Surgery before style
With a growing concern for the environment, labels across the country are focussing on reusing and recycling heritage textiles for a sustainable future. Met the guys who'll turn your saree with a family story into an updated garment
An industry that is standing on the idea of consumerism and frequent purchase is looking at ideas to save, restore and reuse. Fashion labels that are questioning mass consumerism that leads to excessive waste are pondering on the need for conscious production. Devika Vaid, through her eponymous label, focusses on reviving heirloom textile pieces commonly inherited by Indian women from their grandmothers as a way to preserve heritage and offer it a new lease of life. "While these are rich pieces that you'll find in most Indian families, many owners have no idea what to do with them," says Vaid, explaining, "Your antique sarees, dupattas, lehengas, can all be restored or updated to be made into something relevant and wearable. Not only will you be wearing something valuable, you'll also be preserving family history and the sentimentality attached to the original family member who owned it."
Vaid says she is wary of trends that last for one season. The philosophy involves spending more every season on fast fashion, leading to a lack of individuality and personal style. The craftsmanship involved in creating heritage outfits are dying, and preserving them, while expensive, will leave you with quality over quantity. "You can dress well without buying too much: you don't have to own too many pieces to be fashionable"
From remaking a 150-year old Rajasthani umbrella into a lehenga to reviving a century-old dupatta while keeping its original embroidery intact, Vaid is conscious to gainfully employ artisans and craftsmen specialising in zari, aari, gota or Parsi gara embroidery techniques. Over the years, her clients have either restored their outfits to original form or updated them into draped saree dresses and modern blouses. The trick, says Vaid, is not to stray too far from the original creation. "There's a reason these pieces are classics and will never go out of style. You won't like the idea of Parsi gara border repurposed on a neon saree, a few years down the line."
Price: On request basis client requirements
An original Benarasi organza, where the fabric and weave were in good condition. It has been restored by adding a backing fabric to make it wearable
"Fashion has emerged as the second largest polluting industry in the world. When we think of pollution, we don't think about the clothes on our backs," says Meghna Nayak, founder of LataSita, a zero-waste studio creating garments using textiles sourced from Indian women's wardrobes.
An antique saree that was originally in organza. The fabric had frayed, and was restored on handwoven Benarsi organza. The zari is pure silver
Nayak set up her Kolkata-based studio focussing on fashion sustainability by reusing Indian sarees and handloom fabrics to create modern pieces ranging from uniquely draped dresses and chic blouses to men's ties and cravats. Their signature prêt saree collection is created using old sarees sourced from Indian women, with a closed-loop, zero-waste production process; while their custom Send Us Your Saree campaign asks women to send in their sarees to rework into new pieces of clothing. Since 2012, Nayak has worked with thousands of sarees and countless pieces of old fabric, saving them from piling up in landfills. "Apart from diverting kilos of waste daily, I use LataSita to start a conversation with my customers—many of whom, initially, are unaware of the current environment challenges we are facing."
Reversible kimono trench and Notched overlay
Price: Rs 2,500
At: 919830351333; facebook.com/latasita
For Ayesha Desai, who heads repurposed textiles brand Cornucopia, it started with a trunk in which she had been saving clothes she couldn't seem to part with…until her mother put her foot down and decided it was time to get rid of this growing pile. The thought of parting with outfits associated with some memory or happiness led her to the idea of reusing them to create a patchwork quilt she could use every day.
Eight years later, she repurposes everything from sarees and dupattas to T-shirts and even newborn clothes into memory quilts customised to a client's requirements. "We want to encourage people to extend the life of their possessions and be conscious of their consumption habits. Through our products and practices, we provide sustainable alternatives to everyday utility items."
Price: Rs 5,750 for a single baby quilt
Call: 918800442235; www.cornucopia.fashion
Pairing French aesthetic with Indian craftsmanship, Saurabh Mahajan founded Nimboo in 2018 to produce artisanal furnishings, tableware and accessories with mindful consumption at its core. From reusing temple flowers as natural dyeing agents to redeveloping fabrics, Mahajan has artistically restored waste to create placemats made from upcycled sarees from West Bengal, asymmetrical platter sets crafted from recycled steel from Haryana and hand-dyed Chanderi scarves from Madhya Pradesh.
Inspired by the lives of Indian farmers, who constantly reuse the meagre resources that are naturally found in their immediate environment, the brand works with cooperatives which directly benefit farmers, weavers and artisans, many of them women. "If a Nimboo product served you well, hand it down to a friend who can give it a new home," advises Mahajan.
At: email@example.com; www.nimboo.fr
While working at various fashion export houses, Kriti Tula and Paras Arora, founders of Doodlage, noticed tonnes of quality fabric being wasted during production. They realised, with the right planning and creativity, these scraps could be upcycled to replicate high-street fashion with longevity. Now, their creative process begins with sourcing the right waste fabrics and then designing their fashion around it. Creating everything from womenswear to menswear and accessories, the brand's fashion is now available in over 40 stores across the country.
Hoping to dissuade consumers from the effects of fast fashion, they hope to inspire Indians to focus on the age-old Indian cultural habit of repairing and altering items by darning, patching or resewing.
Price: Rs 1,800 (garments); Rs 300 (Accessories and notebooks)
Accessories and notebooks start from Rs 300
At: Paras@doodlage.in; www.doodlage.in
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