Kamna Tripathy's 'Noupelle' is going against the grain

This Delhi-based accessory designer is crafting jewellery and small goods by upcycling leather scraps sourced from tanneries and export houses

author_img Simi Kuriakose Published :  10th September 2022 12:22 AM   |   Published :   |  10th September 2022 12:22 AM
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A model wearing Noupelle’s hand-embroidered accessories

On initiating a conversation, Kamna Tripathy seems slightly preoccupied. Before I even ask her if we should reschedule the interview, Tripathy (27) brings me up to speed after apologising, “We are moving to a bigger space right now where I can keep more artisans.” Her abstract state is understandable, given the rush (and stress) of relocation.

Tripathy’s Noupelle is an upcycled leather accessory brand that utilises off-cuts and scraps sourced from “manufacturers, factories, tanneries, even tailors who make leather jackets and bags” to craft jewellery, cords, wallets, and dog tags—‘Noupelle’ is a combination of the words ‘nouvelle’ meaning ‘new’ and ‘pelle’ meaning ‘skin or leather’. She continues, calling hers a clichéd brand story, “We started out of a garage. Thankfully, things have moved up a little. I have moved base [from Karol Bagh] to a small studio in Shahpur Jat. We work a lot with artisans [handwork and hand-embroidery] and this [Shahpur Jat] is a central place for such work.”

Tripathy’s Noupelle is an upcycled leather accessory brand that utilises off-cuts and scraps sourced from “manufacturers, factories, tanneries, even tailors who make leather jackets and bags” to craft jewellery, cords, wallets, and dog tags—‘Noupelle’ is a combination of the words ‘nouvelle’ meaning ‘new’ and ‘pelle’ meaning ‘skin or leather’. She continues, calling hers a clichéd brand story, “We started out of a garage. Thankfully, things have moved up a little. I have moved base [from Karol Bagh] to a small studio in Shahpur Jat. We work a lot with artisans [handwork and hand-embroidery] and this [Shahpur Jat] is a central place for such work.”

Starting for the better

After attaining a bachelor’s degree (2017) in leather design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi, Tripathy worked with a number of designers, exporters, and even brands like Da Milano. “I was in the production and design side and I noticed almost everywhere—be it a smaller set-up of 10 karigars or an export house with 400 karigars—the number of leather discards generated was huge. Leather is always in asymmetric shape so, unlike fabric, it is difficult to make the most of a little patch. The katran [scrap] wasted in the leather industry is never of inferior quality; it is just difficult to work with, which is why it is discarded.” 

When she decided to start something that caters to her “creative expression”, she was certain it would be leather-based because “my expertise lies in the material”. It was also a time when people were adjusting to the pace of change in their lifestyles from an eco-friendly perspective. “It was to contribute for the better, I started utilising leather off-cuts.” Tripathy launched Noupelle in January 2020.

A matter of ethics

Despite it being durable and biodegradable, leather remains a contentious material in fashion—it is animal-derived, not usually cruelty-free, and has a production-related environmental impact. Tripathy mentions this as one of the “biggest dilemmas”. She adds, “This is an everyday problem for us. However, I feel customers are getting more open-minded. Nobody is 100 per cent ethical, but it is also about how your intentions are towards something.”

Apart from crafting products using upcycled leather, Noupelle also fuses them with techniques such as hand embroidery, and materials like rattan, cork, etc. They work with a cluster of Bengali artisans in Delhi who specialise in aari and resham techniques. 

Giving us an insight into the future of the brand, Tripathy signs off, “Currently, we also do smaller accessories like wallets that are primarily made from tannery waste, and we are looking at adding more product ranges to our portfolio.”

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