Bamboo craft makes a contemporary comeback in Indian homes

We talk to designers and brands who are delving into their Indian roots to work with an indigenous material like bamboo and give the Indian way of life a luxury makeover

Rebecca Vargese Published :  31st May 2019 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  31st May 2019 06:00 AM


Sustainable. Zero waste. Slow fashion. Over the years, runways across the globe have been addressing environmental concerns one theme at a time. Looking beyond the fashion trend at bolder ideas and innovative techniques, this World Environment Day (June 5) we talk to designers and brands who are delving into their Indian roots to work with an indigenous material like bamboo and give the Indian way of life a luxury makeover.

Back to basics
Chennai-based entrepreneurs Veena Balakrishnan and Sudarshana Pai believe that trash could save the world. From making drawstring bags and pouches with dead stock to using ground coffee for face scrubs, the young NIFT graduates are two of the newest faces to join the conversation on sustainability. Setting up their venture Everwards & Two’s Company in the second half of 2018, the 20-something duo say that sustainable lifestyle alternative shouldn’t just be for a niche section of society. Working towards educating their patrons to make a switch towards a greener living the pair are starting off with the basics — bamboo straws and toothbrushes. “It’s funny how something as mundane as straws and plastic toothbrushes can be one of the greatest threats to the oceans today. Our aim is to present the all available alternatives and dismiss myths that an eco-friendly lifestyle is impractical,” says Veena. A strong advocate for bamboo, even over the bio-degradable paper substitutes, Veena prescribes carrying a personal straw and cloth handkerchiefs at all times. “It just takes a couple of minutes of planning out your day. Carrying your own accessories also brings down costs, even in the short run,” she says. Rs 199 for four straws.

Perfect to the ‘t’
Madhavi Das and Aiyappa Somyanada, graduates from IIM-K also champion the bottom-up approach. So in 2018, when the founders of Bamboo Tribe launched their bamboo yarn T-shirts, it was in tribute to the everyday wardrobe staple. “Bamboo yarn is naturally moisture-wicking and anti-odour, yet given all these attributes, I couldn’t believe that it was not being employed on a large scale,” explains Madhavi. Over a year since the brand’s inception and with a majority of their clientele concentrated at their headquarters in Bengaluru, Chennai and even Mumbai, Madhavi tells us that demand and production are geared in favour of the plain minimal tees, shorts and joggers. “We had introduced additional designs like tank tops and racer backs, but none do as well as the basics.” Rs 999 onwards.

So, while the concept of urban minimalism and conscious consumption is a trend that has caught on in metros like Chennai and Bengaluru, with people retreating from the urban bustle, Tier 2 cities are witnessing an uptick in luxury accessories governed by the norms of sustainability.  


Hanging around
Pravinsinh Solanki is perhaps one of the most vital new voices directing the luxury course in recent years. A furniture and interior design graduate from NID, Ahmedabad, the 44-year-old’s bespoke, handmade bamboo hangers have found a permanent spot in the World Bamboo Museum in Damyong, South Korea and are presently being showcased at London’s Cockpit Arts Studio. However, it wasn’t until four years ago, that this perennial evergreen plant became Pravin’s all-consuming passion.

Following his six-year stint working for design houses in Italy, the now, associate senior faculty of interior design at NID, returned to the country with one aim in mind: to create truly virgin design concepts using existing craft forms in India. “There is a certain idea attached to bamboo crafts. The most obvious one being that they can never fit into the luxury category.” Creating 36 designs, all of which are created for various silhouettes and fabrics, these hangers are made at his NID workshop and are only available to the likes of the FDCI chairperson, Sunil Sethi and luxury apparel design houses, both in India and abroad. Prototyping his models for the market, the Pravin has his eyes set on 2020 to launch his hangers, sound enhancers and other sustainable home accessories.  

Treasured trinkets 
When it comes to luxury retail therapy, the World Bamboo Ambassador representing India, Rebecca Reubens has our attention. An extension of her sustainable interior décor brand, Rhizome Studios, the jewellery designer returned to her signature style with the unveiling of her jewellery label, Baka late last year. Preparing to meet growing customer requests, the 41-year-old founder/designer is set to launch her statement pieces at Ogaan stores across the country within the month. Offering a range of geometric bamboo trinkets that are assembled together with gold plated brass, the collection of statement, yet parred down, earrings and pendants are handcrafted by an artisan group in the Northeast.  Unperturbed by the superstitious beliefs associated with cultivating and using bamboo, Rebecca has just one piece of advice, “Good design trumps all.” Rs 1,800 onwards.


Life cycle
Leading innovation from Pune, retired Capt Shashishekhar Pathak created the first framework for a customisable bamboo cycle in 2014 under the brand Bamboochi. Five years later, the bicycle that comes equipped with gears, hydraulic breaks and shock absorbers has also found a market globally.

Shades of you
Launched in 2015, Kolkata-based brand Wood Geek offers a range of bamboo sunglasses that are carved out from bamboo boards and sanded down for use. Hand-finished, the sunglasses can be customised with prescription lenses and also have a special coating that makes them
water resistant. Rs 3,500.

Water world 
Former IIT- Assam graduate Dhritiman Bora’s all natural leak-proof bamboo water bottle took the internet by storm earlier this year. Made with bamboo sourced from within the state, the bottle comes with a cork seal, preventing seepage. Rs 600 onwards.