Reconnect with yourself through Kalmar
Karen Ruimy was a multi-hyphenate before it was a trend. Born in Morocco, raised in Paris, and now based in London, after years navigating the worlds of finance, flamenco, writing, and philanthropy, she’s currently found herself in fashion. Karen launched Kalmar last year to merge her love of beauty and wellness into a lifestyle line. Steeped in the cultural traditions of her heritage, she’s created a range of loungewear designed around “self-care, spirituality and sensuality.” Pieces include vibrant kaftans in bold prints reminiscent of a Matisse painting, sumptuous silk sets, handcrafted sculptural jewelry and artisanal woven accessories. The brand name stems from the Spanish word for “soul” [alma], enveloped in her initials. “When you connect to yourself, you have an amazing energy; bringing that soul into clothing is the meaning of the brand.”
She is intent on enhancing the female spirit through her collections, with colors that give you energy, fabrics that exude sensuality, and silhouettes that drape you in exoticism. She isn’t designing clothes for the sake of fashion; she strives to inspire wellness for every woman. She views fashion as deeply linked with our spirituality — how the clothes we wear resonate outwardly — and likewise can inspire an inner glow. Here, we chat with Karen about her nine lives, her upcoming fragrance line, and marrying spirituality with style.
You have a pretty nonlinear trajectory. How did you wind up in fashion?
I left finance because I felt a spiritual calling. I was the managing director of a big brokerage firm in London, and after a while, I felt drawn to think about my spiritual life. I started writing and found my artistic side was much more important than what I was thinking before. Dancing was always a part of my life, but I decided to become a professional flamenco dancer. From being a dancer and spiritual writer I asked myself how could I help people beyond my art and writing? So I created a brand to bring wellbeing and beautiful things together and created the world of Kalmar. It started as beauty products and scents that bring you different energies during your day. I also wanted to create a range of clothing that was fabulous and gorgeous but would still allow you to be in that wellness, in a great energy you can relax travel but still look fabulous. Why fashion? Fashion has always been a part of my life, as an artist, I love colors, shapes, textures so it felt like a natural progression. Kalmar is about creating dresses that allow you to be yourself, but also to feel beautiful.
How do your Moroccan heritage and Parisian upbringing manifest in your collections?
I was born in Morocco, where wearing kaftans is a cultural tradition. They’re all about sensuality, color, embroidery and beautiful fabrics. Your contact with nature is also very important. Growing up in Paris you’re surrounded by beauty, and your appreciation of fashion and art becomes second nature. Also, we learn to be very simple, and Kalmar is very keen on that. I choose shapes when they are simple, easy, and effortless but still flow with femininity.
The brand’s ethos is built on “self-care, spirituality and sensuality.” How do you translate such soulfulness into clothing?
It’s very important to me because I envisioned the brand with that meaning. I design Kalmar for women to find themselves, to shine and to express themselves. When you wear a kaftan, you can just be. I love wearing dresses and feeling gorgeous too, but you need to behave in a dress. A kaftan just flows around you and enhances your natural beauty. They can be even more feminine, sexy, and versatile than other pieces.
How do you make fashion spiritual?
Fashion is very spiritual because when you wake up in the morning you define who you are, who you want to be on that day and where you want to go. The clothes you choose have a strong impact on that. Some clothes give you confidence, the colors give you energy, and the shapes compliment you in a certain way. We get rid of clothes because the energy isn’t right anymore, or get new things to bring us life. Fashion is deeply tied to spirituality.
Do you feel your unconventional background gives you more ability to weave such spirituality into fashion?
It’s true. I’ve been through several iterations of life, and I didn’t come into the market to “make a fashion brand for fashion.” My goal is not there. My goal is to create a brand ethos and philosophy. I have some principles – I don’t want spiritual and shabby – I want the clothes to be gorgeous. Beauty is very spiritual. When someone has a good energy and she radiates that inner glow and they shine. People are magnetized to them. People choose clothing that is linked to what she feels. My background gave me more opportunity to do that, but it’s also my choice. I didn’t create a fashion brand; I’m creating a lifestyle.
Your brand ethos states that wellbeing isn’t just something you talk about; it’s what you do. What do you mean by that?
You have to respect who you are, the true being. When you do that you create your own spiritual energy for the day. Little actions, every moment of your life builds up your wellness. Every moment and choice you make, you can choose wellness.
The fashion industry is pretty ethically controversial. How do you perceive its relationship to wellbeing?
Evidently, fashion doesn’t come from that philosophy, but it’s really changing; it’s moving towards another mentality. There are a lot more wellness brands and organic fabrics, creating a more conscious consumer, which is great. The industry needed that reorientation. People need to open their eyes to consumption, however; we’re consuming too much. We all know we need to better respect the earth and we’ll feel better.
You are also launching beauty and fragrances this fall. What has that process been like?
It will be a range of creams and scents, all based on natural botanics and essential oils. The goal is that when you smell the products that you can connect more deeply with your inner self. There are 4 fragrances – peace and calm, these two are the self-care line. When you’re seeking calm, meditating, reading a book to reconnect with yourself. The two other scents are love – everyone is falling in love with this smell – and the last one is joy & vitality. So they’re for the morning and the day, to wake up with a great energy to set the tone of your day. The range is about all the moods during the day.
What is at the heart of the Kalmar lifestyle?
Let’s have a story – you’re a working woman. You’re strong and powerful. Where does your strength come from? You get your strength because you know who you are, and sometimes you need time to be with yourself, nourish your self, and nourish your soul. You need these kinds of products to pamper yourself. But you’re also going to travel or lounge around in your kaftan. You want to be sexy but comfortable to feel sexy. The jewelry is very striking and you only need one piece to ornament your natural beauty.
It’s about having and respecting the flow of your life. Enjoying your life as a sensual being, looking after yourself and being gorgeous. And you get strength like that and you go like a warrior to your job. And you kill it! It’s a dream life, non?