Evelyn Sharma talks about all things she loves — sustainable fashion, gardening and her fiancee, Tushaan Bhindi

Rebecca Vargese Published :  12th February 2021 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  12th February 2021 06:00 AM
Evelyn_Sharma

Evelyn_Sharma

You may know Evelyn Sharma as the actor who went from playing the flirty yet endearing Lara in Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewani to the dashing badass cop Jenifer in the action-thriller Saaho. But, off-screen she is so much more. Over the last five years, the actress has also been part of a host of projects creating awareness about the need for sustainable practices in day-to-day life, especially through the lens of beauty. The Frankfurt-born actress first began her work in this field by launching her Mumbai-based non-profit Seams for Dreams in 2015. Advocating the idea of green-living through inclusive fashion, the organisation extended support to under-resourced communities across the country by putting together drives for pre-loved garments. 

Now, six years since, her enterprise’s philosophy has evolved to include slow fashion education, and thrift and clothes swapping initiatives across the country — along with the release of three upcycled clothing collections designed using deadstock, and old and damaged fabrics. The pandemic forced Evelyn (and Seams For Dreams) to shift focus to relief activities. But, come 2021, the 34-year-old, whose lockdown hobby has included growing a vegetable garden, re-focussed priorities and kicked off the year with a refreshed agenda — the launch of a slow fashion think tank helmed by industry leaders like Patrick Duffy (founder of Global Fashion Exchange) and Kriti Tula (of Doodlage) among others. As the conversation surrounding climate change reaches a fever’s pitch (with the latest crisis unfolding in Uttarakhand), the Indo-German changemaker got chatting with us from Australia, where she has spent the last year with fiancé Tushaan Bhindi, on how sustainability has to be a way of life, her plans for Seams For Dreams and the ultimate checklist for the ethical consumer. Excerpts:
 
As an idea, sustainability is subjective and is often open to various interpretations. What does it mean to you? 
I am somebody who loves fashion and beauty, but I have also wanted to do something for the planet and people living here. Honestly, for me, sustainability means living a lifestyle that helps the future and present generations. If we try, everything can be made sustainable, all we need to do is keep the processes transparent and make sure there is traceability.

What spurred you on your journey with sustainability?
I have always believed in giving back to society in some way or the other, and worked towards spreading awareness for responsible fashion and pre-loved clothing. Although I have managed to spread awareness and introduce many to the idea of second-hand fashion, I have always wondered if I was doing enough and if I needed to do more. That is how I started. 

Were there any myths about this lifestyle that you debunked along the way?
Sustainability is a broad topic, and the umbrella covers a lot of concepts; it is easy to fall prey to some myths along the way. The most common misconception, I have noticed, is that sustainability means ‘green’. These are two simple yet different concepts. The term ‘green’ reflects the environmental 
activities in general and sustainability is an even broader term that definitely incorporates ‘green’.

How did Seams for Dreams come about?
Seams For Dreams was born on my birthday in 2015 and it’s been an absolute joy to watch it grow. At SFD, we bring together the film and fashion industry in India to help people in need, by giving back in style! SFD aims to provide appropriate clothing to the less privileged members of the society, by collecting clothing from all who want to support.
Additionally, as a brand, we have also been creating sustainable clothing via The SFD Upcycled Clothing Line. It is part of our awareness project where we unveil clothing lines made from upcycled scraps and pieces of fabrics that come in as donations. My idea was to encourage and show (especially fashion students) that one can always reuse what already exists, and that true talent and creativity are best showcased in times of challenge. When we talk about ‘sustainable clothing’, I feel that reusing existing fabrics is the most sustainable way to go.  I’m excited to see more and more upcycling experts and designers coming up with amazing lines of couture and prêt made from scraps. Following our January drive, we are also looking forward to launching another one of our upcycled collections! 

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Brand conscious 

“I love how Recharkha — Upcycled Handwoven has been working on upcycling plastic waste and giving them a new life in the form of beautiful handwoven bags and accessories. Another favourite is Mate the label, which is based in LA has a holistic approach to sustainability. Their styles are easy and comfy. I adore I love Pero’s styles. They carry forward the Indian traditions and local culture with their international aesthetic touch to it. Okhai has this very sweet and cultural identity attached to it. They get their products and apparel created by rural artisans. Doodlage uses fabric scraps to create their collections. It’s unique, limited, environmentally conscious, and just feels amazing to wear!

