Northeast spotlight: Re-using, re-vamping, re-discovering

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July 20, 2009
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie
A conversation with clothing designer and yoga teacher Kaja Foat

Kaja Foat and her sister Zoë have always been scavengers of sorts.

They have an eye for finding new uses for pretty much anything they come across. They’ve turned doilies into earring holders and Kaja has made leg warmers out of an old boyfriend’s sweater.

Their idea for their business, Foat Design, came to them after they started making clothing and yoga mat bags for themselves when they got hooked on yoga while living in Brooklyn, New York. Go Yoga, the studio where they practiced, started taking orders for designs.

They officially launched their business in 2002 when they moved back to Minneapolis. Kaja runs a studio in Northeast where she works on the clothing line and teaches yoga classes. Zoë, meanwhile, has a studio in San Francisco. The sisters are also certified-Jivamukti yoga instructors.

They recycle clothes and fabric for their line, which includes Foat Couture, one-of-a-kind pieces created out of re-constructed clothing, and Urban Yoga Wear. Their mission is “to protect the earth by re-using, re-vamping, re-discovering.”

Kaja recently spoke with the Downtown Journal about her design work and love of yoga.

DTJ: How did you get interested in designing clothes?

Kaja Foat: We sort of fell into this role. We didn’t set out to be designers at all. We make things that we think are cute. We never think about what the public is going to go for. There are a lot of things that a lot of people are like, ‘what?’ … It’s our style. Our line is very much us. We both like things that are kind of casual, but really sexy. It’s like, ‘I just happen to look really cute today.’ We play with contradictory things. We’ll make things really punky, but we’ll do it out of really beautiful fabrics.

What’s Jivamukti Yoga all about?

Jivamukti is a pretty intense type of yoga. It brings you to the cutting edge while you’re doing your yoga practice. It’s kind of a flowing yoga that gets you to a point where you feel like you’re about to break, and then you find your peace with it. I think it’s very much old school, but it also brings in modern stuff. Music is a huge part of it.

What Jivamukti is about is nada, which is listening. In a Jivamukti class, it’s always different. It’s a vinyasa. Your students never know what’s coming next so they really have to listen. It’s supposed to bring up emotions.

… Some people get really giggly. That’s common … some people can get frustrated. It’s an interesting thing to watch and see where you are. It’s really a lot about getting you to be in that moment, and not thinking about what’s coming next, or thinking about what just happened. It’s really trying to bring you into your breath. And just doing the best you can and playing around with yoga, knowing that it’s a process.

Jivamukti is definitely a lifestyle; you can’t just really get away with going through training and not having your life change a little bit and not just having your eyes open to how to live a life that is non-harming, and also find the balance in it. We have to take little steps toward bettering everyone’s lives. It’s not like you have to be dramatic about it, because usually those people get really worn out and they crash and burn. You need to watch yourself; keep present and keep learning.


How would you say you’ve been changed by yoga?

I feel that we are here on this earth to learn things; everything is about relationships. Relationships to your parents, to your siblings, the people you work with, everybody in your life. Finding the asana. Asana means seat and seat means the relationship to the earth. …

I do see things so much differently. I don’t feel like a victim about anything. I don’t really go there; and it’s very freeing to not fall into a role of feeling like that … It’s more like these patterns are happening for a reason and they’re going to get bigger and bigger until I understand. When I do lectures I talk about patterns all of the time, and how much they are a blessing. … There are a lot of decisions you have to make. You have to decide to just be open and work really hard. … Yoga is not for everyone. The more you are into it, the more difficult it can become. What’s so fantastic about it is the asana practice puts you in these positions that help open up energy channels, and these energy channels cross over each other over the spine, which is called the chakra system. Just even learning a little bit about the chakras can aid you in the healing process. … Nobody is completely open along the spine. There are always issues you’re working on.


How does yoga influence your design work?

The whole basis around our company is that we try to waste very very little. We get all of our fabrics from mill ends, or jobbers, which means that huge companies are discarding the fabrics for one reason or another. We hand cut everything. We still buy that fabric because we can cut around any kind of hole or flaw.

Our couture line, we have to work with already existing things and make them into something completely different. We put these rules on ourselves to create challenges. We’re very much environmentalists — we grew up that way. That’s how we run our business, too.