Cover story: Bollywood star Alia Bhatt on giving back to nature with her kidswear label, Ed-a-Mamma
They say great things come in small packages. If there’s anybody in Bollywood at this moment who fits the phrase perfectly, that has to be Alia Bhatt. This petite, calm and composed 27-year-old bundle of raw talent, who refused to be launched by her illustrious filmmaker father, Mahesh Bhatt, debuted in Karan Johar’s Student of the Year (2012) and has since given some stellar performances in several commercially successful films including Highway, Udta Punjab, Dear Zindagi, Kapoor & Sons, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania, Raazi and Gully Boy, and most recently, Kalank and Sadak 2.
But Alia has not confined her skills or talent to acting alone. Just like a tree, that branches out in several directions, or a bird, which takes uncharted flights to unknown territories, Alia has spread her wings to explore herself beyond being an actor. A passionate nature lover since her childhood, Alia is known for her passion towards conservation of nature, love for animals and children among her close circle of friends and family.
In fact, her concern for the environment runs so deep, that she was perhaps the first and only Bollywood star to have started a closet sharing initiative called Mi Wardrobe es Su Wardrobe (MiSu), which has gained momentum among the young and conscious millennial actors of repute.
The unprecedented success with MiSu has led Alia to come up with a responsible home-grown and sustainable kidswear label, Ed-a-Mamma, that too, during one of the toughest times of our lives — the pandemic-induced global lockdown.
On the occasion of our second anniversary, the graceful actor who is busy wrapping up her pending film shoots, talked to us exclusively and extensively about her beautifully conceived responsible fashion line, her own fashion choices, how she influences the sartorial choices of her co-actors through MiSu, why she turned into a vegetarian and the way forward for her fashion venture. Excerpts:
The lockdown must have dawned upon you a lot of realisations and brought you even closer to nature since it made us pause. Tell us how you tackled it and what are your thoughts?
The lockdown gave me pause for sure. More than ever, it made me realise what a time of great uncertainty it is, for the whole world. The universe is sending us a message — that if we mess with nature, there is a price we all shall have to pay. If there is a way in which we can coexist with nature, we should definitely include that way in our lifestyle to show that we care for nature in everything we do. That would go a long, long way.
I was already working on building an IP (intellectual property) around a little girl and her dog going on awesome adventures to save the planet from ecological harm and destruction. My core idea behind these fun and adventure stories was to plant and nurture in children a deep love of nature. I have always strongly felt that it is much-needed and very relevant in the current context. So, I decided to expand it into a universe of products for children, and not just the stories.
So, Ed-a-Mamma was a result of this thought process and realisations?
Ed-a-Mamma has been in the making for two years. As I mentioned earlier, I had been working on creating a series of stories rooted in conservations around protecting our planet from preventable hazards. Given that there was a clear gap in the market when it came to a world-class children’s brand, our first launch was a range of conscious clothing for kids combining the two things I love the most — our planet and children. We were actually planning to launch earlier in the year, but then the country and the world went into a pandemic-induced lockdown, and we had to completely rethink our entire go-to-market strategy.
What does Ed-a-Mamma offer? How do you plan to grow the brand?
Ed-a-Mamma is a self-funded start-up brand that caters to children in the age group of 2-14 years. It is a completely homegrown brand, which resonates with the ‘vocal for local’ ethos. The brand is pegged on storytelling and engaging with children at multiple levels. It seeks to create a conversation with its core target audience, inculcate good habits and encourage children to adopt environment first practices, kindness towards animals and make better choices. It has been launched with three collections, each of which features unique, signature prints. The clothes are environment-friendly, made from natural fibres, replete with plastic-free buttons and trims. All this echoes my vision of nurturing a deep love for nature among children. The brand goes one step further towards sustainable fashion and uses the leftover fabric to make hair ties and little potlis or batwas. We are currently available on firstcry.com, and we have sold nearly 70 per cent of our first season’s collection within six weeks of launch. We are currently working on our SpringSummer ’21 collection and we have already planned some super exciting stuff.
You always actively worked towards reducing pollution and one such initiative was MiSu. How well has it worked out? How many stars actively participate in this?
I started MiSu (Mi wardrobe es Su Wardrobe), which is a closet sharing initiative, since sharing clothes can help increase their shelf life, by keeping them away from landfills and thereby reducing waste and benefiting the environment. MiSu has had a good run. We’ve run seven editions so far and they have been all so well-received with most of the clothes being sold out in a week’s time. Sonakshi Sinha, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor and Varun Dhawan have all participated, and I do hope that this becomes something that more and more people come forward to be a part of. All the proceeds from the sales have gone to various charities that operate in the environment space. So, in the end, it’s all working and contributing towards the same cause.
Since when were you a nature lover? What are the other conscious efforts that you make towards sustainable living?
My sister, Shaheen, and I have always been crazy about animals and the outdoors ever since I can remember! I used to come home from school and throw off my uniform, change into comfortable clothes and run down to play in the garden. We were constantly bringing home dogs, cats and even bugs, much to my mother’s horror.
And since then, I have made every effort to use my voice in support of the environment. I have been extremely passionate about conservation and started Coexist, an online platform that highlights ecological and animal welfare issues. And as I mentioned earlier, Mi Wardrobe es Su Wardrobe (MiSu), a closet sharing initiative, roping in industry friends and colleagues was also started by me to expand the scope of conversation around conservation.
Are you a nature-conscious dresser? What‘s your personal fashion statement like?
I believe that everyone’s fashion statement has to be an extension of themselves — because clothes have to just let you be you! Simplicity, and clean lines and silhouettes, are my go-to, along with natural fabrics and muted colours. And in fact, that same ethos has gone into the design for Ed-a-Mamma — simple, comfortable clothes for kids to play in, and just be themselves in.
Do you also see an adult line of clothing following Ed-a-Mamma?
Ed-a-Mamma is all about the messaging and the storytelling around nature. So, who knows about the future right now, as we hurtle into 2021 with so much uncertainty. It’s early days to comment on an adult line but, like I say, never say never.
Your diet and fitness regimen?
I have turned vegetarian since the past few months and I enjoy ghar ka khana (homemade food) the most, and enjoy my daal chawal very much. But I do make healthy choices like replacing wheat with jowar rotis and have seasonal vegetables.
Your future films and projects?
I’m completing my prior commitments that include Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi, Ayan Mukherji’s Brahmastra and Telegu action drama, RRR, directed by SS Rajamouli. And that’s keeping my very very busy. I have been shooting non-stop since September, once the lockdown got lifted. That’s all I can say for now and the rest will be revealed as I sign new projects.