Meet The Kiwi Designer Behind Bare, The Sustainable Underwear Brand To Know
Get to know Kara Kupe, Australian-based designer championing inclusivity and sustainability
Melbourne-based designer Kara Kupe is the woman behind the inclusive and sustainable underwear brand Bare.
From featuring non-binary friends and models in her campaign imagery to the hand-dying and craft processes employed by the label's Bali-based makers, Kara aims to have a minimal footprint, while also spreading awareness around ethical practices and accepting and celebrating non-gender specific perceptions of garments.
What was your background prior to starting the label?
I have always been creative, starting a fine arts degree at Elam School of Fine Art at Auckland Uni and later becoming an art school dropout. I 'sold out' into a comms degree at AUT majoring in PR and Journalism thinking a life in PR was my calling.
I worked in marketing, PR and later publicity in Melbourne but it never lit the fire of feeding my need to be more creative and autonomous in my work. I probably wasted many years figuring out my path to Bare but I had a lot of fun finding my way here.
My past experiences have given me many tools to build the brand and the confidence to step in and design, something I had not done before. Once I had the idea and set the intention, things happened quite fast and before I knew it, it was too late to turn back!
How was the idea for the brand conceived?
The idea for Bare was conceived in 2016 after reading an article about the lack of inclusive nude underwear and that experience really resonating with my own.
The brands that were pioneering this movement to be more inclusive in their nude spectrum were not working with sustainable fabrics so I started researching and sketching and the whole idea just came together.
As a Maori woman, I wanted to tell a bit of my story through the brand and inclusive nudes gave me the idea to name the collection Parauri (brown). All of my pieces have Maori names which has been a real talking point among my international customers. It's a beautiful way to introduce te reo to the world.
It was important to use a fabric and process that aligned with my culture of being Kaitiaki of the whenua.
Bamboo being one of the most sustainable fabrics to use and being just as soft, if not softer than cotton and only needing rainwater to grow. You don’t even need to de-root it when harvesting, simply cutting at the shoot and that same plant will grow again and replenish.
Do you find similarities or differences between New Zealand and Australian fashion and their practices?
I have found that people in both countries are interested in and open to supporting brands that embody the changes the industry has been moving through.
Showcasing brands using models and ambassadors that are not just sample size but a range of body types and beauty.
Who is the Bare customer?
The Bare customer is diverse! But in their essence, it's people who have an interest in making choices as a consumer that are for the greater good of the planet.
People who want to champion inclusivity or simply those who can look at our Instagram and see themselves represented in there somewhere.
Your brand surrounds the idea of inclusivity and diversity. Why was it important for you to champion indigenous women/femme in your latest campaign?
Indigenous women/femme are the very life force. The fierce protectors of this planet. They embody everything that I hope I am and everything I am in awe of.
Spending the last six years in Melbourne and learning so much about First Nations people here, I wanted to bring our people together and show what staunch, gentle beauty indigenous women/femme embody.
We all have so much in common and not just from our struggles. The way we engage with each other is so familiar and safe. The vibe at this shoot was nothing short of magic.
It is and will always be important for me to champion women/femme of colour. I prioritise working with them from every angle.
The people both in front and behind the cameras were all indigenous, a testament on the creativity, talent, beauty and creativity in our communities.
Who were the women/femme used in your shoot?
I've worked with photographer Lekhena Porter since the beginning of Bare and we have built a relationship and shared our circles. So this shoot was a mix of people they suggested, friends and muses. To be honest, I would call everyone that worked on this campaign a friend.
Tell us about the women in Bali who make your clothing, and about the sustainability practices you employ?
Our fabric is hand-dyed, cut and sewn in Bali. It is manufactured ethically in a non-traditional factory that has a main workshop for cutting and then scheduled for sewing among a collective of women who are employed to work from home. It is true slow fashion.
Working with bamboo fabric is a necessary choice. We make choices that are part of the movement and consider the planet first.
We don't wrap orders in plastic or tissue and all our shipping packs are compostable. We also phased out swing tags for our online orders as it seemed senseless to carry on including something that goes straight in the bin.
We are constantly looking at ways to improve and grow our commitment to sustainability.
What is coming up next for you?
We have just launched three new products. The Mihi crop, the Pepi crop and the Reka shorts all available online now.
We are currently in the process of extending our size range from the current XS-2XL up to 5XL which is exciting. It was always important to us to be size-inclusive.
We will also be heading to the sustainability-focused LA Fashion Festival. It will be great to be surrounded by brands and companies striving to regenerate a planet that needs us to make more considerate choices.
• Bare's range is available online. Bare.boutique