When tailoring scrap gets a sustainable twist
- The fashion industry is the third largest user of water globally, surpassed only by paper and oil
- According to the global Water Footprint Network, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a casual T-shirt, and almost 11,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans
Remember when as a child you would get hand-me-downs from your older cousins? And your mother’s sari would be made into a dress and the oldest of clothes would be made into a duster? Well, that was sustainable fashion too. We have always been doing it. Just that now India has become more fashion savvy and we tend to talk about it more," says Nisha Arora, co-founder of Gurugram-based ethical and slow fashion brand Ishaavi. Launched by husband-wife duo Nisha and Lovi Arora in April, the brand aims to focus only on slow, sustainable fashion with a zero-waste reputation.
Nisha has always been interested in sustainable clothing. Handling a store called Ambika’s Aesthetics in Gurugram, which also stocked organic, sustainable clothing, Nisha recently decided to focus on one brand dedicated to sustainability.
Ishaavi uses only organic fabric, sourced from weaving clusters strewn across the country. These include natural fabrics like 100 count cotton, muslin and khadi from parts of Hyderabad and Maheshwar, as well as muslin jamdani from Kolkata. The brand uses natural dyeing techniques and responsible packaging, such as paper and cloth bags as well. The production is also mindful. Only a few samples are made for each design—in small, medium and large. Other sizes or customizations are done only if there are orders for them.
Scraps of freedom
The fashion industry is the third largest user of water globally, surpassed only by paper and oil. The industry depends on water for the whole production process, including about 10,000 litres of water to cultivate raw cotton—the fabric most commonly used in apparel. According to the global Water Footprint Network, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make a casual T-shirt, and almost 11,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans. With affordable fast fashion brands becoming a big hit in Indian metros, the impact on environment can hardly be denied. Slow and sustainable fashion, like that of Ishaavi, is expensive but more environmentally sound.
The first collection that Ishaavi designed, Glass Bamboo, had a lot of fabric scraps, cuttings, headers, mock-ups, overstock bolts, and other unwanted excess fabric after creating dresses. “Most brands, when they are done with designing and creating products, have some leftovers. The easiest thing to do is to dump that. But we need to be more thoughtful—think about how long it takes to decompose and the impact of it. We decided that we can reuse these bits and pieces (from our own collections) and give it a new shape. We upcycled everything—creating jumpsuits, bags, capes, small jholas, etc," adds Nisha.
Natural dyes and organic fabric are all great but obviously takes the cost of the process higher. Brands pass off a bit of this to the consumer, which is why slow fashion is usually also considered expensive. “The cost is more, but we have not kept too much of profits on it. Right now we are trying to build and promote our brand," explains Nisha. Ishaavi products range between ₹2,000-14,000.
Nisha has noticed an increased consciousness among consumers about the cost of sustainable fashion. “They know it can be more expensive. But it will last longer as well. People are more educated about these things now, than 20 years ago when I started working. Back then, it was only a small section of society who would buy khadi material."
Nisha, however, understands that with growing awareness, there is also more competition. When she started work, almost 20 years ago, the focus was solely on the art of fashion. “Now everything has to be out there, it is also more tech-oriented. So, I am learning to be more tech savvy now."
The couple has seen a change in mindsets as well—albeit a slow change. It can be difficult educating not just clients but also the karigars about new techniques. The fashion industry now is organized. There are many brands and many designers coming up each day. So one must keep themselves updated and be honest to their clients. “Don’t just say ‘oh this is the newest trend, you should buy it. Tell them if it’s something that will stay with them. Tell them if they can wear it for multiple occasions. You have to stand by what you believe in.. and know that it works out in the long run. Because clients are more aware now—they look at the quality, the style, and only if everything fits, they come back to you. That’s how you make loyal customers," puts in Nisha.
Participating in multiple exhibitions and pop up events has helped Ishaavi reach more people. Younger people are also investing a lot in responsible fashion. “It is growing. People are more interested now, and they ask about the fabric and dyes before buying. The ones who are conscious buyers, they do invest, even if the product is a bit more expensive than a fast fashion brand," says Nisha.
The Slow Movement follows ventures that are changing how we look at health, beauty and fashion.
FIRST PUBLISHED12.09.2019 | 05:51 PM IST
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