This is how a 22-year-old uses plastic to create recycled garments

Sara Lakhani from Nagpur uses nature and sustainability at the core of her designs. She was recently selected to showcase her collection at the Lakme Fashion Week, held in Mumbai this year.

This is how a 22-year-old uses plastic to create recycled garments

Monday November 21, 2022,

4 min Read

Plastic has been an integral part of human life and as much as we try, it can be difficult to eliminate it from our everyday life. With the intent to shorten single-use plastic’s journey to the landfill, Sara Lakhani a 22-year-old designer came up with a unique concept. With nature at its core, her collection is based on recycling and upcycling waste in both textile and plastic.

This concept brought her all the way to the rampwalks of Lakme Fashion Week this year, where she presented this collection entitled Trash or Treasure.

The Lakmé Fashion Week for Week International (GFWi) was conducted in collaboration with FDCI, Pearl Academy and Graduate Fashion Foundation where they welcomed students from premier global fashion schools across the country.

“The inspiration comes from the simple and complex details of nature around us. The collection is for the conscious consumer,” Sara tells SocialStory.

lakme fashion week

Sara's collection presented at the Lakme Fashion Week

Through this project, she hopes to bring about a change in how waste is perceived and how the rest of the world can be a part of the solution. For instance, the negative Kantha embroidery used in the collection uses all waste polythene bags and the fabrics are recycled and handwoven textile waste. With the collection, her goal was to create a line that was versatile enough to be worn by anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.

The collection features Kantha embroidery. It is a centuries-old tradition of stitching patchwork cloth from rags. The shape is formed by looping threads on one surface only, so the reverse side of the fabric remains a simple kantha of straight, running stitch, while the front side is a complex geometric pattern.

“My collection was mostly of corsets and dresses, lots of simpler tops and bottoms, which were also made out of recycled yarns,” she says, explaining that all it uses fabric and clothing waste that goes to dump yards to be re-converted into different, new fabrics.

Finding inspiration at home

Sara hails from a small town near Nagpur where her family runs a pharmacy. As a result, she has witnessed the amount of plastic generated by the pharmaceutical industry.

“It’s difficult for us to discard that waste in such a small place. Because there are no such organisations or people in my area who are either reusing the plastic that's been generated or do something about it…it causes more harm to the environment,” she explains.

When it came to picking a theme for her final year project as a fashion student at Pearl Academy, there wasn’t a need to look elsewhere. Soon, she began looking into how much plastic has been generated in India and the different ways people recycle it.

“That was the starting point for me and I understood that there's something that needs to be done about the plastics being thrown away. So I got in touch with a lot of plastic recyclers in Mumbai, Gujarat, and Rajasthan, and collected a lot of plastic waste from them.”

After a lot of trial and error on embroidery and weaving methods, besides figuring out how to use plastics in the project, she chose to use the negative Kantha embroidery.

Sara Lakhani

Sara's design in detail

In the beginning, Sara took all the plastic that she had, particularly the plastic bags and medicine blister packets to begin her work. “I made threads out of plastic bags that I had at home. I just started stitching it… trying all kinds of embroideries and knots. After a point I realised that the embroidery stitches and methods that working for me when I'm trying to use the plastic bags that I have at home,” she says

She went ahead and spoke to different embroiderers in Mumbai and in Gujarat about what she had in mind and what she wants from them.

Initially, all the embroiderers she approached rejected her idea saying they cannot do it. “It's a long process and needs manpower. Usually, embroiderers are used to having threads that are very easy to work with,” she explains. Her process was much more intensive—requiring intervention from cutting the plastic to making them into threads fit for embroidering.

She then got in touch with an embroiderer in Mumbai who was willing to assist in the project. To Sara, this was challenging, but she found it to be a collaborative process.

Currently, as a junior designer at a menswear collection brand, Mufti, Sara is looking to gain experience, work with industry experts, and eventually launch her own brand.

Edited by Akanksha Sarma