News on Sunday

KOTPIALE : Young Mauritian Women Dare to Showcase Original Concepts

Melissa and Karuna Veerapen.

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They merged their talents that gave way to their creativity and subsequently launched their own business. Sisters Melissa and Karuna Veerapen launched their clothing brand Kotpiale three years ago. The budding businesswomen share with News on Sunday their journey into the entrepreneurship world and how they are coping with their family business.

Sisters argue, they disagree on numerous issues but they also support and stand by each other. Our businesswomen’s journey is that of sharing and merging of talents. Melissa and Karuna Veerapen are two sisters who decided to join forces to create their own business. They launched their clothing brand ‘Kotpiale’ three years back. 

The sisters tell us that their creative flair grew at home. “Dad was always proud to have two daughters. He taught us to think for ourselves, not to wait for others to get our things done, to stand up for ourselves and be who we want to. Mom was loving and patient. She would read books to us by the river and make us dream. We were inspired by both parents for their creativity, motivation, enthusiasm and craziness.”

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As a child, Melissa dreamed of becoming a stylist while Karuna did not have anything specific in mind. “I was always playing with Barbie dolls. I loved, for instance, inventing clothing styles and doing fashion shows by the river,” stated Melissa. Karuna, for her part, said that she would look at the sky and draw what she saw. “I loved creating new things from materials I would find, like boxes, straws, bird feathers, fabrics, or beads. Everything she found was something worth creating.” However, both loved to craft their own clothes. “We would dye, cut and stitch.  We spent our time customising our own clothes. We were inspired by our mom who used to do crochet exhibitions when we were kids.”

The sisters shared that they spent a lot of time playing by the river and loved being in nature. At that time, they were living by the river in Réduit. Growing up, however, the sisters’ pursued different academic studies and careers. Melissa holds a degree in Creative Advertising and a Masters in Multimedia Design and Karuna has a degree in Textile Technology and a Masters in Marketing Management. They both have full time jobs but decided to launch something of their own. Melissa is the Artistic Director of an advertising agency while Karuna is a professional in the textile industry. This is when they decided to merge their talents and to launch ‘Kotpiale’. “We realised that we wanted to create something new based on what was around us. At that time, we saw that there was a lack of Mauritian touch in Mauritian brands. We wanted to prove that these values could be illustrated through design of clothing items and accessories,” they explained.

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They had so many ideas popping in their minds. “We thus wanted to seize this opportunity to set up Kotpiale. We believe that Mauritius has much more to offer than the sea, sand, sun and the Dodo.  We have our rich and unique history, our culture, our language, and our people.” The sisters thus decided to focus their clothing brand on the latter. 

The concept

Kotpiale proposes different garment types to their clients. “We have included over our all T-shirts, shirts, tank tops, printed hoodies some minor details. The best selling ones are those consisting of dialogues typical to the Mauritian culture and language.” They shared that they recently launched a kitchen collection which worked very well. Karuna and Melissa explained that they work with different suppliers to give life to their creations.  “The concept is to value local artists and manufacturers.  

Everybody has a skill that needs to be exploited.  For the raw materials, we choose it ourselves and we work mostly with cotton based fabrics for our clothing. We also try to make the minimum use of plastic for our packaging.”

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They confide that they simply draw their inspiration for their creations from their motherland. “Everything around us: Mauritius itself, the people, our language, the vibrant and amazing colours, anything that makes us a Mauritian. If we believe in an idea, we make it happen,” they uttered. 

As young entrepreneurs, do they find it difficult to juggle between their business and personal life? “It is not hard to handle our business and personal life.  When we do something we love, it can only take the best in you. We have always been very dynamic since a very young age.  We try to keep a balance between the business and personal life. Many of our friends believed in us and were more than happy to help. We thank them for that.” They added “Nothing scares us. We have ideas, we have creativity. It is enough to keep someone moving.”

Their advice to the youth and women who dream of launching their own business but are hesitating: “Never give up, never abandon your dream, really believe in the small voice that tells you: “This is going to work.” Be original and do not copy. Nothing can be more original than something brewing in your brain. Use your intellect wisely and you will obtain satisfaction, even if it didn’t work the way you wanted. At least you tried.”
Karuna and Melissa are planning to launch their first kids’ collection soon. “Mothers want their kids to wear the brand too, so ‘Kotpiale tipti’ will shape up and our designs will go on mini people.”