Style check: Six fashion designers from Hyderabad opt for eco-friendly fabrics
With a growing struggle for relevance given the pandemic, fashion designers in the city have had to face a challenge in the last few months. As we spoke to a host of designers from Hyderabad, we discovered that those who have adopted the ethical norms and followed the tenets of slow fashion were doing better as the clamour for sustainable fashion had grown louder during the pandemic. The more that people stayed at home, the more they veered towards clothing with worthwhile eco-friendly fabrics that would last for a long time.
Fast fashion brands with glitzy cocktail gowns and the desire for a new outfit for every occasion took a backstage. Also, amid a growing discussion on social media about supporting local businesses, and the #shoplocal hashtags that followed, patrons had the time to search for slow fashion brands, look them up on Instagram and connect with designers. Hemis, a city-based label that creates ensembles from legally-procured hemp found that more and more people reached out to them for loungewear for Zoom meetings. Founders Varun Gupta, Prashansa Shahani and Kartik Aysola get the hemp from Uttarakhand, the only state where it is legal to cultivate and produce it for industrial purposes. “As the pandemic hit, we had more demands for customised work-from-home outfits in hemp. The creations now are more focused on relaxed clothing. Hemp is one of the most durable fabrics without environment-polluting microplastics. Hence, the growing awareness from patrons and the idea of customising was a welcome trend,” shares Prashansa, who is planning on taking the sustainable route for a ready-to-wear line and skin-friendly intimate wear as well.
Hyderabad-based Dipti Mrinalini elaborates, “Since buyers and designers themselves have become more aware of not buying or creating too much, I think we are moving towards a more made-to-order cycle. This is something I always wanted to do and it seemed like an opportune moment to start.” She also asserts that what has served her well has been to take a closer look at her inventory and check-in to see the existing garments that can be upcycled. From that, she has created breathable masks that became pretty popular with city folk and table linen as well. She is also looking to design patchwork jackets. “As designers, we need to ask o u r s e l ve s, h o w much is too much so that clothes don’t go to the landfills,” says Dipti, who is working on a Grecian-inspired collection and is aiming to reuse her deadstock from previous lines. She also asserts that apart from going the eco-friendly route, if the pandemic highlighted another fact, it was the value of artisans without whom for months, fashion-houses basically came to a standstill as they were not able to work during the lockdown. “If a fashion house intends to achieve better sales and go forward, it would be in their best interest to look at artisans as co-creators,” asserts Dipti.
This sentiment was echoed by another city-based designer, Archana Manchala, of city-based label Archana & Puneeth. She is trying to walk hand in hand with the artisans who create the clothes. “They will be the models for our next collection,” informs Archana. That apart, another lesson she learnt during the last few months was to source more earth-friendly indigenous fabric instead of opting for the usual chiffon and georgette for their upcoming collection. “A significant portion of our upcoming collection comprises comfort wear that is crafted from us reusing fabrics. The processes we are employing are also more conscious and close to nature.”
Scraps for the win
Sabista Khan, who helms celebrity-favourite footwear label, The Cinderella Story, says that upcycling is the order of the day not just for outfits but for accessories and footwear as well. “I work closely with the tailor who informs me about the scraps left behind. I always keep that in mind when I think of motifs for my bespoke footwear,” she says. She finds the process of repurposing deeply creatively satisfying. “Slow fashion is here to stay because people are understanding the value,” says the designer who recently created juttis from repurposed upholstery fabric used for bedding and pillows and launched it as a capsule collection.
Collaboration is key
Meanwhile, city-based designer Aisha Rao, has carved a niche for herself by introducing the idea of conscious fashion to bridal lehengas. “I have time and again wanted to change the idea that eco-friendly can’t be glamorous,” says Aisha. Her latest collection, Pastiche showcased seasonless upcycled luxury fashion along with sustainable directions. Aisha’s collection, showcased at Lakmé Fashion Week 2020 Digital First Season Fluid Edition, is an example of upcycled luxury occasion wear that could fit very seamlessly in the festive wardrobes. She has skillfully used tailoring waste into these well-designed ensembles that look no less than works of art. For the sock waste, which is not easily available, Aisha collaborated with Mallika Reddy of the label Cancelled Plans. “These are the elastic bands that are discarded during the production of socks. When I realised that I could need more upcycled material for the surface embroidery with appliqués, I reached out to Mallika to collaborate. I was already using leftover fabric but I wanted to look beyond the scraps that I generate,” she says. That’s when she read that Mallika was creating eclectic streetwear, duffle bags and clutches from discarded industrial waste and got in touch with her.
Meanwhile, when we spoke to Mallika, she told us about how the pandemic has been a rude awakening and might have made people rethink their fashion choices and rightfully so. She informs, “People are appreciating and valuing sustainability more than ever before so more and more designers recognise that sustainability is the only way forward and we need to change the way we have been doing things over the past several decades.” In keeping with the idea of mindfulness, she hopes that more sustainable practices will be employed. “Fast fashion will soon become obsolete and people will certainly invest in products that have a longer life and more functionality,” she says, talking about what the future holds, adding that designers have to constantly adapt to the current times and that's the only way to move ahead. Mallika asserts that she’s been trying to create clothing and accessories that can be worn year-round, defying seasonality and therefore making people think of buying less. “Also believe collaboration is the best way for us to grow as a brand and prior to the lockdown we had begun working on some fun and unexpected collabs,” she says.
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