“I had always been very inspired by and obsessed with textiles. The colours, the textures – particularly from India, Latin America, Asia and Africa – they are all amazing. So I decided to mix this interest with my passion for sustainability. Now here I am.”

– Carla Risco Rodriguez

Many of us spend our lives searching for our purpose. For a lucky few, their life’s mission is made so strikingly clear that they can do nothing but surrender to it. This is the case for Chilean-born Carla Risco Rodriguez, who – despite spending almost a decade studying engineering – discovered her true passion for the environment and sustainability mere weeks after graduating, and has never looked back. 

“In Chile, to have a successful life, you need to be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer. Because I was good at maths, I went down the path of construction engineering,” says Carla. “I graduated in January, left the country in March, and I have not returned – more than ten years later!

Originally planning to travel the world, Carla found herself in Australia after 18 months in New Zealand, where she fell in love with the country, despite her initial challenges. “Latin American women are taught from a young age how to work hard,” Carla says. “We know that if we want to win in life, we need to work, work, work. So that is what I did. But after nine years in Australia, last year, I finally decided to make my dreams a reality.”

These dreams came in the form of TreeKid – an eco-friendly, ethical clothing brand for children. “When I was pregnant with my son Leon, my creativity emerged,” says Carla. “I had always been very inspired by and obsessed with textiles. The colours, the textures – particularly from India, Latin America, Asia and Africa – they are all amazing. So I decided to mix this interest with my passion for sustainability. Now here I am.”

A ‘passion for sustainability’ may be underselling it. Carla is a fierce campaigner for the environment and says that her life’s mission is clear: to educate others about making a positive difference on the environment. “We are doing horrifying damage to the planet,” says Carla. “And we are just so busy, making so many fast decisions, that we don’t think about what we’re buying and consuming. But it is dangerous for us and for the environment.”

It comes as no surprise then that being accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia has been a business highlight. No small feat for a business that launched mid-2020, in the midst of a global pandemic. “There is lots of paperwork involved in gaining this accreditation,” Carla tells us. “But we were set up properly from the beginning, so it was easy. It’s something I’m very proud of.” TreeKid is about to get re-accredited this year.

As she should be. As well as being completely eco-friendly, TreeKid passionately offers gender-neutral, colourful, hard-wearing garments for children made from recycled fabrics, multi-coloured prints and environmentally friendly dyes and inks. Carla has also ensured the pieces are made to last – with options to increase the sizing as children grow, and durability so they can be passed down through generations. 

What’s more, Carla works with manufacturers who employ and support migrant women and refugees. It’s something she feels particularly strongly about, as she gives back to those who are in the same position she was in a decade ago. “I arrived in Australia with $200 in my pocket, and I found my way. Now, I have even bigger dreams for TreeKid and am just so happy that my life’s mission has become my life’s work.”

It’s a goal – and a person – we can all certainly be inspired by.

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer