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Dhriti Gandhi Ranjan
Dhriti Gandhi Ranjan


Soya sari, banana blouse

71-Sanya-Suri Designers Sanya Suri (left) and Resham Karmchandani of The Pot Plant | Sanjay Ahlawat

Designers blend quirky ideas and natural fibres to create sustainable clothing

70-Ritu-Kumar Ritu Kumar

A sari made from soya, another made from banana. Both from designer Ritu Kumar’s spring/summer collection. This season, Indian designers are marrying quirky ideas with natural fibres to create clothes that are sustainable. “The saris are created using fibres that are not manmade, which gives them an organic feel and texture,” says Kumar. “They are lightweight and soft on your skin. The saris are made using, in some part, fibres created from jute, silk waste, banana, soya and some forms of flax as well. Banana and soya are cellulosic fibres; they are light and breathable, and the way the fabrics are woven, the drape is beautiful. The saris are easy to wear and are fluid on the body.”

Kumar’s prints have been inspired from folk embroideries and handloom weaves. “The sari patterns carry the Ritu Kumar handwriting in their detailed printing. There are prints like Phulkari, woven effects, florals and checks,” she says. “This palette adds a vintage look and feel to the saris, which the brand is known for. The collection is versatile, depending on the kind of jewellery one wears. The colours include indigo, peachy pink, green, a stunning black and ecru.”

70-Soya-sari-banana-blouse Organic spin: A sari from the collection of Ritu Kumar.

Keeping Kumar company in her quest for sustainability are Resham Karmchandani and Sanya Suri, two college friends who started The Pot Plant, a Delhi-based clothing store, in 2014. The idea was to bring cotton back into young and mainstream fashion without wasting even the smallest piece of fabric. “For us, sustainable living has not been a luxury, but a way of life,” says Karmchandani. “We make sure that the fabric is used to the maximum. We don’t overproduce. We work towards zero waste, which means whatever fabric is left, we use it to make other accessories and extra goodies, like sleep masks, ties, bow ties and even cushion covers. We also mix the [leftover] fabrics with other pieces and do panelled dresses.”

The designers, who work with cool and relaxed silhouettes, attribute their fondness for sustainability to their early years. “Sustainable fashion neither was something that happened overnight, nor [had anything] to do with trend,” Karmchandani says. “It is the way we have always lived. My dad used to travel a lot and, for days, I waited for him to bring a chikankari piece from Lucknow, with which I could make something. Custom tailoring has been part of our growing years and that, in turn, had its effect on the way we work. People these days want to buy appealing products and we give them what they like.”

Social media, too, has contributed to the focus on sustainability, says designer Manish Arora. “Social media has changed the landscape of the fashion industry,” he says. “Consumers are becoming socially aware of sustainable fashion and how it positively affects the environment. Sustainable fashion ensures that the fabric is ethically sourced and produced, increasing the longevity and durability of the garment while promoting the revival of the artisan.”

Designer Suket Dhir has a different take on sustainability. “I don’t like to stress on the parameters of sustainability; I like them to be obvious,” he says. “For us at Suket Dhir, the idea has been about reinterpretation of our craft and heritage. To save the planet, [we need to] help weavers. I don’t think it is a favour that designers are doing. Sustainability is achieved during the course of production. We want to make products that a power loom cannot make but a handloom can, and vice versa. Both of them are meant for each other.”

Another step towards sustainability is upcycling, says designer Amit Aggarwal, who is known for his environment-friendly initiatives. Upcycling is the process of reusing discarded materials to create a product of higher quality or value than the original. “The brand has always been about sustainable fashion,” he says. “It is only now that more people have taken note of it.”

In his latest collection, Aggarwal uses preowned Patola saris. “We tried to use them alongside industrially recycled materials to create a couture collection,” he says. “The frail Patolas were strengthened with technology to make them usable. I used vintage Indian textiles and am also working on contemporising weaving techniques.”

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