most of which ends up in landfill. 
With increasing population growth and economic development comes an increase in consumerism. The current way of producing fashion which is resulting in significant environmental, human and animal impact cannot be sustained and we need to find alternatives in the way we produce and consume fashion.

4. Why is it important to shop ethically made, slow fashion ect?

Sustainable fashion is an all-inclusive term and an overarching approach production. It considers all aspects in the supply chain from the manufacturing of raw materials, the production process of the final product, the treatment of workers, impacts on the environment and animals. It calls for complete transparency and traceability of the entire process.

Why is it important?
Without a doubt we need to demand, promote, and only consume sustainable fashion.

Why do I say this?
1. Creates less Waste - Fast fashion launches fads and trends each week, filled with poor quality clothing that are manufactured in environmentally devastating ways. Contrast that with sustainable fashion which aims to produce higher quality garments, using conscious materials in lower production runs.

2. Working conditions and wages are equitable - The human impact of fast fashion is devastating with workers paid wages that are unable to meet daily subsistence needs. Most fast fashion brands produce garments in developing countries where workers face poor safety and health conditions, long working hours and the constant pressure to keep up with orders. The use of child labour in the industry is rife. Sustainable fashion produces products in fair trade environments providing living wages that allow workers to pay for all their subsistence needs as well as allow for savings and discretionary income.

3. Significant reduction in pollution - Fast fashion creates significant carbon footprint with most fast fashion clothes being made from petroleum-based materials such as acrylic, nylon and polyester. These are synthetic materials that do not biodegrade and the dumping of textile waste in our landfills is a huge issue. This is in contrast to sustainable fashion that looks to utilise natural, biodegradable materials and recycled fabrics. These require far less water and energy to produce and the use of organic materials, such as organic cotton, do not use pesticides or fertilisers to grow.

4. Saves water - Current fashion practices, in particular conventional ways of growing cotton, uses an extraordinary amount of water. It's incredible to think a single, cotton t-shirt uses 2700 litres of water, and a single pair of jeans can use up to 10,000 litres of water. Sustainable fashion prioritises organic materials made from linen, hemp, and organic cotton, that need little to no water during the production phase.

5. Animal welfare - The exploitation and cruel treatment of animals in the production process has been widely documented. The leather industry as well as clothing made from animals, such as wool and feathers incorporate unacceptable practices in which animals greatly suffer. Sustainable fashion includes animal welfare, protection and safety and looks to maintain the balance in our ecosystem.

5. You have done a lot of travel and seen a lot of beautiful handcrafts up
close and in person. What would you say was one of the coolest techniques you have come across? 

One of the most beautiful processes I’ve seen is hand-block printing. This is featured in our Organic Cotton Tote bags. The pattern is first carved onto woodblocks and each colour pattern is stamped individually onto the fabric. The process takes skill and time, as the pattern must be stamped repeatedly across the fabric with precision, colour by colour. The slight human irregularities — inevitable in handwork — create the artistic effect emblematic of block prints. The final outcome of this intricate labour is a timeless beauty, and every garment made from this technique is unique. 

6. You also mentioned seeing things that were a little disheartening on
your journey, tell us about a standout moment and how that motivated you to want to create change in the world. 

Travelling throughout Asia and parts of South America, it broke my heart to see so many young children out on the street selling items. Whether it be little Knick knacks, working at food stalls or even performing quite heavy tasks such as carrying stacks of wood. I always felt children need to have a childhood – for play and fun and where they have opportunity and access to education. What if we created a system whereby adult workers are provided safe and equitable working conditions and paid fairly – would this alleviate the need to have
their children out on the streets working? Seeing this with my own eyes gave me motivation not just to make a living but to make a difference.

