Sujata and Taniya Biswas grew up watching their mother hide tiny holes on shirts and skirts by stitching pockets over them with patches of old clothes—a once-popular practice in Indian households. So when the two sisters decided to quit their boring corporate jobs five years ago to start the fashion label Suta, making upcycling and recycling part of their design language was a natural choice.
Though the larger idea behind the brand, known for its handwoven saris and blouses, was to create an ecosystem that supports artisans and weavers, the founders have remained mindful of the waste and pollution a fashion brand can produce. They often use waste or discarded material in their garments and have prohibited the use of plastic in their Mumbai office. “Sustainable living starts from small things,” says Sujata, 35, an alumna of the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.
They have recently started an initiative asking people to give their old saris, regardless of material or brand, and get discount coupons for a Suta purchase. “We will turn them (the old saris) into bags,” says Taniya, 33, an engineer and Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, graduate who worked for nearly three years with the Tata group and IBM. “A bag, no matter how much used up, is never thrown away in Indian households.”
The sisters don’t, however, describe their label as a sustainable one. “At the end of the day, we are selling products and expecting people to buy from us. We can’t stop producing (the brand doesn’t follow the fashion calendar and produces only limited capsule collections, with each including about seven offerings) because then weavers would be out of work. But, yes, we are expecting people to replace fast fashion with slow fashion,” says Sujata.
“By producing less, we will limit our revenue, which would mean limiting the on-boarding of weavers and artisans. We can’t do that. So, we are finding small creative ways to stay eco-friendly, like using waste materials as patchwork in designs.”
In this edition of the DIY series, the Biswas sisters tell us how to make a book cover with discarded material. It’s okay if you struggle with sewing and the stitches are big or uneven. Imperfection has its own attraction.
The perfect stitch