Recently Cynthia Steele, EMpower’s President and CEO, spoke with Lucie Kucharova, a former Development and Engagement Manager at EMpower in London and Hong Kong, and the founder of lu•ciee, an eco-conscious fashion and lifestyle brand. Part of the proceeds from sales at lu•ciee are being donated to EMpower to support our grantee partners in Bali, Indonesia. Cynthia and Lucie spoke about giving back, sustainability, and change and adaptation.
Lucie, you’ve made some really big transitions in the past few years, as you’ve gone from EMpower to becoming an entrepreneur, from London to Hong Kong to Bali. Can I assume that you feel comfortable with or maybe even thrive on change?
Firstly, thank you so much, Cynthia, for arranging this interview and offering a friendly platform to talk about our partnership and lu•ciee.
I believe that change is an unstoppable force that happens to us, and to our environment at a speed faster than we admit or acknowledge. I can’t say that I feel particularly comfortable with change, but I do adapt well, choosing to embrace the times of transition rather than resisting them. Always remembering what my personal values are and what commitments I hold dearly.
That’s beautiful. We are so honored and grateful that you, through your clothing line, are devoting some of the profits to support EMpower’s grantee partners in Bali. How did that come about?
When the global pandemic struck in spring 2020, lu•ciee was still in the cradle and many expatriates started to leave Bali for their homelands. I decided to stay on the island to continue to develop the business, and the desire to support local communities grew even stronger. I was concerned about the broader economic impact on the island, especially on young people in the absence of tourism. In many areas, social distancing and sanitation made it difficult to comply with protection guidelines, and the economy and young people’s education, livelihoods, and wellbeing have been impacted.
Since I believe in true partnerships, and the impact of local organisations that understand the context and have the right solutions to pressing problems, I decided to allocate 5% of our profits to local organisations. And who else to do this with than EMpower? An organisation that was so important to me for a decade of my life.
I believe it was you, Cynthia, who once mentioned to me, “to whom much is given, much is expected.” I am merely paying forward the little fortunes of the business.
That could not be more needed at this moment—when so many places like Bali are tourist-dependent. You’re making a substantial difference. You’re also eschewing fast fashion and you’re lifting up and working with local fabrics, local artisans. How did that all come together?
When I started lu•ciee, I had no plans nor ambitions to launch a clothing business. I didn’t know much about the complexities of the fashion industry, and I was oblivious to seasons and the pace of everything. The birth of lu•ciee was purely circumstantial, and if I am totally honest, it brought a degree of internal conflict. When I left the city life, I turned into a passionate anti-consumer, yet here I was building a business thriving on profits and sales of an arguably disposable segment.
The solution for me was to commit to building a conscious and responsible business, upholding heritage craftsmanship, forming meaningful bonds with the artisan partners and all our suppliers, and developing practices that were gentle on the planet. One considered decision at a time. Today, we work with three independent factories manufacturing clothes outside of the traditional fashion calendar. We allocate a percentage of our profits to EMpower and we also offset our carbon footprint by planting trees in Indonesian Borneo. My conscience is clean.
Being hands-on probably gave you a better sense of how to develop the business, because you saw all aspects.
Yes, absolutely. I spent days visiting fabric stores to source the best natural textiles, visited the artisans’ workshops daily so that I could form strong partnerships. Together we started to create small quantities of understated yet strong pieces in its timeless quality reflecting the beauty of minimalism and simplicity. I think it’s essential that, when designing pieces, you uphold your responsibility to ensure that they are made well, can be loved for a long time, and serve a purpose to their owners. It’s such a beautiful way to manufacture because it’s grounded in relationship and person-to-person communication. The pieces created in this way hold a raw beauty that can’t be found in mass-manufactured items. lu•ciee can be worn casually or elevated, reinforcing the notion that you don’t need to wear bright and bold pieces to make a statement. Ultimately, we intend for the wearer to be comfortable and confident in lu•ciee.
I love it. What’s ahead for lu•ciee?
At the moment I am in Europe to connect with ethical stores in different countries that either stock our collection already or plan to introduce it to their clients in spring 2022. My goal this year is to move our inventory closer to the core market which is here in Europe. I am meeting with a potential distribution partner just outside Porto, Portugal, as we speak. Ultimately, I want lu•ciee to operate with a simple and efficient infrastructure. I want to continue to make good quality products from beautiful fabrics. I want to inspire women to consume more thoughtfully. I want our team to enjoy working for our business, and our customers to be curious about the fashion industry at large.
As for me personally, living nearly 7 years in Asia and building an eco-conscious business the past 2 has been a true gift. But I am now keen to spend more time of the year here in Europe, and I am looking at a number of options, which is really exciting. Another mild transition is on the horizon.
You have embraced so much of what I see as your key essences. You’ve always been super elegant, fashion-forward. You have charisma and are engaging. And you have a very strong core of social purpose and generosity—because you recognise that others might have less. I love the fact that in this new chapter of your life, all of that is coming together. It’s beautiful to see.
Thank you so much, Cynthia!
Wishing you, the EMpower team, and everyone that still reads, wonderful and peaceful festivities.
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