The concept of upcycling has only just begun to gain traction in the couture fashion industry in India, and Kriti Tula is leading the way. Every piece from her label ‘Doodlage’ is completely unique and constructed from recycled garments and industrial waste fabrics. She approaches upcycling by sourcing the fabrics straight from factories that create the waste fabrics. Doodlage pieces are high-end edgy street wear, with bold patterns and colors that look fantastic when layered together. To find out more about this New Delhi label, we asked Tula a few questions about the behind the scenes of Doodlage.
How did Doodlage get started with the idea of upcycling from rejects and off cuts from factories?
Doodlage I would say is not a result a specific decision; it had developed in me over a period of time. My lack of knowledge of the options that were available within the field of designing post high school, I would say led me to joining fashion. I would have definitely explored ceramics or product designing had I know better.
This is when I started looking for alternative streams to the popular fashion design work (Indian couture wear or high fashion) and found myself extremely intrigued by the opportunities in eco fashion / slow fashion / organic fashion
I came from a humble background and expensive studies of fashion encouraged me take up as many paid or non paid internships that came my way. One such opportunity was to work in a huge export set-up. Where in the period of 2 months I learnt of the rejections based on minor defects + wastage + end of the line fabrics that are stocked for years in export godowns + post production waste; i.e sides of fabrics after the garment is cut that can easily me patched back to recreate fabric. Given that these fabrics have a certain life before the yarn becomes weaker, it almost came naturally that there is so much that can be done with fabrics that have already been bought and wasted. Which is when I thought if I ever start something of my own I would rather fix what already exists. It can be a slow process but it could be so much fun putting together literally every piece like a puzzle. Of course, at this point I had little idea about business viability and other aspects of economics, given my excitement.
I went on to work with another designer just before graduation to learn about organic fabrics and dying techniques using vegetable dyes that he was already working with. This further inspired me to create an eco fashion label at some point in my life. Still at this stage I never thought it would be in the next two years that this label will come to life.
Eventually, I found a few like minded people to start a label with. I found a job that would give me enough time and money to work on my own label and voila! I started conceptualizing Doodlage by the end of 2012.
It has been written that the name Doodlage was inspired by the irreplicable nature of a doodle. Can you tell us more behind the ethos of Doodlage garments?
Working with export wastes / retail waste / print waste from block printing units we work to hide the existing flaws of the fabric. Working around these defects always means treating each piece differently just like an individual. Hence the name as irreplaceable as a doodle. Additionally, our raw material itself exhausts very quickly as we work with end of the line fabrics and only what is discarded, which means that we do have similar styles but most products are just one offs in terms of fabric prints and the exact colour used. And we take pride in the fact that no two garments from Doodlage are exactly the same.
How do you see co-creations, like your project with Fabindia, as part of Doodlage’s future?
It is always interesting to understand aesthetics of another brand and design to serve their sensibility using there waste. Collaboration with Fab India was great. Since then we have worked with smaller brands like Avaran and Brahmakarma too. It is an exercise that I would like to make an integral part of Doodlage. As a brand goes bigger their wastage increases and we would love to help in whatever way we can and as may brands as would be interested in to recycle and recreate.
Your approach to upcycling is really innovative! Are you seeing a shift in the methods of the upcycled fashion industry in India and beyond?
Growth in upcycling fashion in India is really slow. I have over the 3 years of existence of Doodlage mentored final year students for their graduating projects on upcycling and sustainable design, but this fizzes out soon after they join the fast fashion industry, given the struggle and lack of spaces to sell and promote eco fashion in India. I have taken lectures at Pearl Academy talking about Doodlage and why Doodlage. Over the years people have grown to know about availability of organic fabrics and are still ok to buy garments out of post production waste I feel. But upcycling post consumer waste and its acceptance in Indian market is still a long way to go. You can make furniture and soft furnishings but using the same to create another garment to be worn by some one else is a tough business in India to sell, I would say.
There are many technologies like printing garments directly out of a machine reducing massive amount waste, and compressing existing garments to make furniture blocks (among the stories that I read on your fab website). But why are these technologies not spreading out on a larger scale? People are thinking about sustainable techniques/technologies for production, but the distance between their discoveries and their execution needs to narrow down.
What would also be great is to see some fast fashion brands to make some initiatives to have teams within their brands to just think about upcycling the waste that is produced by their units and re-create garments out of the same. Or donate these fabrics in a proper manner to brands that can upcycle them instead of adding it all to landfill.
What are you most proud of about Doodlage?
For sustaining itself for three years in a tough market!
We participated at Lakme Fashion Week 2015 Winter / Festive as Gen Next brand. That was a proud moment I would say.
I would like to be able to create ways to encourage eco design in India through curated exhibition space / websites / B&M stores at some point. I tell you, when that happens, it would truly be a proud moment for Doodlage!
*This story first appeared on Ecouterre.