Is it time to swear off shopping? LataSita's Meghna Nayak helps us understand the ethics of zero-waste fashion
LataSita’s Meghna Nayak was studying to be an environmental journalist in Cornwall when she realised the environmental and human cost of production, and also got a closer look at sweatshop culture. With her label LataSita she has paved the way for environmentally-sound, zero-waste fashion; her reversible kimono trench and upcycled Benarasi skirts should give you an idea about the studio’s fashion memo.
So, as Hollywood icon Jane Fonda swears off shopping altogether to help the movement, we ask Nayak about practical ways to contribute to ethical fashion with our personal choices.
As the country finally starts paying attention to ethical fashion, can you recommend two achievable ways everyone can take the cause of zero-waste fashion forward?
The fashion industry has an impact greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined; if you want to join the movement, stop buying clothes.
I know fashion is fun, so we have to be realistic. When you want your fix, seek out designers who will give the time and energy needed to reactivate your wardrobe and re-purpose what you have.
I’m a total believer in the circular economy. I believe our future lies in waste management and what we’re doing here is essentially creating new models of doing business. When you absolutely have to buy, go for quality and sustainably produced options rather than piles of fast fashion. Use this as a benchmark for the most worn pieces in your wardrobe.
You recently showcased your work in Sweden, one of the world's cleanest and most sustainable countries...
The Swedes have a fantastic, distinctive aesthetic. People are proud of the Swedish design scene and they value the concept of 'lagom' which means ‘just the right amount’ or ‘in balance’ and several people told me my collection had the right balance of tradition/modernity, style/comfort. They totally understood my work, they kept referring to me as an artist. It’s a more evolved consumer society.
Do you notice a change in the buying patterns of people in Kolkata?
People have opened up compared to 7-8 years ago when most would literally balk at the concept of upcycling. Now it’s become ‘trendy’ so people are interested. Responsible clothing is more expensive, and fast fashion has set the bar so low that it’s difficult for people to accept the true cost. We have to remember that true luxury is when no person or the planet has been harmed whilst producing the item.
What has been the most significant challenge for you when it comes to sticking to ethical means of production?
The clear answer here is making sure the bulk of the garment is truly upcycled and ensuring its integrity. It’s labour intensive and restrictive to be limited to colours, prints, textures that you ultimately don’t have control over. The other challenge is to ensure that no matter what happens, you keep your staff’s welfare at heart and seek to uplift their standard of living, despite how much (or little), you earn.
Can you tell us what you're working on next?
Design-wise, I’m working on a fabulous collection of hoodies and jackets made from a Calcutta Puja Pandal. I’m constantly navigating ways to make LataSita a truly sustainable enterprise that can serve as a format for others to follow..