Go the distance with the newest eco-conscious labels from India, as they invest in design and textiles of the future.
With Emma Watson, a regular champion of sustainable fashion, rising to the Green Carpet Challenge in a Calvin Klein gown made of Newlife fabric (made of recycled plastic bottles), at the Met Gala in New York last month — the movement gets an elegant nod from the fashion gods. Closer home we have Mumbai-based Anita Dongre with her organic clothing brand, Grassroot, besides labels like p.e.l.l.a of Bengaluru and Upasna from Auroville — all supporting eco-conscious fashion. Here we identify and explore the work of four sustainable design brands in the country that have made a mark. Employing energy and resource conservation, fair trade principles, organic farming techniques, chemical-free dyes and more, these inspired and inspirational designs come at little cost to the environment and at no cost to the soul.
No Nasties by Apurva Kothari
Apurva Kothari decided he wanted to create a ‘consumer movement for ethical fashion in India’ when he heard about the cotton farmer suicides and started No Nasties back in 2011. The founder and ethical entrepreneur extraordinaire works with only organic farming collectives and supports women farmers in Maharashtra (with the highest rates of suicides). Today, the brand has also grown aesthetically with the advent of a new design team. “Shweta Deliwala joined us last year and oversees all of the design. Since then, we’ve had some fantastic collections,” says the Goa-based former techie. “We now use not only jersey, but also slub and melange knits, and woven fabrics for shirts and scarves, too.” No Nasties offers chic, modern apparel for men and women. We love the quirky prints on men’s shirts, the classic Oxford polo tees and the lovely women’s dresses. Look for geometric-printed maxi dresses to sleek pencil skirts and shift dresses with a raven logo.
Rs 799 onwards.
LataSita by Meghna Nayak
“At LataSita, we’re all about sustainability,” enthuses journalist-turned-designer Meghna Nayak. Making garments from antique saris, their pieces are made using only lost and found items (except the thread and fastenings). The 30-year-old native of Kolkata says, “We practise zero waste cutting or we donate our fabric scraps to Goonj, a charity that turns them into low cost sanitary napkins for distribution to rural women (to counter fabric pollution).” They also have handwoven, organic, natural-dyed pieces. Their ‘Send Your Saree’ clinic got a remarkably positive response. “We have women of all ages coming over every week with their old saris, which we turn into something new,” Nayak adds, saying that it takes upcycling to another level and gets women to engage with their wardrobe to see what they can make out of pre-existing items. Rs 1,000 onwards. Details: facebook.com/latasita
Roha byVibhuti Behl
It was all in the family for Warwick-graduate Vibhuti Behl (26). The Mumbai-based design entrepreneur, inspired by her family’s polyester recycling business, launched her eco-conscious label, Roha (meaning ‘to rise’) last year, and found her collections selling out at exhibitions in Bengaluru and Mumbai. With no formal design training, the Panipat-born confesses to being an intuitive designer. “The idea is to give you something that will help you slow down and savour the beauty of our age-old fabrics and weaving techniques. Most of which are completely environmentally friendly, by the way!” We love her colourful shift dresses with ethnic prints and longer anarkali-style kurtas in earthy prints and panelling. “What we need to be more conscious about is how we use our resources. We don’t need to fill the void with blind consumption, but make smart choices.” There are plans of a ‘Baby’ Roha line of organic cotton clothes soon.
Rs 4,800 onwards. Details: facebook.com/rohabyvibhutibehl
Knots by Sonal Chanana
For 29-year-old designer Sonal Chanana, her sartorial and design journey has an element of the spiritual. The Delhi-born who graduated from the National Institute of Fashion Technology (Gandhinagar, Gujarat) in 2006—and who also finished a course at Leeds—says, “I was troubled after seeing a leading designer not paying wages to his artisans. I was also bored by the designs, quite frankly!” Leaving her well-paying job as an assistant designer in Delhi behind, Chanana took a sabbatical and reached out to grassroot workers in remote villages with no roads, in Kargil and in Ladakh. The trail-blazing designer spent six months last year, teaching women artisans in Ladakh how to knit adhering to quality and uniform sizing standards. The results were organic woollen sweaters, sweater dresses, scarves, tops and dresses from organic cotton with artisanal embroidery — showcased at an exhibition at Khan Market in New Delhi last December. Currently speaking to us from Kargil, the designer shares that her collaborators and her designs require no electricity (all her winter clothes are knitted by hand), no chemical dyes or machines. Chanana, who has now learnt to speak Ladakhi, signs off with, “These are the textiles of the future.” Rs 250 onwards. Details: facebook.com/knotsinindia
Text: Shibi Kumaramangalam