Enjoy our interview with Kendra Beltran from Zo Magazine!
When Dawn and her husband started out their journey, they were in a store that sold imported clothing and goods. After years of living stateside, they decided to make a permanent move to one of the places they’d been importing from for so long. And that my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the inspiring journey Lotus Tribe Clothing has had, and where we begin.
Kendra: Before you fell in love with Bali and then moved north to Thailand – what were you and your husband doing? Was it the typical 9-5?
Dawn: As young people, we each had a variety of jobs; including a stint dressing mannequins and various retail management. While living in St. Louis we met a hippie chick managing an alternative shop and it seemed like the dream job to me. We reached out to the owner, suggesting that our hometown in Northern California would be the perfect location, and we could manage it for her. She suggested we open our own store and she even offered to help us get started. We still have never met that woman face to face and she changed the trajectory of lives! So much gratitude.
We did it and had a wonderful little retail shop for 11 years selling the most beautiful imported clothing from India, Guatemala, and Bali. Over time we expanded our inventory to include things all over the world as well as hemp in particular. I could tell you what country almost any fabric was from, although I had never been to any of them. We both love the handicrafts and artistic touches that indigenous cultures include into everyday items and yearned to travel to each and every one.
Our customers ranged from Deadheads to skaters to nature lovers and eco-conscious consumers. It was a fantastic life, raising our children vending at festivals and being part of an eclectic alternative Norcal community.
Kendra: Did you prep at all before you started to live a life you loved rather than one that had you just going through the motions, or did you just pack your bags first and make plans later?
Dawn: We always tried to live a life we loved. Over time, the day to day lifestyle of North America did become redundant and we each needed something more, something different. As our children grew, so did our wanderlust. We had visited Bali a few times and absolutely loved it there. We decided when our sons were older we would move to Bali. As that time grew closer, we stopped buying anything. We stopped being consumers and starting giving away, selling and donating our possessions.
It’s quite a process to let go of all the things we had taken a lifetime to collect. When we actually made the leap and left, we gave ourselves a timeline of a few years, to find a home base and start a new eco-business that would support our new lifestyle. We did not know what we wanted to do and hoped the universe would bring it to us in a timely fashion before we ran out of money. I had thought that re-purposing garbage into new items was my calling, but my background in clothing and my love of yoga coalesced into this extraordinary fantastic pursuit we call Lotus Tribe Clothing.
Kendra: I only ask because you are doing something I admire more than anything. Now, you started designing yogi clothing when you got frustrated that most companies weren’t size inclusive. Being someone that is plus size herself, I understand this fully. More and more companies are starting to be inclusive but not all. Why do you think some clothing brands are hesitant to create clothing for every shape and size?
Dawn: For me personally, averaging a size 12-14 most of my adult life, I was quite familiar with the lack of clothing available in those sizes. It was odd, as more women in America wore those sizes than any others. It’s a huge market that traditional brands are just now starting to cater to. Having had an import store, I was always frustrated with the clothing from around the globe, because it was usually too small for me, as most people in these countries are of smaller builds. When in Bali it was difficult for me to find anything my size and I ended up having clothing made for me. Upon visiting friends and family back in the states, it was clear they too wanted the clothes I had I made for myself. So I decided to share my personal wardrobe with the masses.
Kendra: Not only is inclusivity important when it comes to Lotus Tribe but also the natural materials. Have you two always been environmentally conscious?
Dawn: From the moment I became aware of humankind’s effect upon Mother Nature I have been her advocate. My first passion was hemp and meeting Jack Herer was a highlight that inspired us to open our store back in the day.
Our intention was to educate and inform the public that hemp can save the planet by using our shop to sell as many different items made of hemp as possible. It’s used for fuel, food, clothing, and building materials. It can fix the environment and the economy. In the future, we hope to have Lotus Tribe include a line of hemp fabric yoga shorts for men! I believe knowledge is power. So if you know about an issue you are more likely to make a change in your life, or your buying habits or go vote. I used to share environmental information on my personal Facebook page. However, people felt inundated and frankly not all of my friends were interested.
