A tailored suit to portray power... a cinched waist or a flippy hem to accentuate femininity... androgynous silhouettes to forward the idea of non-binary identities — the transformational abilities of fashion puts writer Mark Twain’s musings that ‘Clothes make a man’ into perspective. However, there is a new breed of designers who believe that the threads you wear have the power to do more than make you look good — they can make you feel good too!
From materials that tap into your doshas (flow of energy) to fabrics treated with herbs to improve how they interact with your skin, we take a look at the labels that are experimenting with herbal dyes and remedial Ayurvedic clothing — that are also environmentally-friendly alternatives to fast fashion.
For Upasana, one of the first sustainable Indian labels founded by Uma Prajapati and Manoj Pavitran in 1997, venturing into ‘wearable wellness’ was a natural progression. “As a brand, our efforts have always been focused on natural and sustainable fashion, and working with therapeutic clothing has been part of the process,” offers Uma. Solely working with dyes that are derived from natural sources, the Auroville-based brand’s first tryst with healing clothing was the outcome of their research with Ayurvedic herbs like tulsi, sandalwood and neem. “By wearing clothing that is naturally dyed, it is imbued with the herbal and healing benefits of plants. This essence can be absorbed through our skin.”
Tailoring their production to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the brand recently announced the launch of eco-friendly, healing masks — a response to the growing shortage of personal protective equipment. Available as two variants — the silver grid mask and the neem mask — Uma explains that the silver has been used as an anti-pathogenic, cleansing and energising agent, while the neem dispenses detoxifying, anti-allergenic and calming properties.
Healing masks start at Rs 100, while separates from their S/S ’20 collection starts at Rs 1,900.
Founded in 2018, the launch of the brand Sui marked the culmination of Mahima Gujral’s journey towards giving up fast fashion. “Launching a slow fashion was the starting point,” explains the 30-year-old. Beginning by working with natural hemp fabric, the fashion management graduate from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore began experimenting with herbally-derived hues after phasing out the azo-free dyes that were being used by her brand.
Working exclusively with the Ahmedabad-based Aura Herbal Textiles, all fabric colours are made from plant materials and medicinal herbs. All the fabrics used by Sui are finished using hypoallergenics like aloe vera and castor oil, while haritaki, turmeric, indigo, Indian madder, pomegranate and onion skin are among the ingredients used by Aura to dye the fabric. Offering chic alternatives to the staple anti-fit silhouette that is ubiquitous to slow fashion, the brand’s latest collection, Tropical Sunshine has everything from fitted dresses to off-shoulder tops and jumpsuits.
Tops starting at Rs 3,750 onwards.
Sustainability and mindful living inspired Jaipur-based designer Jayati Goenka to dabble with slow fashion. Known for creating timeless ensembles crafted from handwoven cotton and promoting artisanal clothing, the eponymous brand’s use of Ayurvedic dyeing techniques are aimed at promoting healthy and clean living. “Using dyeing methods like Kasis Bhasma is not just good for the earth, but its non-toxic nature makes it gentle on the skin. In the long run, it also ensures that harmful pollutants do not find their way back into our ecosystem and food chain.” Currently working with a colour palette that includes beige, indigo and grey, the hues used in their latest Evolve/2020 collection are derived from the medicinal harda fruit, indigo roots and Kasis Bhasma — all of which are used in Ayurveda to treat a range of infirmities and skin allergies, apart from boosting immunity.
Rs 5,000 onwards.
Udaipur-based brand Aavaran made its debut during the Lakmé Fashion Week’s Sustainable Day, earlier this year. While the brand showcased its first-ever luxury collection of fine-resist dabu prints on mashru and mulberry silk garments, the signature textile developed by the label is an organic cotton fabric treated with a combination of herbs and oils. “Your skin always reflects the health of your body,” offers Alka Sharma, founder of the brand. Attempting to correct potential health imbalances by treating the skin, Aavaran’s range of chemical-free, ethnic clothing falls under three categories: Haldivastram (turmeric), Manjisthavastram (Indian madder) and Neelavastram (indigo).”
Explaining the choice of herbs, the textile graduate from the Indian Institute of Crafts & Design, Jaipur says that according to Ayurveda, natural indigo — which is the most popular dye — helps to restore mental and physical equilibrium by balancing doshas. “Most of the plants we work with are used as medicine. Turmeric is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory and is often used as a home remedy. Indian madder is used to treat skin diseases, arthritis and ulcers.” Expanding their repertoire, the label is now working on a range of kurtas, tunics, jackets and saris steeped in the bark of medicinal trees like peepal and Brazilian wood.
Rs 5,000 onwards.
Starting up a sustainable fashion brand was the attempt of Australia-based husband and wife duo, Krishna and Samantha Kamala, to ensure that their baby boy, Cyprus, always remained connected to his Indian heritage. “Krishna’s grandparents used to weave cotton in their village in Kerala and Ayurvedic medicine was always their go-to cure — to treat fever, colds and even snake bites,” shares Samantha, co-founder of Monsoon Bloom, speaking about the brand’s proclivity for Ayurvedic herb-dyed cotton.
Launching the brand in 2017, Monsoon Bloom’s debut collection included a range of organic cotton and natural dyed innerwear. “We like that underwear isn’t really susceptible to trends, it’s more necessary than most of the fast-fashion garb we buy. And given that our skin comes into contact with it almost every day, there is a greater need for organic cotton and natural dyes.” A fairtrade, certified-vegan and PETA approved label — that ensures no insects are used in the dye baths — Monsoon Blooms’ natural colours are achieved at their dye house near Thiruvanathapuram using a mix of 25 to 50 oils, herbs, plants, flowers roots and barks including coconut, neem, aloe vera, fenugreek and more. While the label primarily still focuses on innerwear, their range now extends to wrap tops, dresses, men’s jackets, baby harem pants and even yoga mats.
Rs 4,500 onwards.