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August 16, 2019

6 Off-beat Indian Brands Committed To The Art Of Upcycling

Text bu Rushmika Banerjee

Akanksha Kaila Akashi of Refash, a platform for upcycled brands, shares the ethos behind creating contemporary fashion from textile waste.

Last month, the Swedish Fashion Council announced that they are cancelling Stockholm Fashion Week, which was due to begin in the last week of August. As the fashion industry is moving forward together to achieve future sustainable goals, the Swedish council believes that the traditional fashion week format ‘faces major challenges to meet the demands for sustainability, innovation, relevance and timing’. There are a lot of lessons that one can take from this bold move, which comes a month in advance of a homegrown fashion week that also focuses extensively on sustainability. It is inspiring to see an international council being concerned about the lasting effects of the fashion industry on the environment. Closer to home, there a few champions of change who don’t believe in contributing to the cluttered clothing industry, and want to highlight the importance of recreating from products that are already in the system.

When 29-year-old Akanksha Kaila Akashi stumbled upon the process of upcycling at a workshop, she realised how easy it was to re-love discarded garments and the concept of Refash was born. Akashi recalls, “After researching about the brands and designers who are creating upcycled products, I realised that there already numerous brands who are creating products out of waste. What the upcycling industry lacked was a singular platform that brings all of them together and gives it the momentum of a movement.” A multi-brand retail concept that sells both online through its website and offline through pop-up events, Refash aims to be the singular destination where one can get all information related to upcycling – right from what the term means and the events centered on upcycling to brands that create such products and DIY videos to practice this at home. “It is not just a brand, it is a movement – a movement that encourages people to change their consumption habits.”

There is a lot of online and on-ground research that helps them identify brands that have been dabbling in this space. “There are some labels that are almost 20 years old creating products out of waste and have never even used the term upcycling for it. Our first interaction with each brand helps us understand their story, their process, their products and who is behind it all. This step is crucial to understand a brand’s value system, which in turn, helps us to collaborate with them in different ways and reach a larger audience.” As a consumer, however, it is a bit conflicting to invest in product that has been made out waste products – a concern that is a major challenge for this platform as well. “It is because of the perceived value of the product. Although the products are made with pre-loved, discarded materials, the process – right from the collection, segregation, cleaning, washing, designing and manufacturing – is so different from a conventional brand that it cannot be standardised, like in the case of a fast fashion brand. Hence, the final product becomes expensive. Once the consumer understands the process behind the pieces, they are more convinced about buying them.” Here are a few off-beat Indian labels that practice the art of upcycling.

Pomogrenade

A Bengaluru-based ethical fashion brand that focuses on creating garments for all body types. And it shows as well. Just go to their website, and you see women and men on the streets – girls like you and me – wearing their clothes and accessories. Check out their line of upcycled kimonos made from patching together surplus fabric from Ants Crafts – a public charitable trust.

RaasLeela

A Gujarat-based label that works with an all-women artisans team and uses kora cotton to create breathable, comfortable and timeless clothing. They aim to build on the concept of the Indian capsule wardrobe. Celebrating irregularities and imperfections, their 100 per cent handstitched products use the smallest remnants from their atelier to the leftovers from stores and manufacturing units to leave no waste behind.

Swavlambi

Project Swavlambi is a non-profit organisation that works with women of local communities in Vadodra, Gujarat. They create multifunctional bags and accessories out of fabric waste, as well as empower women by providing soft skills training such as speaking English, health and hygiene guidance and financial management knowledge.

The Second Life

A product development project started by Studio ABCD in Bengaluru, The Second Life creates stationery, gifting and utility products that are made from discarded materials such as old newspapers, discarded tyre tubes, discarded paper margins from printing presses, film and political posters, paper boards, waste coffee grounds and recycled felt.

Patch over Patch

A sustainable fashion brand based out of Surat that uses post-production waste to create upcycled clothing for women through different patchwork techniques.

Real State

Real State is a sustainable jewellery brand that uses discarded marble to create one-of-a-kind, artisanal   jewellery pieces by combining them with precious metals such as silver.

You can check out Refash’s latest curated exhibit at Teatro Dhora, Bandra West on till 16th Aug 2019

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