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Sustainability is often seen through a lens of privilege — where the industry is designed by people in power and the issues of climate change are being addressed by people in authority. How do you think it can be made more inclusive?
Nothing can be more inclusive than the concept of sustainability. There is no guilt in adopting a sustainable lifestyle — one could do this by either using preloved clothing items or donating or maybe upcycling. Making green-living more inclusive is our responsibility. When people in power and authority guide the way, the followers will follow. Also, a sustainable lifestyle does not include grand gestures. If we attach the idea to our small daily activities, it can be inclusive. This year, our plan of action at SDF is to build pioneers to help grow this community.
 

Speaking of the plan of action, SFD has a new advisory board for 2021 with some of the fashion industry’s most recognised names. Give us a peek at projects that we can expect to see this year. 
We are glad to have amazing advisory board members. Some of the projects I am most excited about are: Building a new curriculum for School Of Seams with Natasha Mehta, planning a high-end Vintage Clothing pop up with Patrick Duffy from Swapchain, tokenising donations to lead the way in creating greater transparency in the supply chain with Lorenzo (Albrighi) blockchain-powered circular fashion platform Lablaco. We are also holding round table solution-oriented conversations around sustainability with Suki Dusanj Lenz, Country head of Fashion Revolution India and are launching a sustainable influencer campaign with Reeta Gupta.

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Becoming Evelyn
One skin product that you’d swap out for a home remedy?
On some days instead of using a cooling gel and eye cream, I would pick a natural home remedy. An aloe-vera plant is a great swap. Cut off the peel and make little cubes and let them rest in the fridge for some time. It’s great for cooling your skin and under eyes.

Conscious food choices are an important part of sustainable living. What’s your routine like?
I often eat healthy and include a lot of greens in my meals. I eat everything I love, generously. But I always make sure I don’t overeat. My only two rules are: Eat organic food for my own health and eat vegan to love other people (and animals, of course). I prefer home-cooked meals for breakfast. There are some great vegan waffle recipes I’m currently trying out, and I love my coffee. For lunch, I like my simple dal rice combo with a vegetable soup for dinner.

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Shopping ethically and sustainably often requires time and research. What is your ultimate checklist for the ethical consumer?
Every good thing requires time and research, and so does understanding sustainability. But to make it easier for people, here is my checklist. Be a part of a local community that is into sustainability and which promotes sustainable local brands — that’s the power of community! Next, ask questions to the brands you buy from. It could be anything and everything with regards to their supply chain. Ask questions like where does the raw material come from, or how do you deal with disposal? Now that’s your power as a consumer. And the most important is whether the item is worth the pricing or not. If you buy something worth more but at a cheaper price, there is definitely something unethical about the brand. Pricing is the game. And lastly, do a review of your own wardrobe and lifestyle. Match your lifestyle with the items you have or need. After all, your lifestyle is your reality.

We have seen celebs repeating some of their best red-carpet looks. If you had to pick three looks to re-wear what would they be?
A simple black dress because you can never go wrong, and it always looks elegant. A flowy floral dress for my daytime outings and brunches and a good pair of denim pants. For me, these are my essentials, and I can restyle and re-wear them in many different ways and for varied occasions.

You are a self-proclaimed vintage thrift shopper. What is your favourite piece of preloved clothing or an item you have picked up at a vintage store during your travels across the world? 
I have so many now. Pretty much everything in my wardrobe is either preloved or vintage. One of them is a second-hand bag that I wear everywhere. It’s a tan leather bag picked up at a vintage store in Berlin. The other is a lovely summer dress that my best friend gifted me — it’s now 17-years-old. And, then, a jacket that is stitched-and-upcycled from denim.

Who are some millennial and Gen Z activists that inspire you?
Now, when I look around, people are doing their bit, either through encouraging no-plastic movement, reusing and recycling their clothes, or going green. These small efforts are steps towards a brighter and better future. I admire the young gen trailblazers like Emma Watson and  Alia Bhatt, who promotes eco-friendly lifestyle and urge their fanbase to do the same. They inspire me a lot!

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Love will keep us alive!

Evelyn’s engagement to her longtime boyfriend, Tushaan Bhindi, included an old-school proposal on a boat in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The Australia-based dental surgeon went down on one knee and proposed, while a guitarist played their favourite songs in the background. Sharing details of their meet-cute, the Saaho actress said that the two met on a blind date in 2018, which was set up by a good friend. 
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s what the actress had to say about being in love, and date night plans with the fiancé.
Date-night outfit this Valentine’s Day: A little black dress is the right pick for almost every occasion. On Valentine’s Day, I would pair it with red heels, sparkly jewellery and an understated clutch. Add to that, big lashes and a coral lipstick along with a rosy blush to charm my Valentine!
What does love mean to you?  Love, to me, means making a decision to stick with someone in good and in bad times. Tushaan and I have this kind of love, and it’s really amazing how this mutual love empowers us individually.

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