I am Karishma Singh Kelsey, a social justice advocate, educator of enterprise, business and design, a social restoration fashion entrepreneur, designer and a community builder
Through a post growth, systems thinking lens, my mission is to explore plural possibilities for post growth fashion systems ,through indigenous systems design rooted in self, education,and enterprise, that encourage us to look at alternative ways of living with our clothes that respect ecological limits.
As a child born in the inequality and injustice of Apartheid South Africa, I became a proponent of true equality, plurality and inclusion at a young age starting as an underground, grassroots youth activist for equal rights, to the creation of a disruptive social enterprise of fashion called Karishma Design. I bring to the table 30 years of wisdom, knowledge, empathy, a collaborative spirit and understanding from working in the corporate fashion system as a retail designer in the business of fashion, to working with a diverse range of ethic minorities including: indigenous groups of artisans, farmers, makers and crafters from the remote villages of Southern and central Africa to far off mountain villages of South East Asia, South Asia, and now the Pacific.
In 2003, I founded the social enterprise, Karishma Design, a vehicle for disrupting and democratizing the current fashion system through socio-economic restoration. I have had the opportunity to travel the globe and work with both large production houses in China as well as micro businesses and artisans in using a variety of indigenous wisdoms to co-create slow fashion ranges from waste textiles (before this was trendy). These projects were a continuous process of learning and unlearning. This socially and culturally empowered framework on business is what we have termed dharmic/conscious enterprise, and is the foundation upon which Karishma Design was created. As part of our equity building strategy, we developed micro-manufacturing and skills learning workshops owned and operated by the artisanal communities with whom we co-created. These spaces were led by women or other marginalized groups such as the LBGTQ+ and people with disability, with the intention for these spaces to create social economic opportunity whilst protecting and preserving their own indigenous values and ways of being.
This journey has led to the development of an online course with Clare Press, of the Wardrobe Crisis Academy, on co-creation with artisans- business through an indigenous, decolonial lens that will be launched later this this year,
It is also the basis of a tool kit called Miraculous Me, provoking change through the spiritual reconnection to self, using style activism and the creative expression of getting dressed in a body that is radically loved no matter its shape, size and color, as the vehicle for this paradigm shift. Our provocation being, “What would the world look like if we all wore whatever we wanted and were embraced as creative artworks?” A 6 week program dedicated for teenagers is currently been trailed in 2 high schools in Aotearoa.
I am a board member and co- secretary of the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion, an international organisation of makers, researchers, entrepreneurs, students, thought leaders and disruptors, working towards systems change in fashion. I am an active committee member of Fashion Act Now an international activist group standing against growth based fashion systems.
I am apart of the working group for Fashion Revolution, a global movement working towards a post growth fashion world. Finally I am an ambassador for Remake, advocating for workers rights, a global community working towards a the end of modern day slavery in fashion.
In order to balance my equity building/social activism, I am an educator of business, fashion design technology and performing arts, with 21 years of international education experiences, teaching all ages of students in Germany, Taiwan, South Africa, China, Indonesia and New Zealand. Since 2012 my educational journey in New Zealand has involved me being an Applied Business Lecturer for Whitireia, Auckland, New Zealand. During this time my focus was on creating stimulating, culturally inclusive learner focused academic environments that brought real business industry practices into multi-lingual, and multicultural classrooms. Driven by a strong desire to create truly equitable, decolonized classrooms with a particular focus on bridging the inequality gaps with Aotearoa’s Maori students’ success rates together with the large body of struggling international students led my research into cultural wisdoms and ways of learning and being. I have presented this research and teaching methodologies at several international and local conferences and have published papers in international journals since 2015. My research in creating systemic changes in education through the embedding of indigenous knowledge frameworks, namely Matauranga Maori, Ubuntu and Dharmic Economics, is now one of the strands for my PHD research.
Showcased designer at the New Zealand Eco Fashion Week in 2013, 2015.
Showcased designer for the MTN D u r b a n F a s h i o n W e e k , International Women’s Day, SMME Trade Fair in South Africa in 2008.
Selected as a showcased designer in Washington D.C. for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration Ball-January 2009.
Featured in several publications in Taiwan and South such as ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and O Magazine from 2003 to 2011.
Academic Leadership Scholarship as the design ambassador of the Durban University of Technology’s Design department in Manchester Metropolitan University, UK-1997.
Special guest designer for the opening of the ICC in Durban in 1993 hosting Nelson Mandela. Awarded the Greyville Young Designer Fashion Award for Best Design in 1997.
Design made from mesh bags, waste fabric and woven grass curtains. Bartel Young Designer Awards for best product made from recycled material in 1993.