Meet Seerat: First Indian Designer to Upcycle Fashion for Redress Design Award

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In the past we interviewed, Redress Design Award finalists from 2017 and 2016. Environmental NGO Redress organises the Redress Design Award, the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. This year the finalists will present their dynamic collections created entirely from waste textiles to an international audience in September in Hong Kong. Finalists have been selected from 11 different countries and this year, for the first time, we have Indian designer Seerat Virdi also on the list!

We sat down with Seerat, who holds a degree in Fashion Design from the Pearl Academy New Delhi, to gather her thoughts on a topic that is close to our hearts as well – you guessed it right – sustainable fashion.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
I was always obsessed with clothes and fashion since I was very little. I have my mother to thank for that because she was an art textile student herself and always encouraged my love for art. As a child, I remember making outfits for my favorite anime characters and superheroes. By the time I grew up and saw this as a career option, it was already a part of me and I was more than excited to get involved.
Over the past few months I’ve seen eye opening documentaries and read overwhelming articles on BOF [Business of Fashion] about the severe impact the fashion industry has made. I’m an empathetic person who also happens to be a designer and I felt it was my responsibility to act on this. I challenged myself to be a part of the sustainable fashion movement and Redress couldn’t have happened at a better time. It has given me platform to show my work and has encouraged me to work harder. I know I’m on the right track.

What is your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
I aim to inspire and influence consumers to reuse and repurpose their clothes by creating a contrast to today’s fast-paced fashion industry. My designs are multifaceted and include removable parts that can be interchanged across the collection. Applying the design techniques of zero-waste and up-cycling to silk organza and repurposed trims and threads, I embrace handcrafted detailing and fabric manipulation techniques in my designs.

Seerat Virdi_Redress Design Award 2018_Work in Progress_2

3 things you learnt during the process of designing Redress Design Award collection.
I’m very new to the ‘sustainable’ fashion field and there is a lot that I yet have to learn. Few things I did pick up have been very eye opening. A lot of waste can be eliminated at the design stage. Intelligent pattern cutting, and conscious resourcing do make a huge difference.
Another important note is that almost anything can be repurposed into a beautiful piece of clothing, you just need your creative intuition and grit to make things happen. Lastly, I’ve found it better to work backwards. Before you open your sketchbook, study what resources surround you and draw inspiration from that to put in your design process. Being mindful of your resources can help you avoid make wasteful purchases and more importantly is a better way to design, as you’re pushed to reuse and up-cycle.
For my collection, I used resources that were readily available to me. I familiarised myself to this raw material by doing a variation of fabric manipulation and material exploration to figure out how best I can use them in my designs.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream, especially in India?
Currently the mainstream fashion brands are solely focused on what’s trending and how to quickly increase sale volumes. Their failure to look beyond that is gravely concerning. Especially in India, a major reason for brands not shifting their practices is because the consumers aren’t fully aware about this crisis to demand for an eco-active change. Once the demand for more eco-friendly products rise, these major brands will start to comply.
On the positive side, the change from mainstream to niche is doable because we see it happening. We have mainstreams brands like Grassroot by Anita Dongre, Doodlage and Péro who support local artisans and take their sustainable design practices seriously.
We are moving in the right direction but in order for the transition to happen, major changes in the supply chain need to take place and the consumers need to be made aware about this issue. We’re getting there but it’s going to be a slow process.

Seerat Virdi_Redress Design Award 2018_Work in Progress_1

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
That because sustainable fashion is recycled, it’s ‘dirty’. When in reality it’s far from it and in my opinion can be considered an art form. Making something out of ‘nothing’ sounds pretty amazing to me. Today sustainable fashion has advanced and does not compromise on design or aesthetics. Designers have created products that people are happily willing to purchase only to later find out its eco-friendly, that’s how you know you’ve done something right. Now I can see the expectations of consumers shifting, as they want to be a part of a greater change and are looking for brands that have set an example towards the sustainable fashion movement.

What are things you wish Indian fashion students/budding Indian Fashion designers should know about sustainable fashion design?
It is extremely crucial to be ethical when it comes to your design practices. From sourcing, production to execution everything needs to align in a way where there is none to minimal wastage. Since fashion is currently the second largest cause of environmental pollution, being sustainable isn’t an option anymore; it’s a prerequisite. A problem this big can only be solved if we work in collaboration, share innovative ideas and spread awareness about the importance of a sustainable lifestyle.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
I would advise them to be mindful about their design practices. A small pro-eco change can lead to a huge positive impact. As designers we have a huge role to play in all this. We can influence our consumers and create a positive change in this industry. So, I encourage you to be creative with your ways, voice your opinion and share your ideas.

