Re­cre­at­ing From Scrap

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Brunch - - FASHION - By Shikha Ku­mar

In­dian de­sign­ers are tak­ing to up­cy­cling; reusing dis­carded ma­te­ri­als for new cre­ations and tak­ing the sus­tain­able fash­ion move­ment a step for­ward

WHEN YOU SPOT A new cre­ation on the run­way, there’s a lot you take in. An in­ven­tive use of lo­cal fab­ric here, in­tri­cate em­broi­dery there. But of­ten, you over­look the process that led to the fin­ished prod­uct. For Delhi-based de­signer Kriti Tula, it’s this process that is the most in­ter­est­ing. When other de­sign­ers are busy sketch­ing out their de­signs, Tula is vis­it­ing the fac­to­ries of ex­port houses, pick­ing up sam­ple strips, re­ject fab­ric, stray but­tons and left­over thread, all pro­duc­tion waste, to put to­gether her next col­lec­tion. “It’s al­most like a puzzle, you sit with each piece and de­cide what you want to do with it,” she says.

Tula is one among a grow­ing tribe of In­dian de­sign­ers who have turned to up­cy­cling – a move­ment that in­volves cre­at­ing some­thing new and of bet­ter value, from ex­ist­ing pieces of cloth­ing or pro­duc­tion waste. A stint with an ex­port house a few years ago ex­posed Tula to godowns full of re­ject fab­ric – pieces had been dis­carded for mis­prints, colour vari­a­tions and stitches gone awry. “It was im­mense waste,” she re­calls. “I re­alised there’s so much avail­able within our sys­tems to work with.” Her three-year-old la­bel, Dood­lage, re­fash­ions patches of dis­carded fab­ric into shirts, jump­suits, dresses, kur­tis and more. “Doo­dles are unique, you don’t re­peat them,” she says of her brand name. “Sim­i­larly ev­ery up­cy­cled piece is unique.”


The up­cy­cle move­ment is very dif­fer­ent from re­cy­cling – the lat­ter refers to re­pur­pos­ing a prod­uct by break­ing it down. Up­cy­cling is also fairly new in In­dia – in­ter­na­tion­ally, brands like Sword & Plough, Loopt­works, Re­for­ma­tion and Ur­ban Re­newal (a line by Ur­ban Out­fit­ters) have found pos­si­bil­i­ties in dis­carded fab­rics. “There are brands that source dam­aged saris from In­dia and Bangladesh, ster­ilise and work on them, and sell them as up­cy­cled pieces,” says Bina Rao, de­signer, and ad­viser to the Min­istry of Tex­tiles.

Up­cy­cling aligns it­self with the slow fash­ion move­ment, in which de­sign­ers es­chew mass pro­duc­tion and make eco-con­scious, eth­i­cal choices. The move­ment has gained mo­men­tum in the past few years, with fash­ion weeks in the coun­try ded­i­cat­ing an en­tire day to sus­tain­able prac­tices.

De­signer Kar­ishma Sha­hani, who started [Ka][Sha] four years ago, was in­tro­duced to up­cy­cling as a fash­ion stu­dent in London, and knew that she wanted to make the prac­tice her main­stay. She’s done an en­tire col­lec­tion from old ba­narasi bor­ders, used veg­etable sacks to cre­ate jack­ets and made flow­ers from waste fab­rics to use as ap­plique on her de­signs. “Last sea­son, I show­cased a denim jacket that was made out of five pairs of jeans,” she says. “I have a ze­rowaste pol­icy, so ev­ery­thing that is left out finds its way into my next col­lec­tion.”


Up­cy­cling isn’t just about see­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties in the dis­carded, but also the dis­re­garded. Of­ten, you own a vintage gar­ment that you refuse to part with, or a handme-down that sig­ni­fies a deep emo­tional con­nect. De­sign­ers are pick­ing up on these nos­tal­gic sen­ti­ments too. Aneeth Arora of Péro started an up­cy­cle off­shoot of her la­bel two years ago, and the in­spi­ra­tion came from home. “I had an old Ralph Lau­ren jacket that I’d rein­vented by sewing on badges, pins and where the but­tons had torn off, I’d added fab­ric. Pho­tog­ra­pher Dayanita Singh saw me in it and asked if I could do some­thing with her old jacket.”

Soon, Arora started procur­ing old denim jack­ets and en­hanc­ing them with em­broi­dery, bead­work, but­tons, ap­plique and patch­work. “Each piece takes time, so I barely man­age about 12 in a year,” she says. De­signer Paromita Ban­er­jee cites the su­jni-kan­tha tech­nique – the quilt­ing in­volves lay­ers of hand-stitched, re­cy­cled saris. “It’s a prime ex­am­ple of an up­cy­cled piece. The phi­los­o­phy is rooted in In­dian men­tal­ity,” she says.

As more de­sign­ers fo­cus on min­imis­ing waste, and cre­at­ing new mem­o­ries from old, up­cy­cling is poised to go big­ger. “Polyester, vel­vet, crepe and other syn­thetic blends are not bio-degrad­able. In such cases, up­cy­cling just makes per­fect sense,” says Rao.


Dood­lage (left) and Péro in­ge­niously use left­over ma­te­rial for their cre­ations


Kar­ishma Sha­hani has wo­ven in re­cy­cled plas­tic in her de­signs

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