7. What were some challenges you were faced with when starting your
business journey and how did you overcome them?

Personally, by far the biggest challenge for me is self-doubt.  Doubting whether I know enough about the industry, my customer, the marketplace and doubting whether I was good enough to call myself an entrepreneur/business owner.
I overcame it by listening to other business owners’ journey and realising that they too, had self-doubt. It wasn’t just me. I started to focus on myself and began a morning ritual that kept me centred and living from a space of gratitude. My daily ritual consists of meditation, writing in my gratitude journal and then listening to motivational speakers and spiritual teachers.  This fortified my day in
strength, courage and self-belief. I started to see I was letting go of my fear of what other people would think and say.  I started to see myself in a different light and saw that I have so much to offer and that Karuna Dawn’s products are on par and better than what’s available in the marketplace.
It’s all mindset and becoming aware of the conversations we have in our mind and working out whether these conversations are serving you or robbing you.

8. What would your advice be to anyone who was interested in starting a
business but is on the fence?

I would say start with the Why.  Why do you want to start the business?
The why needs to be beyond making money because if it is steeped in more than financial gain then, this is what will keep going when the chips are down.
Have a vision for yourself and the brand. The vision is there as a North Star to guide you. Then look at what pain points your business/product/service is solving. This will be key in conveying the value and benefit to your audience.
Research the industry and learn all you can about it. However, always remember, there is no substitute for experience. You can read all the books and listen to all podcasts and watch YouTube videos but there is no greater teacher than experience. Be very clear on your brand’s values and business practices.  Define what your brand stands for as this will help you when looking for partners, suppliers, production houses etc.  Your values will also help you to differentiate your brand from competitors. Building a brand takes time so be patient. Don’t compromise on your values even if it means slower growth. Stay true to your mission and vision and keep working to make a positive impact.   
Be kind to yourself and don’t judge yourself too harshly. Your chapter 1 looks very different to someone’s else’s Chapter 9, so resist from comparing. No one gets it right the first time or even all the time.  Give yourself permission to fail; go 2 steps back if needed; knowing that it is all a learning process and it’s about being able to pivot and adapt to changing situations and new information on your target market or consumer. Build relationships with people in the industry and don’t be afraid to ask for advice/help. Collaborate with other businesses, be open to exchanging ideas and always look to give more than you take. 

Running a business never runs in a straight line and takes a lot of hard work. 
There will be many winding roads. You have to be able to enjoy the journey as much as reaching the destination.  You’ll meet so many new people and this is exciting. Finally, whether the business fails or succeeds, it doesn’t matter as neither of those things define you. What you will get from this endeavour is incredible growth, experience, sense of achievement and an incredible inner strength from just having the courage to put yourself out there and give it a red-hot go.  

9. Who are your favourite small businesses to support? 

Of course, your business is one of them Jemma but here are a few others
that I love:

Punar Sustainable corporate gifts, business gifts and homewares that are ethically handcrafted by women weaving innovative textiles with a story.

Living Koko small batch guilt-free indulgence made with their bespoke and organic cacao products. Empowering communities here and in the Pacific Islands through fair, ethical trade. 

After Textile recycling service so garment don’t end up in landfill. After ensures textile waste is disposed of in a manner that continues to support, the ongoing efforts to address the climate crisis

Artful Yoga Gallery Artful Yoga Gallery is not for profit, existing for the community.
Their mission is to heal communities using Art. 

Kids Get Money A social impact company with a mission to provide future generations with the education, skills and tools to be financially independent regardless of gender, race or socio-economic status.

10. What are your favourite selfcare rituals?

My gratitude practice has changed the trajectory of my life, and it is something I do every day. To take a few moments and express my thanks for this beautiful life.
Meditation – Intentionally slowing down, centring myself and reducing stress.

Connecting with nature – whether it’s taking a walk or sitting outside in the backyard on my own, I love this time to disconnect from distractions and focus on the here and now.

Speaking loving words to myself about myself – I tend to get highly critical of myself, although it’s to a lesser degree these days. But I catch myself when these thoughts that don’t serve me creep in and replace it with kind and compassionate words.


Check out Karuna Dawn HERE

Let us know what you think!