Exclusive: Meet This Season’s FDCI X LFW Circular Design Challenge Finalists | Verve Magazine
India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
March 15, 2021

Exclusive: Meet This Season’s FDCI X LFW Circular Design Challenge Finalists

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

Currently in its third year, the Circular Design Challenge is fast becoming the platform of choice for conscious designers to present sustainable creations that are rooted in the “reduce-reuse-recycle” principles of circular fashion. We speak to this year’s six finalists about their brands and processes

“The fashion industry is a key economic sector and is also one of the biggest polluting industries globally. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is advocating solutions to advance towards a sustainable and more circular textile value chain through capacity building, knowledge products and policy recommendations,” – Atul Bagai, Head – Country Office UNEP, India.

On probing deeper into the sustainability aspect of the fashion industry, circular fashion appears to be the new benchmark against which brands are measuring their conscientiousness. A concept aimed at protecting the environment from further damage caused by linear fast fashion cycles, circular fashion is all about increasing the lifespan and reusability of garments, right from the sourcing of fibre and yarn to the design, production, transportation, marketing and sale – including the way the consumer uses them and how they exist post-use.

Malai won the last edition of the Circular Design Challenge
Photographed by Joshua Navalkar

Presented by R|Elan Fashion For Earth in partnership with UNEP, the Circular Design Challenge is an innovative venture that is looking to promote and nurture conscious up-and-coming brands by providing them with a platform to present designs that are rooted in the principles of circularity in fashion. “Since its inception in 2019, the Circular Design Challenge has introduced and nurtured game-changing fashion entrepreneurs in the Indian fashion and textile industry. With the upcoming 3.0 edition as well, the platform will aim to mentor shortlisted entrepreneurs and go on to provide the winning participant the desired exposure and access to business opportunities,” says Jaspreet Chandok, Head – Lifestyle Businesses, Rise Worldwide.

Six finalists – Nece Gene, Grandma Would Approve, LataSita, Bandit, Paiwand and Tote Scarf by Astu Eco – will be mentored in design by Karishma Shahani, founder and creative director at Ka-Sha, on how to pitch and present their collections to a panel of judges consisting of UNEP representatives, veteran designers, international organisations championing circularity and prominent media personalities. The winner will be announced on March 18, Day 2 of FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week (also celebrated as Sustainable Day) and receive a cash prize of rupees 20 lakhs to further their research. In addition to gaining valuable industry exposure and relationships, they will also have the opportunity to showcase their collection at the next Fashion Week. “CDC is a one-of-its-kind platform in the world that focuses on circular economy in textiles, apparel and accessories. We are proud that the platform has empowered so much talent over the past three years, and we look forward to witnessing more such sustainable, scalable, circular concepts that the Season 3 finalists will showcase,” said Vipul Shah, COO – Petrochemicals Business, Reliance Industries Ltd.

Verve gives you an exclusive look into the creations of this year’s finalists and takes you through the circular practices they follow….

Nece Gene

Bengaluru-based designer Neha Celly uses denim waste to create three-dimensional ensembles inspired by various terrains like swamps, hills, wetlands and estuaries for the collection that she will present on March 18.


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A post shared by n e c e g e n e (@nece.gene)

Designer speak: “We’ve collaborated with Arvind Mills to use their discards, which we segregate according to colour and weight. Small yardage bits get converted into eco furs, from where our couture is born. The waste from here gets rewoven into a new fabric, and we additionally incorporate old newspapers, wrappers and different coloured denim strips into it. We then use this textile to make accessories like bags, cushions and wall hangings. Some of the cutting waste is used to make hard bricks; we call it the “DeBrick”, and it is constructed using compressed denim waste and minimal bio-epoxy. As of now, we’ve designed a DeBrick stool and some beautiful pendants using the material. In the end, we’re left with tiny scraps and fibres, which are all mashed into a pulp to make tree-free denim paper.” 

