2 Indian Designers Participated In One Of The World’s Largest Sustainability Forum | Verve Magazine
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August 11, 2018

2 Indian Designers Participated In One Of The World’s Largest Sustainability Forum

Text by Shubham Ladha

We ask Anuj Sharma of Button Masala and Himanshu Shani of 11.11 / eleven eleven, and curator José Teunissen about their takeaways from the event and why ethical fashion is not just a gimmick

New ideas, innovations and technologies are driving accountability behind fashion today for a healthier future. The State of Fashion 2018 spotlighted all this and more. Organised by Sonsbeek & State of Fashion, a foundation ‘searching for the new luxury’, and curated by José Teunissen, the dean of the School of Design and Technology at the London College of Fashion, this first-of-its-kind, open international event is dedicated to sustainability.

The first edition that ran from June 1 to July 22 in Arnhem, Netherlands, saw 50 fashion designers and houses — including giants like H&M, G-star RAW, Zegna and niche designers like Bruno Pieters, Iris van Herpen and Osklen — unravelling new creative processes and digital plans. Also in attendance were India’s Anuj Sharma of Button Masala and Himanshu Shani of 11.11 / eleven eleven who showcased their sustainable practices through this
novel forum.

Sustaining Sustainability – José Teunissen

“The State of Fashion is a follow up of the former Arnhem Fashion Biennale (2005 – 2013), which showcased the state of the art in the field of fashion. The platform is an urge to change the fashion system. To understand what we were questioning, we developed a manifesto with eight hashtags underlining what luxury means; #imagination, #agency, #essential, #tech, #care, #reuse, #fairness and #nowaste. Through them, we’ve tried to show a new visual language, which expresses the values of the millennial generation. Their environmental awareness makes them conscious consumers. One of the objectives of organising this exhibition was to make people aware of the current difficulties the fashion industry is facing regarding sustainability and show them possible solutions and ways to engage and take control.”

Of Buttons and Rubber Bands – Anuj Sharma of Button Masala

“I applied through the open calls for the event and sent two black cotton dresses I’d made in collaboration with the craftsmen of Khamir, Gujarat – where Button Masala is based. For me, Viktor & Rolf’s RE:CYCLE for Zalando was particularly inspirational. They recycled leftover fabrics from their collections from over the past twenty-five years and the display was a visual treat. Osklen, on the other hand, fascinatingly transformed the skin of Pirarucu and Salmon fishes into leather.

While inspecting how the exhibit — which was taking place in an old, renovated milk factory — was being set up by the volunteers there, I gave them a personal workshop on how I make clothes using buttons and rubber bands, since I carry them with me wherever I go. When they realised that these garments didn’t require any stitching — I use buttons as bolsters for the fabric to be tied around, using rubber bands — within the next few hours, anyone there who could lay their hands on a rubber band or button was wearing Button Masala.”

The Rebirth of Khadi – Himanshu Shani of 11.11 / eleven eleven

“It was thrilling to be able to showcase our work in the same place as Vivienne Westwood. The designer’s custom-made installation featured a hundred printed bags made in Africa from recycled materials. Matti Limattainen’s work presented new business opportunities. His line, called Self-Assembly creates ready-to-assemble garment kits, through which people can construct their clothes by hand. While the process is supposedly meditative for some, it struck me that I could connect him with struggling artists in India who could send the assembled garments to potential buyers.

Elisa Van Joolen also stood out for me. On a large white tarpaulin which became a canvas, she invited viewers to undress, place their clothes on it and draw their outline. She then gave them an interactive exercise of answering questions about the origins of their clothing — who made it, where was it made and what is it made of. Through this artistic exercise, people were able to understand the value of production their clothes underwent.

We were able to highlight our own business model too, which links farmers, weavers and the creators of the garment through a unique process of documenting their work. The reactions to our exhibit were emotional because they never realised that it takes so much to make a garment. During my time there, the entire city of Arnhem was talking about the State of Fashion, which is an indication of how phenomenally well it was planned. It still overwhelms me to think about how so many designers and brands are able to speak the same language of sustainability in such diverse yet impactful ways.”

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