Fashioning a different future
PUBLISHED: 09:05 17 December 2020 | UPDATED: 10:01 21 December 2020
A subarachnoid brain haemorrhage ended life as she knew it for Hale resident Kavita Basi, who barely survived the devastating event. Now, she lives as she chooses and is making a global difference
In March 2015 Kavita Basi experienced a shocking, life-altering event that changed the way she and her family would live, forever. A subarachnoid brain haemorrhage is a rare type of stroke, caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain; it’s very serious and often fatal. Kavita’s day had started, for once, at her home in Hale.
“I was a VP in the clothing sector of global supply chain company Li & Fung, and travelled the world, visiting the Far East, the USA and Europe as part of my role,” she says. “It was a very rigorous job and fashion is a real rat race. I was making at least 10 extensive trips a year and led a very busy lifestyle. With two children too, it was very full on. I know that if I had been on a plane, I would have died. My symptoms presented as seizures, and so when my husband, Deepak, called the emergency services I was first taken to Wythenshawe. When a brain scan showed what was happening, I was rushed to Salford Royal.”
On the way Kavita stopped breathing and was resuscitated by the paramedics. Once in ICU, her husband was told it was unlikely she would survive, and if she did, would certainly never be the same again. Her children, Jasmine and Jay, were 15 and 10 years old at the time and visited Kavita every day of the eight weeks, and four brain surgeries, she was there.
“I was 38 years old, had always been confident and sociable, and fit and healthy – when my family took me home, Deepak had to carry me into the house, as I couldn’t remember how to walk upstairs. I was frail and thin, I had no short-term memory – I would call Deepak 50 times a day with the same question and have no memory of any calls – and it was just such a huge shock to us all.”
Kavita puts her, on the face of it, miraculous healing, down to her natural positive attitude and a determination to get better, no matter how hard she needed to work.
“I could find nothing online or in magazines that gave me any guidance for how to recover from this,” she says. “It was all very scary and there was nothing I could relate to. The NHS is brilliant, but can only help so much. I had physical therapy and counselling but in the end, I think it was only because I wanted to get better and pushed myself, hard, that I recovered as much as I have. I shall never be the same as I was before – I still struggle with short-term memory problems and fatigue, but I am inherently a positive person, which goes a long way I think.”
In October 2015 Kavita went back to work, driven by financial as well as emotional necessity.
“Deepak had given up his job to be my full-time carer,” she says, “and I just really needed to be busy and working again.”
At the same time, recalling her confusion and the lack of information during her fight to regain her health, Kavita began to track her journey through her illness and recovery online, via Instagram and a blog, and most recently a podcast, Life with No Filter, hoping that her story would encourage others to believe that life and health could return, showing her progress and sharing her inspiration. From this, she wrote a book: Room 23 – Surviving a Brain Haemorrhage and has since become an ambassador for four related charities, helping raise awareness and funds to support research, therapy and counselling services.
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You might imagine that this would be enough – a busy job, a thriving family, an ongoing blog and charitable work – but no, Kavita decided, having had a spotlight shone bright on the beauty and value of living a good, happy life, she would next focus her energies on something she had previously only dreamed about: building sustainable fashion into the public consciousness and helping reduce the amount of waste and pollutants produced in its manufacture and distribution.
“I have always had a passion for the environment,” she says. “I have seen first-hand, of course, the amount of damage the fashion industry does; it is the second most polluting industry in the world. Six years ago, before I got ill, I had presented to the Board a proposal for a move into sustainability in our industry, but at the time I think people just weren’t ready for it. When I returned, I started the whole project again and was made VP head of sustainable product development, and would help all the managers bring in their product in a more sustainable way. In 2019 I resigned from the company with the aim of setting up my own sustainable fashion brands; they asked me to stay, but I wanted to follow my dream.
“After what happened to me, it became really important to me to stand by my beliefs.”
Kavita tapped into her global little black book of contacts to help her launch two brands, the first being Reflex One , an activewear brand that uses recycled plastics to make leggings, sports bras, cycle shorts and t-shirts that not only look good and feel good, but because she’s using plastics lifted from the oceans and landfill, do good too.
“I had to do a lot of research, making sure that not only could we create the products I wanted, but that all the plastics used could be traced back to their source – landfill or ocean cleaning. I also wanted to create products that are accessible, so the pricing was key to this.”
The leggings are 80% recycled plastic, have sculpting and contouring panels to lift and shape, and at £59 fit neatly into the ‘mid’ price range for activewear. They are so good, in fact, that John Lewis will be carrying the entire Reflex One collection from the end of December, as part of their increased focus on providing sustainable, high-quality eco-fashion options for shoppers.
“We are the opposite of fast fashion,” Kavita says. “Everything is designed to be made using recycled plastics and sustainably produced materials. The packaging is all compostable and recyclable, and every item is designed and made to last.”
John Lewis is also talking to Kavita about her second fashion brand – Ration.L , a vegan, gender-neutral trainer that uses non-toxic PU, organic and certified recycled materials and ticks every style box too.
Creating sustainable fashion brands and at a price that makes it accessible to more people is a virtuous circle; the greater the demand from the consumer the more will be produced. Manufacturers will seek ways to use more recycled materials, to cut waste, to reduce the use of chemicals and seek new, more economical ways to create the fashion we demand. Monetising sustainable fashion will entice the big brands, which in turn will increase the options available to the end-user, and Kavita is playing a vital part in this cycle. Additionally, a percentage of profits from both of her brands are being donated to charity, with Reflex One linked to The Bee Foundation – Brain Aneurism Research, and Ration.L linked with Brain & Spine Foundation , both of which have invited Kavita to be an ambassador.
“Now, I make sure I fill every day with things I love to do,” she says. “I try to give back and this is just what I know.”
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