Seerat Virdi_Redress Design Award 2018_Work in Progress_3

What is your next goal after joining Redress Design Award?
I have a few projects that are in the process of building up. Currently, I’m focused on developing my collection for the Redress Design Award. I am currently also a part of the Lakmé Fashion Week x Reliance incubator program and that has given me an amazing opportunity to network with a few important people in the industry. I’m also working on developing my brand’s website, so I can increase my reach and share my newly formed sustainable ethos. After Redress, I plan on creating my new sustainable line for next summer but I’m keeping my options open for new and exciting opportunities.

You can follow Seerat’s work on his Instagram

Have a look at all the finalists of the Redress Design Award here.

Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

Meet Candle Ray: Winner Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Candle, winner of the Redress Design Award 2017!

MeetTheFinalists-Candle Ray Torreverde

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
When I was younger, I always enjoyed reading fashion magazines. That developed my interest in fashion and inspired me to sketch and design a lot back then, but I started entertaining the thought that it could be a possible career for me when I was asked to design garments for a pageant. Since then, I’ve been competing in fashion design competitions and I was able to get a scholarship to study Fashion Design and Marketing.

Joining the Redress Design Award opened the door for my development in sustainable fashion. I didn’t know that much about the subject until I decided to join the competition. I remember, when I was doing my entry I went through all the educational materials redress have in their website which introduced me to sustainable fashion and gave me some inspiration about how I can make a difference as a designer. As I continued to learn I’m becoming more interested in it.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
My inspiration came from the chaos brought about by sea storms. Through my collection I wanted to highlight how vulnerable we were to natural disasters. The consequences on us would be severe if we continued to be insensible towards the environment. I applied the design techniques of up-cycling and reconstruction along with the use of natural dyes to transform secondhand textiles and clothes.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Philippines_CandleRayTorreverde_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
First, I learnt that we can do a lot of wonderful things with textile waste. It only requires our creativity and our strong will to push it even further to transform all of it.

Second, there are a lot of techniques and options we can use to minimize or even zeroed out environmental impacts. Doing the Redress Design Awards taught me the techniques of zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction but I know there are more techniques and technologies we can apply to create every design sustainable. We just need to do more research to look for those existing techniques, technologies or even ideologies and apply them.
Lastly, I also learnt the importance of educating consumers about sustainable fashion and how can they help to minimize environmental impact through re-evaluating their buying habits. If we can let the consumer know that their choices can create a positive impact, for sure we can draw in a lot of people to join the sustainable bandwagon.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Aside from providing products that are sustainable we also need to educate consumers about sustainable fashion. We should let them know that they can create positive environmental impact through making better choices when buying. Promoting awareness about this wonderful cause will definitely move sustainable fashion into the mainstream.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
The biggest misconception about sustainable fashion is that it is an unpolished handcraft. I think consumers are hesitant because they think that sustainable fashion is uncomfortable because it is made from textile waste but nowadays there has been a lot of eco-friendly technology that can transform textile waste to a comfortable and polished merchandise in line with the traditional fashion items we normally see in stores.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
My advice to next breed of fashion designer is that they need reevaluate and incorporate sustainable design techniques to their design processes. They can create positive environmental impact through eliminating waste during the design process. They should be mindful of their material choices. After all, as designers we are equipped with an important strength, which is our creativity, to transform textile waste.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
After the Redress Design Awards, I am planning to push myself to build a brand which is 100% sustainable. Joining the competition, I have found that it really is possible. There is a lot of textile waste waiting to be discovered and be transformed. As of right now I’m creating a sustainable collection and plan to launch my brand in October. I am currently sourcing my textile waste. In the future I also plan to include accessories into my line using textile waste and I am really excited to do all these things with environmental consciousness.

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You can follow Candle’s work on his Instagram

The Redress Design Award 2018 semi-finalists have just been announced and Redress are asking you to be a judge and vote for your favourite of these 30 emerging sustainable designers from across the world who will be awarded the ‘People’s Choice’. Vote now at

Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

Meet Lia Kassif: Winner Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.
The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.
Today we meet Lia, winner of the Redress Design Award 2017!

