Upasana is a brand which firmly believes that fashion has the power to change lives. They’ve designed special projects and worked closely with various communities across the country. Varanasi Weavers is one such programme launched to support the weaving community in Varanasi. Kapas is another project aimed at helping organic cotton farmers in Madurai. The brand also has a platform called Upasana – The Conscious Fashion Hub where designers, environmentalists, social workers, farmers and students all come together to discuss and find solutions to present day social issues.
India is an agrarian economy with about 70% of its people relying on agriculture as a means of sustenance, directly or indirectly. Despite this, the country witnesses 12,000 farmer suicides every year due to lack of stable income and social security. No Nasties is a brand which aims to change this dismal scenario by being ‘100% organic, 100% fair trade clothing’. They pay fair wages to farmers and also offer them premiums for community development. Unlike many companies, profit comes after people for No Nasties and the team firmly says no to price exploitation and also child labour. They steer clear of genetically modified seeds and synthetic pesticides as well.
House of Wandering Silk
House of Wandering Silk has its studio in New Delhi but works with marginalised women producers and artisans from different countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Laos, Uzbekistan and Cambodia. They use handmade and upcycled materials to create beautiful apparel, accessories and jewellery. The brand does painstaking research to identify craftsmen from diverse and remote places, understands their skills and then designs products based on their needs and aptitude. So their products are never trend-based but they uphold much bigger values like supporting local communities, promoting indigenous crafts and preserving the environment.
Ba No Batwo
‘Reduce, reuse, recycle’ are the three simple words ingrained in the philosophy of Ba No Batwo. Calling itself a modern day rag picker, the brand collects waste such as plastic bottles, discarded clothes, cosmetic containers and everything in between to design and create jewellery, bags, wallets and stationery. Inspired by the sustainable practices observed in the ancient days and with a passion for traditional crafts, Ba No Batwo is constantly looking for ways to redefine fashion by creating beautiful products from waste.
After quitting his finance job in New York, Prateek Kayan moved back to his home city of Kolkata to start his own fashion brand, Brown Boy. Seeing the unethical practices in the fashion supply chain and the amount of waste the industry generated, Kayan decided that Brown Boy would stand for everything that fast fashion did not. For starters, only 100% fair trade certified cotton is used in the making of its products. This ensures that the cotton farmers receive fair wages and the environment doesn’t choke with chemicals. The employees here are, especially, well taken care of. They’re given social security, medical insurance and pension funds and their children also receive free schooling.
Ka-Sha is a brand founded by Pune-based Karishma Shahani-Khan, who is a London College of Fashion graduate. The designer has always found unique ways of creating beautiful garments and accessories out of scraps and objects usually considered waste by many. For instance, she once used onion sacks and combined them with wool and ribbons to create a different fabric. She also found a way to convert plastic bags into jackets and a salvaged an old chandelier to make jewellery out of it. The brand’s Heart to Haat project ensures that they’re always coming up with innovative ideas for waste management.
Ethicus is a sustainable fashion brand launched to tackle the problems faced by cotton farmers and traditional artisans and to help them get their due, which is something that most fast fashion companies fail to do today. The company believes in inclusive growth and measures their success not just by the profits but also by the improvement in the standard of living of its employees, right from the farmers to the weavers and designers. Each Ethicus product carries a tag with the name and picture of the weaver along with the number of days he or she took to finish the final product.
11.11/eleven eleven is one of the few brands making dedicated attempts at promoting khadi (handwoven natural fabric from the subcontinent). This humble fabric is often ignored for being unfashionable but, thanks to brands like 11.11/eleven eleven, the concept of ‘luxurious khadi’ is now gaining ground. The brand makes high fashion products that are completely handmade and dyed naturally using colours extracted from barks, petals and leaves. They use indigenous fabrics like khadi and kala cotton from Kutch in Gujarat and employ local artisans skilled in crafts like block printing and mirror work.
Armed with the mission to create zero waste, Doodlage makes use of left-over and discarded fabrics from large manufacturers instead of letting them end up in a landfill somewhere. They also use eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, corn and banana fabric for their products. The brand constantly collaborates with other like-minded organisations for special projects, including one with an NGO called Goonj. They share excess fabrics from previous collections and the NGO creates reusable sanitary napkins out of them for women in rural areas. Doodlage has proved that with a bit of creativity and conscience, fashion can support both the environment and the local communities.
Paromita Banerjee, a Kolkata based fashion designer, is a passionate advocate of handloom products. She believes that the small flaws created by human hands during the weaving process are what give these handloom fabrics character and what set them apart from machine made clothes which all look alike. Banerjee has been working with several weaving clusters from different parts of India for years, helping them generate steady livelihood. She received the ‘Green Thimble’ for cco-chic clothing at the 2011 Grazia Young Fashion Awards.