Grandma Would Approve

Bengaluru-based Priyanka Muniyappa has a penchant for hunting down vintage garments and adding on to the layers of memories they bear by redesigning them into new shapes and forms.

Designer speak: “We begin with procuring the product, which is through warehouse owners, vendors, family, friends, hand-me-downs and our own travels. Then, it is sent to our vendor for washing and disinfecting, using natural extracts of plants. I pick out a combination of fabrics, clear my mind, tune in, wait for the fabric to tell me what it wants to be and make my sketches. Once that’s done, my pattern master and I start working on the life-size pattern. I draw it out, remove the stitches and iron it out to see how much fabric we have. I do this for all the garments. Then we start assigning numbers to the fabrics and plan out how to attach them to form the panels. From a distance, these panels look like a print, but as you come closer, you will see that they have all been created through individually cut fabric. Each reconstructed garment has a minimum of 60 to 100 panels; it’s labour intensive and it takes about 6 to 7 days for one reconstructed garment to get completed. We made the FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week collection using 75 old garments.”


Kolkata-based Meghna Nayak’s designs emerge from her desire to give old, unused and discarded post-consumer waste materials a second lease of life by reimagining them as high quality, multi-functional, size-inclusive heirloom creations.


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A post shared by LataSita (@latasita)

Designer speak: “The textile waste out there is diverse and overwhelming, and most of it isn’t particularly aesthetic. At LataSita, we have created solutions to highlighting the diversity of heritage garments as well as industrial and post-consumer waste and the possibilities of reimagining them. Our signature pieces combine handloom with heirloom, with around four to eight layers of waste fabric sourced from different places sandwiched in between. Thanks to its distinct lack of patchwork aesthetic, our ‘outer shell’ maintains the integrity of the original fabric, keeping the best pieces outside. This allows the garment to not look ‘obviously’ upcycled. Our heirloom Benarasi trench coat, which is layered with everything from curtains to puja pandals, is a great example of this.”


Noida-based Ashita Singhal runs the studio that creates high-quality garments using upcycled textile waste and also collaborates with design houses to find solutions for their textile waste. It is known for its zero-waste handloom weaving and handcrafted techniques.


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A post shared by Paiwand (@paiwandstudio)

Designer speak: “Paiwand follows a comprehensive process of upcycling. We source fabric waste from fashion brands, and it is cleaned and sorted according to colours and fibres. The scrap material is cut into strips and woven into a new fabric on a handloom, which is then used to create meaningful products and garments.”


Goa-based Satyajit Vetoskar employs used artist canvases, repurposed sails, waste vinyl flex from printed billboards and waste tarpaulin to create functional and durable backpacks, slings, totes, laptop sleeves and fanny packs.


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A post shared by banditbags (@banditimes)

Designer speak: “Our first step is to source the materials from various factories and agencies; they are then cleaned using various eco-friendly processes. The patterns are marked carefully to ensure minimum wastage, and any leftover material is later reused for smaller applications. We are currently working on making the inner lining of the bags from waste cotton fabric and used seat belts. Once the consumer has used a Bandit bag to its maximum, we encourage them to send the bags back to us so that we can repurpose the fabrics into smaller items.

Tote Scarf by Astu Eco

Bengaluru-based Anitha Shankar, whose sustainable firm provides earth-friendly alternatives for single-use plastics, offers consumers a unique option with the Tote Scarf. It is essentially a scarf that is durable enough to double up as a load-bearing tote made of GRS-certified 100-per-cent recycled PET yarn.


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A post shared by Lakmé Fashion Week (@lakmefashionwk)

Designer speak: “After two years of searching persistently for recyclable PET fabric manufacturers who would support a start-up, we finally found a GRS-certified RPET fabric manufacturer who could provide us with a regular supply of the kind of quality we were looking for since our product is so unique. A scarf that turns into a tote for those who want to shop sustainably but always forget to carry their own bags – how many manufacturers could actually provide a solution to help us address this problem? By 2030, we aim to recycle 97 million PET bottles and also prevent 2.2 billion single-use bags from entering landfills.”

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