Bengaluru-based NorthMist produces ethical and sustainable menswear using organic cotton, and enables customers to give back to the environment while they shop.
Do you know where your clothes come from? Or what is it made of, and if it is environment-friendly? While many of us may not have answers to this, a growing number of consumers are now becoming increasingly conscious of what they are wearing. Even brands are looking to go the sustainable way by using organic materials to make clothing.
Following this trend, NorthMist was launched by Smrity Gupta (26) and Arijit Mazumdar (29) in March 2018. It is an eco-friendly brand that manufactures sustainable and ethical menswear from pesticide-free organic cotton.
The founders say that its products - from seed to stitch - are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified.
“With every NorthMist t-shirt, we save 435 litres or 1,750 glasses of water,” says Arijit.
The company manufactures organic men’s top wear (round neck t-shirts, Polo t-shirts, and full sleeve t-shirts), and sells them across India.
NorthMist has already launched two collections, and is preparing to launch its third one this summer.
“We always have this one friend in a group who switches off the lights in a room and insists on not wasting food. I have always been that friend,” says Arijit, who calls himself an environmentalist.
After working as a System Engineer at Infosys, Arijit joined Artificia, an AI-based platform, as the Head of Business Development. It is here that he met Smrity, an NIFT alumni, who was working as a fashion curator.
The two of them got together to create their own brand and start a business that would give back to the nature. At present, NorthMist is a team of five.
Talking about his journey, Arijit, who hails from Rourkela, says he used to accompany his father to his shop, and helped him with photocopies, selling SIM cards and stationary. This got him interested in sales and marketing.
Arijit is responsible for marketing, sales, and operations at NorthMist, and Smrity takes care of the design and branding.
Before setting up the company, the founders did an online research to understand the colours better and “design timeless and essential fashion,” they say.
Taking the green route, NorthMist has tied up with a manufacturing unit in Tirupur, which sources organic and pesticide-free cotton from Gujarat and Maharashtra.
“We trace the cotton from seed to skin. Every lot of cotton comes with a transaction certificate, ensuring it is grown fairly, with a minimal carbon footprint - without the use of toxic pesticides, fertilisers, and GMOs,” says Arijit.
After the cotton is spun into thread, they are dyed using natural colouring substances.
“We do not use harmful substances like Azo in our products,” he adds.
After a shirt is stitched, it is sent to the warehouse in Bengaluru. The brand has also replaced shiny plastic buttons with wooden ones that is sourced from Ahmadabad.
At present, NorthMist sells its products on Shopify, and its products are also listed on ecommerce sites such as Flipkart, Amazon, Rooted Objects, and TheBetterIndia Shop.
Apart from the product itself, NorthMist also adopts eco-friendly packaging solutions.
“Once an order is received, it is wrapped in butter paper and packed in a recycled paper box,” says Arijit.
The company has roped in Delhivery and FedEx as its delivery partners.
The founders say packaging was initially a challenge for the company. With a focus on building an online brand, they had to ensure the packaging was suitable for shipping. “The paper boxes we are using is not just sturdy and stable for online shipping, but also decomposable,” he adds.
The sustainable market
According to Statista, the Indian apparel market is projected to grow to $180 billion by 2025 from $15 billion in 2015, at a CAGR of 12 percent.
Ethical fashion is also becoming popular than ever before. Brands are increasingly becoming transparent in their use of fabrics and the manufacturing process.
Some of the well-known brands in the sustainable fashion sector include Nicobar by Good Earth, Shift by Nimish Shah, Ka Sha by Karishma Shahani, and Grassroot by Anita Dongre. However, these designer brands essentially focus on women wear. The ethical brands focusing on menswear are Boheco and Brown Boy.
According to the founders, what sets bootstrapped brand NorthMist apart from a Boheco or Brown Boy is its price range and target audience. The former focuses on solid designs for the working class, while the latter two are essentially creating looks for the younger crowd.
Moreover, while Boheco uses hemp as its material, NorthMist is using organic cotton,which is readily available in India.
A NorthMist t-shirt is priced in the range of Rs 799 and Rs 1,199, and its average cart size is Rs 1,000 with a 15 percent repeat rate.
The founders had initially invested Rs 3 lakh in their business, and have also raised an undisclosed amount from real estate investor Prashant Kumar Jaiswal.
NorthMist has organised pop-ups at WeWork co-working place in Bengaluru and Mumbai, Co-Works Bengaluru and Innov8. The company is also looking to close partnerships with co-working spaces. It is also tying up with cafeterias in Bengaluru to sell its products offline.
The brand is now working to solve problems such as antibacterial, wrinkle-free, and sweat-proof clothing, without using any harmful chemicals, and also design clothes for women and children. The company is further looking into sustainable fabrics like recycled fibre, Alpaca wool, and tencel to further solve the existing problems of the society.