So I created Solutions Exist on Facebook as a resource for myself so that I can find all of the remarkable concepts and innovations in the world. It’s like a personal resource library, but everyone is welcome to check it out. It has only solutions, no doom, and gloom, and knowing they exist helps me to stay positive about the future of Earth.
Kendra: On top of all of the above, your price points aren’t insane. Was making Lotus Tribe affordable something you guys wanted from the start or did you have to work hard to get those prices down?
Dawn: From our retail store to Lotus Tribe, we have always wanted to be affordable. Our goal is to make the business that sells the items we want to buy; at the price we would want to pay. We are, quite literally, our own target market. We want natural fiber, earth-friendly clothing to be available to all. We’re dedicated to providing a sustainable choice in a sea of fast fashion, at a reasonable price. Ethically manufactured means our workers make a real living wage. Our cost of living is lower in SE Asia so we can pass on the savings to our customers.
Kendra: Not only is Lotus Tribe doing great things on its own for the world, but you’re also working with both Trash Hero and TreeSisters. How did those partnerships come to be?
Dawn: We always wanted to be a sort of social business where our actions gave back to the people and places we met on our travels. When we moved to Thailand there were literally no refillable water bottles available of any kind in the entire town. It’s a tourist destination, where countless single-use plastic water bottles were being bought and discarded daily. I simply couldn’t sit by and not take action.
I contacted Trash Hero Thailand and became a distributor to the local businesses. There was no profit to be made, I simply brought them in and resold them at cost. I needed there to be an option available. We now have multiple Refill Station Locations and are part of a bigger network. Free refills are available to anyone with a Trash Hero Bottle; anywhere they are sold and the organization in spreading quickly to neighboring countries.
TreeSisters is an amazing organization I have deep respect for, working on global reforestation and I believe there can never be too many trees. Not only do they provide the oxygen we breathe, but they sequester the carbon that we so desperately need to combat and fight climate change. Planting one tree for every item of yoga wear we sell was the perfect fit of philanthropy and entrepreneurship combined.
The most important yoga doesn’t happen on the mat, wearing cute clothes. It happens in all the other aspects of life. We wish to embrace all eight limbs of yoga in every way we can. It’s not just Asana (physical postures) to us. It’s Ahimsa (no harm), Satya (truthfulness), Pranayama (breath of life) and Samadhi (complete integration), and so much more. We aren’t masters of course. As yogis, it’s a daily practice we aspire towards in our personal lives, and in business.
Kendra: This year you mentioned men’s wear. What else is on the table as 2019 gets underway?
Dawn: We are so excited to have just released our new Organic Cotton line. In the future we will transition all of our natural fiber yoga wear for women to Organic Cotton. We will continue to make some of our best sellers. But we are excited to bring our Tribe new colors and styles in this even higher quality, more eco-friendly option. We let the flow of the Universe direct us toward what’s next. So it’s hard to say what else we will be on the calendar for 2019.
Thailand has recently legalized hemp for industrial purposes and we are looking forward to when that becomes available. We do have the cutest little utility belts coming out! (More like Batman, definitely not a fanny pack). When traveling in India last year, we met a man we are eager to create a Festival Wear line with, but slow fashion doesn’t happen quickly and we’re picky about what we create and bring forth. Super excited for the Festival Wear to come into being.
We recently sponsored a Fire Spinning troupe, called Medicine Circus Productions and Circus Arcanum. They have to wear only natural fibers. Synthetic fabrics can melt to your skin if an accident happens. They also leach tiny plastic particles into the waterways with every wash. We will continue to use our platform to spread the word about the danger of plastic pollution and fast fashion, as well as empower consumers to know they have the power to change the world.
Every purchase made is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. We’ll bang on drums and dance around the bonfire, howl at the moon and celebrate Mother Earth and her cycles. We will continue to pursue our dreams; become the best versions of ourselves and find what fans the fire of our souls. We’ll laugh and sing and dance and create while we travel and play and do yoga in paradise. We will suggest everyone we meet to do the same!
Interview by Kendra Beltran