Four fashion brands that are blending environment and livelihoods
The fashion industry is waking up to concepts like ‘eco-friendly’, ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’. But more importantly, they are working closely with rural communities to provide sustainable livelihoods and revive the dying textiles and art. Here’s our pick of four brands that are making the world better, one sale at a time.
Signifying ‘true essence of earth’, this fair trade, ethical clothing brand indeed has its heart in the right place. Started in Ahmedabad by Ecopreneur Jainam Kumarpal, the idea behind Bhu:sattva began with encouraging farmers to turn completely organic. Their produce (mainly cotton) is purchased by Bhu:sattva providing them a sustainable livelihood.
The company uses a range of interesting textiles to design its collections – hemp, which is often dubbed as ‘the greenest textile’; bamboo fabric, which is touted to be the ‘most sustainable fabric’; Ahimsa silk, which is made from Eri and Tassar moth cocoons by allowing the moths to hatch; soya bean fibre; and clothing infused with aloe vera. It uses organic vegetables and natural dyes from beetroot, turmeric, catechu, teak tree leaves, kesu flowers, and the likes. Local women artisans then indulge in painting, embroidery, and block printing – all with their hands making each finished piece a masterpiece worth owning.
“Try on a shirt
Try saving the tiger
Slip into a skirt
Slip farmers out of debt…
Snuggle up in a quilt
Dream of a greener tomorrow”
A ‘Farm to Fashion’ initiative started by husband-wife duo Mani Chinnaswamy and Vijayalakshmi Nachiar in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu, Ethicus is India’s first cotton contract farming model claiming to grow country’s finest organic cotton. Launched in 2009, they have 42 handlooms that use innovative weaves and techniques to create pieces, each of which is worth buying. What sets the brand apart is that every final product carries the name of the designer and the weaver along with their photos – thereby connecting everyone in the value chain, from the farmer, right up to the end consumer.
‘Two bicycle riding, frisbee tossing, yoga posing, organic farming, Auroville dreaming, Mumbai residents who (try to) do no nasty’ started No Nasties in 2011 – a company that sells organic t-shirts.
Started by Apurva Kothari and Diti who wanted to provide customers with both sustainable clothing and sensible ‘couture designs’, No Nasties is contributing towards tackling the grave issue of farmer suicides in India by creating a market for organic cotton. The company says that one farmer commits suicide in our country every 30 minutes – such is the burden of debt. But when consumers switch to organic clothing and create a market for the same, this heart-breaking phenomenon can be improved.
Banning the usage of GMO seeds, synthetic pesticides and adopting to ethical and fair labour practices, No Nasties is definitely doing its bit to create a better planet!
Upasana Design Studio
Fashion has the power to change the world. Give it a chance.
After tsunami hit India, Uma Prajapati started the Tsunamika project in 2005 – a trauma counselling effort for the fisherwomen who used industrial raw waste to create tiny dolls called Tsunamika. Over five million dolls have been made and sent to more than 80 countries as a popular symbol of hope. Upasana creates fashion in appealing design while being environmentally conscious. Their other initiatives are:
- Janaki: Products are made of organic cotton, khadi, and handloom with an aim to connect luxury to grass root.
- Paruthi: A line of clothing that attempts to promote fragile cotton communities of Tamil Nadu.
- Small Steps: For a big change. Women of 14 villages in Tamil Nadu come together to create cloth bags to encourage a new way of living – one that is away from plastic.
- Varanasi Weavers: Over the last few decades, 85 per cent of weavers have moved on to pursue other livelihood options. The project is an empowerment programme for women that is helping them rediscover their pride and find new livelihood. In 2006, Upasana partnered with Bestseller Fund and created 13,000 silk scarves as a New Year gift.
Upasana is based in Auroville, Tamil Nadu – a place that ‘belongs to humanity as a whole.’
While we curate our next list of favourite brands, go ahead and start embracing these brands that are redefining fashion ethically and sustainably.