From his headquarters in Bali and Kathmandu, Joe Komodo, aka Mark Bloom, heads up a growing international fashion business. But he leads the sort of bohemian existence most of us dream about, spending his days surfing, travelling and searching for fabrics and clothes all over Asia.

The clothes and accessories he finds and commissions from local producers are modern, urban versions of those worn in Thailand, Nepal and Tibet. Their appeal is that they are not too literally 'ethnic' - an old ikat fabric will be made into a pair of jeans, for example. Komodo is where workwear meets the Indian bazaar.

The members of Jamiroquai, the rock band that wears its environmental conscience on its sleeves, are typical Komodo dressers; Jay Kay, the singer, and Joe Komodo have worked together to design a separate Jamiroquai range, available next spring. An outfit has even been chosen to be part of next November's 'Street Style' exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

But Komodo, named after a small island in Indonesia, is not just riding on the back of the current, usually superficial desire to be eco- friendly; nor is it a watered-down, high-street version of the clothes we see on far-flung travels. These clothes are the real thing, made by local workers using local resources.

Mr Bloom could be accused of using cheap labour and resources to his advantage, but he also works with a philosophy of give and take. His latest project is to use Tibetan wool, providing a source of income for his Tibetan friends. The jumpers and hats hand-knitted from the wool have a coarser feel than sheep's wool, but that is part of Komodo's trademark. The company has also developed a farm growing organic hemp in eastern Nepal. 'I'm out to show it can be done in the right way,' says Mr Bloom, who hopes to launch a range of hemp clothing in the spring.

As with Esprit's Ecollection range, nature, in its rawest form, is the key Komodo accessory: buttons are made - by former lepers in Kathmandu - from wood, shells, peach stones and twigs. Coconut fibre is woven into oversized bags, and tree bark has been made into shoes (to be sold at Red or Dead next summer). The traditional fabrics used are given fun names such as 'Natty Threadlock' for a haphazard weave originally worn by Nepalese farmers, and 'Shreddie' for a loose, hand-loomed weave resembling, as the name suggests, the texture of the breakfast cereal. The waistcoat in our picture is made out of unprocessed, untreated goat's wool from Kathmandu.

It was while travelling in 1984 that Mr Bloom fell upon the key to his future success. Bearded, ratty- haired and fast running out of money, he had arrived on the Indonesian island of Flores. There he bartered some cheap glitzy earrings for 10 traditional ikat sarongs. When he reached Kuala Lumpur, he sold the ikats for dollars 100 each. The travel bug was wearing off, but the trading bug was about to bite.

From that one transaction, his business grew into a stall at Camden Market, north London, and then a company with a turnover of more than pounds 1m, a shop in Covent Garden and outlets from Germany to Tokyo. 'I'm not a fashion fiend,' he says. 'I see clothes as a vehicle to trade and to spread a message.'

Every item of Komodo Globe Trotters clothing comes with a few words of wisdom from Mr Bloom, written in his Joe Komodo persona (complete with eccentric English). For example, with the striped woven cotton pocket over-shirt comes a swing-tag with this thought ('3' should be read as 'free'): 'Travelin far 2 C folk bustin 2 B 3 - follow ya roots home & away, spread a little hapiness on yer way. -ya'.

Komodo, Unit 11, Thomas Neals, 2-22 Shorts Gardens, London WC2; Ichi Ni San, 26 Bell Street, Merchant City, Glasgow; The Dispensary, 9 Newburgh Street, London W1; M2, 52 Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth; Drome, 4 Cavern Walks, Mathew Street, Liverpool; all inquiries: 071-490 8101.

(Photograph omitted)

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