Aura Herbal is turning organic clothing into a conscious fashion choice
Do you still remember those nylon, bright-colored leotards, polyester trousers, metallic yarn tops and leisure suits popularized by the 70’s disco and aerobics craze? Those days have faded, but the synthetic fabrics are still renewing and rotating from time to time in and out of the fashion industry. Yet, as public awareness of health and consciousness grows, cotton and natural fibers are replacing polyester and other synthetic fibers as the fabric of choice: now, the new expanding trend is organic clothing.
Concern over high use of insecticides and pesticides in cotton farming and other natural fibers has given rise to demand for organic cottons and garments free of these and other poisons and carcinogens. It was committed to promoting a sustainable, eco-friendly life, that Aura Herbal Textiles (AHTL) arose in 2001, developing their own process of manufacturing natural textiles and dyes, sourcing herbs and other raw materials through made-to-order contracts with farmers in Madhya Pradesh and South India.
“The first experience of being an industrial waste recycling firm, it made me realize that recycling wasn’t the only solution. Our knowledge of the harmful chemicals disposed in reverse bores and river streams, ruining water used by hundreds of families, made us determined to produce something which could have positive impact to our environment and society. Then, I was introduced to ancient dyeing techniques used in India for centuries, which was hand processed, and it inspired me to spread the organic concept and create a manufacturing & dyeing company”, says Sonal Baid, director of Aura along with her husband, Arun.
In the beginning of 2012, they opened the first exclusive showroom in Ahmedabad, announcing the launch of the Aura brand of organic herbal range of apparels and accessories: the Aura Herbal Wear, which designs t-shirts, shirts, scarves, Yoga apparels, eco bags, fabrics, undergarments and SPA products. While supplying its herbal textiles to global brands like Levi’s and Esprit, Aura has also launched a B2C retail business and expect to open another 5 to 6 exclusive showrooms across India.
Incubated in the Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad, Aura’s core competency is the “herbal dyeing” process, which makes its textiles right from growing cotton to the finished product completely organic and chemical dye free. Medicinally rich herbs are used for different textile processes and are important ingredients of their products. “Through our innovative method of producing herbal textiles and dyes, we want our business to help in impeding pollution and harm caused by regularly dyed textiles. We see a future where every user may enthusiastically choose herbal dyed fabric without compromising on design, quantity or quality”, says Sonal.
Having started with capacity of around two thousand pieces a day and then expanded to over five thousand, the firm has already automated its processes and is doubling its capacity to ten thousand pieces a day. Aura employs around 80 people, divided in production, marketing and sales departments. “The team is constantly working towards development and improvising techniques as well creating new ones. We love to challenge ourselves by adding varieties to our spectrum of fabrics and products, constantly bringing in innovations in our dyeing methods, new colors, processes, production time reductions and new applications”.
The company was seed funded by GVFL Limited, a state government promoted venture capital fund. Aura holds a USA and India patent for herbal dying using medicinally rich herbs and has up to five certifications, including Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), a leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibers worldwide. With over 500 clients spread in Europe, USA, Australia and Asia, they have partnered with the Taj Spa Hotels, supplying their entire bath range spa collection and home textiles.
Choosing organic fabrics
Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have low impact on the environment and in are in accordance with organic agriculture standards: this production system replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture, besides using 50 percent less energy than conventional farming. Its featured benefits are: reducing exposure to allergies and other irritants; gives a soft, comfortable feeling to the body skin; emanates lower carbon footprint; organic cotton plants produce longer-stable cotton fibers and more durable fabrics; quality of clothing is also substantially higher.
The process of Aura’s herbal dyeing was developed through extensive research on age-old Ayurvedic dyeing methods practiced since the days of the Indus Valley civilization. It starts with the gray cloth passing through several stages of treatment before it becomes colorful and ready to wear. During this entire treatment, only natural processes are used and they ensure no waste is generated – all the solid and liquid waste is used for irrigating their farms. “The core concept of growing organic cotton is to eliminate the impact of harmful chemicals and pesticides, which cannot be accomplished if chemical dyes are used at a later stage in further treatment of organic fabric”, informs Sonal.
Organic products are finding a worldwide market growth. According to The Economist, the Organic Exchange, NGO dedicated to encouraging the expansion of organic agriculture, estimates that organic cotton market will reach revenues of $ 2.6 billion by 2008, primarily due to the growth of consumers demand for organic clothing. Sonal celebrates: “We have customers coming up to us saying ‘I still have a shirt bought from you some years ago and it’s my favorite’, or ‘It’s the most comfortable clothing and I have converted to organic’. At Aura, our only dream is to offer options to each and every user to choose an herbal dyed textile over a chemical dyed one, with no limitations”.