MeetTheFinalists-Lia Kassif
What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Lia: My awareness of the negative impact that the fashion industry has on the environment, humanity and natural resources was raised after attending an inspiring lecture by Orsola de Castro. The lecture with Orsola de Castro as part of a sustainable fashion course in Shankar last year, was a turning point in my view of the world. She was so convincing about other and better ways to work in the fashion world to make this place better and to stop harming our world, and it influenced a change in both my personal and professional life.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Lia: For army uniforms, it was because of the fact that every Israeli must serve in the army and wear the uniform for at least 2 years of their lives. I was drawn to wedding dresses, as it is the biggest industry in the fashion scene in Israel, and every girl’s dream. The contrast between those two materials, the roughness versus the softness and gentleness are important to Israeli culture.
My inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection was the famous phrase from the bible Isaiah 2:4 “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” It means that mankind, in the apocalypse, will transform their weapons into working tools. In other words, the nations will no longer fight against each other and there will be peace in the world. This is why I chose to transform military uniforms into casual garments for my collection, emphasizing the transformation by using lace and delicate materials as a total contradiction to the army uniform.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_2ndAndSpecialPrizeWinner_Israel_Lia Kassif_Full Collection
3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Lia: I learnt a lot from the whole experience! I think that now I understand sustainable fashion much better. The movie “The True Cost” really was brought to life when Redress took us to the TAL factory and I saw all the workers and the production process.

The Redress x Miele Consumer Care Challenge taught me that even Houte Couture dresses could be found in clothing bins, like the Christian Dior dress that we reconstructed – this has made the experience of looking in bins more exciting.
From all the experiences I learned how to work and design with group of people from all around the world that sharing the same passion to make the fashion industry better.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Lia: The change of sustainable fashion from niche to mainstream is split into two drivers – consumers and manufacturers.

Consumers have to change their habits, by buying less and buying more effectively and avoiding fashion trends. They need to be more aware about their clothes are sourced and made. They need to bring the sustainability issue to the front and combine it with their daily routine.
Manufacturers have to use green technology to produce, they must take action against pollution, and produce less clothes, to launch less collections every year and to increase the awareness of sustainable fashion among their consumers.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Lia: I believe the biggest misconception of consumers about sustainable fashion is that recycled clothes and sustainable fashion is dirty, worn out and old. They don’t understand that the garments and the materials go through cleaning process before they are reaching the stores.

I believe that sometimes ecologic fashion and recycled materials can look even better than the original garment.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Lia: My advice for the next generation of fashion designers is to increase the awareness to this field to their customers, that they should aim produce less but better – by acting to sustainable principles.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Lia: Since the Redress Design Award and after my graduation from Shankar, I have started working on my new sustainable brand ready to wear collection which builds on my collection shown in Hong Kong at the competition finale. Along with this I have just finished working on a new collection for The R Collective, which up-cycles military uniforms from around the world and will be launched soon.

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You can follow Lia’s work on her Facebook and Instagram
The Redress Design Award 2018 semi-finalists have just been announced and Redress are asking you to be a judge and vote for your favourite of these 30 emerging sustainable designers from across the world who will be awarded the ‘People’s Choice’. Vote now at
Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

Meet Kate Morris: Winner Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Kate, winner of the Redress Design Award 2017!

