From button to thread, every piece of clothing from this woman entrepreneur is fully compostable
The textile and apparel industry is considered to be one of the biggest contributors to world pollution. Chemical dyes, bleaches, plastic-infused fabrics, synthetic materials, and more cause water pollution and affect soil toxicity, while landfills are stuffed with discarded clothing. Fast fashion has been accused of degrading the environment and causing harm to animals and the ecosystem.
Troubled by these horrors in the fashion industry, Hitesha Deshpande and her mentee Himanshu Kulhari set out to create a fashion brand that causes no harm to the environment.
The need for compostable clothing
Hitesha and Himanshu, both ardent animal lovers, were looking for animal-inspired clothing online one day. They couldn’t find anything suitable for adults except traditional animal prints.
The search led them to the idea of creating a fashion label for animal lovers. Their initial idea was to create a clothing line and send the proceeds to an animal sanctuary. However, their journey to explore fabric that does not cause harm to animals (or their ecosystem) led them to confront the horrors of the environmental damage caused by the fashion industry.
Being aware of these issues, they repurposed the fashion label to create clothing that would not destroy the environment that is home to animals and humans. After two years of research and experiment, they created PECKD, a fully compostable fashion label.
Hitesha tells HerStory that they wanted to create clothing that did not make one choose between style and the planet.
“Can you still be a part of the enchanting world of fashion, knowing that the very dress or shirt you wear has killed marine life, polluted fresh water, and drastically impacted natural resources? If you have a conscience, the answer to this question becomes more and more difficult each day. Until one day you get fed up and scream – why must I choose? Why should it be either fashion or the planet and the ecosystem? Why can’t it be both? Why can’t fashion be created in a way that it does not pollute and destroy,” she asks.
The only way to deal with the dilemma was to produce clothing that was eco-friendly and compostable.
Based in Gurugram, PECKD uses only natural fabrics that are made from vegetable and tree pulp, fruits and flowers, in order to be compostable. It does not use plastic, rubber or metal and even the buttons on the outfit are compostable. It claims to be the first label of its kind in India that decomposes completely. Everything from the button to the thread decomposes within a few months when buried in moist soil. It uses no chemical dyes to prevent contamination of groundwater and soil.
PECKD launched its maiden collection Delta and Dawn in October 2019. It is named after two famous humpback whales.
Challenges of being all-natural
Hitesha is a serial entrepreneur with over 10 years of experience of running her digital marketing strategy firm, Finding ENKI. Though she is a graduate of criminal psychology, she has been pursuing her creative flair with a second venture, Niraksh Films, a production house that she co-founded with Himanshu.
PECKD is their second venture together, however the experience hasn’t been without its share of difficulties.
From fabric to thread, everything they source has to be compostable. The thread that they use is made of compostable yarn, which increases the complexity of stitching the fabric, unlike polyester and nylon threads. Regular machine needles can’t handle the thread and they have to use specific needles and double stitch garments in order to not compromise on the quality.
The other challenge is to create designs that work without the use of zippers, as zippers are made of metal or plastic. Their research team is currently experimenting with bamboo zippers.
The bootstrapped brand faced challenges even in sourcing the right fabrics as manufacturers refused to provide small quantities to experiment. Another challenge was to create a team of designers, pattern cutters, and masters that can understand the challenges of working with the restrictions of compostable fabrics and accessories.
Even before its launch, the label was on the verge of a shutdown when finances were running low and personal health issues pulled Hitesha away from the brand. They had to delay the launch as the collection was not ready and they were leaking money without adding anything to the pool. However, Hitesha was at the helm soldiering on and keeping up the morale of the team.
“When you constantly keep hearing ‘yeh to nahi ho payega’ (this is not possible), but refuse to compromise; when you burn all your investments in research and experiment only to fail once more; when you stitch garment after garment only to reject it in QC, and when you are finally down to your last penny wondering how to make ends meet, it is extremely difficult to not give up,” says Hitesha.
She knew that as a founder of the company, boosting the morale of the team and convincing them that the idea is going to work was her responsibility.
“When your heart is in the right place, nothing is impossible,” she adds.
More innovations and designs
In the three months since its launch, PECKD has clocked in 63 orders. It is coming up with a new collection, ‘Frilled Dragon’, in April, followed by its first men’s collection in late May 2020.
To be more eco-conscious, its research team is exploring more options like colourless dyeing and different technologies that can bring more sustainable fashion to more audiences.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)
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