EcoChic Design Award 2017 1st Prize Winner_Kate Morris

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
The time I was getting into fashion design coincided with the Rana Plaza disaster which, like for so many people, really opened up my mind to how critical the problems had gotten in the fashion industry. Part of me wanted to run screaming, but a bigger part of me wanted to design fashion to contribute to change.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
A lot of my inspiration for my Redress Design Award collection came from my fine art background and through visiting art galleries. I looked at pop art visuals of food and was interested in how people’s attitudes to food have changed in relation to attitudes to fashion.
Cutting out wasted time and energy as well as materials inspired me to create minimal seam silhouettes combined with zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction techniques to create a diverse range of knitwear. The concept behind the collection is technology and hand craft working in harmony, I wanted to celebrate the possibilities within digital knitwear production as well as maintaining a tactile connection with the wearer and encouraging people to get making, mending and reusing through the hand-crafted elements.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_1stPrizeWinner_UK_KateMorris_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
This competition really has been the biggest adventure I have ever been on!
Creating my collection transformed my view of what up-cycling can achieve as well as what’s possible in a small time frame!
I learnt how easy it is to source luxury materials the industry considers waste, companies were really keen to get involved and I was doing them a favour by taking the materials off their hands.
The week of the grand finale hugely broadened my mind-set and horizons alongside meeting so many fantastic people. Winning first prize has bought me confidence, exposure and the valuable opportunity to work and learn with influential platform.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
I predict that sustainable fashion design will become the normal practice and any brand who is not following this will not last very long. Consumers will keep demanding to know more about their clothing and tighter regulations will be put in place for more ethical manufacturing.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
I think the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion is that aesthetics have to be compromised in order to create low impact products. A lot of designers believe it has too many limitations, but it is working within these boundaries that leads the most exciting and rewarding designs for me.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
I believe to be a successful fashion designer today you have to be aware of how your design decisions will affect the rest of the supply chain, the planet and creatures within it. I also think that having good time management, organisation, communication and calculation skills are just as important as being creative!
My advice is to try and not feel overwhelmed by all the different factors within sustainable design, start by picking one aspect that you feel most passionate about, for example minimalising waste in fashion, and other elements will lead on from there. Try to see the limitations as opportunities to create unexpected designs that will have a story that consumers can connect to.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
I just launched a sustainable knitwear ‘Pop’ collection with The R Collective. It is now available to buy at and select pieces will be available exclusively at Lane Crawford, Asia’s leading iconic luxury department store, from March 2018. Working with The R Collective opened up my eyes to the sheer scale of surplus yarn stock that accumulates through current manufacturing systems. We were working with perfect condition, extremely luxury yarns that were considered waste as the result of brands changing their minds after sampling a dye-lot, cancelling orders or miss-calculating, or the aversion to replicating the same colour across two seasons.
I am also hoping to slowly launch my own brand CROP by this year. To enable this, I am currently looking into working with start-up company ‘Kniterate’ who are producing affordable compact digital knitting machines aimed at enabling small labels to create custom made/small runs and bring local manufacturing back to their neighbourhoods. When exploring conventional manufacturing routes, so far, I have been stunted by high minimums and the struggles of maintaining a transparent supply chain/ connection with my product’s story.

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You can follow Kate’s work on her website and Instagram

The 30 Redress Design Award 2018 semi-finalists will be announced on 17 April at when Redress will also open up public judging for the People’s Choice Award.

Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

Cradle to Cradle: Fashion’s Grave Reality

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The circular economy.

Closing the loop.

Cradle to cradle.

These are all phrases you may well have heard of. If not, best to familiarise yourself with them a.s.a.p. As our increasingly consumerist lifestyles reach tipping point, organisations are desperately trying to gather and reuse our rubbish, because otherwise, we may have nothing left to make anything with.

This year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit was kicked off by someone I had, until that moment, not heard of: Bill McDonough. If you are as clueless as I was, take the next 14 minutes and 30 seconds to get to know him and his ideas a little better. You won’t regret it.

Interesting, right?

People were still clapping by the time I’d completed my purchase of his book, Cradle to Cradle.

Fashion’s grave reality

McDonough’s work is clearly applicable to the creation of many, if not all, products. But it is particularly relevant to clothing because this industry has arguably one of the most linear and wasteful cycles in modern society. And this cycle’s impact on the environment is exacerbated by its speed and the quantities involved.

take make dispose clothing lifecycle fashion

The fashion cycle: cradle to grave

With 92 million tonnes of textile waste being produced by the global fashion industry in 2015, corresponding to more than 12 kg per person, it’s clear that we are hemorrhaging valuable resources every second of every day.

So What Exactly is Being Wasted?

I recently wrote about the differences between natural and man-made fibres, and the importance, as a consumer, of understanding where these different fibres come from.

In particular, I highlighted popular man-made fibre polyester as the most used in clothing production today.

Polyester is derived from fossil fuels, one of our planet’s none renewable resources. A resource so valuable in fact, that it should be treated as a ‘nest egg’ McDonough suggests.

And yet, not only do we buy cheap, poorly made clothing using this precious resource, but we throw it out in such a way that these valuable materials cannot be retrieved.

Perhaps excavating landfill sites will be a common activity in the future?

How insanely backward would that be?

How Can the Fashion Industry Do It Better?

How can this regressive fashion industry transform itself into a regenerative one?

When it comes to fashion, and the materials we use, we can work to achieve a circular system in two ways:

By creating a “biological” cycle, whereby an item made with 100% natural fibres (wool for example), able to be broken down by bacteria, is reclaimed by nature into its vast ecosystem when we no longer want or require it.

clothing fashion lifecycle cradle to cradle biodegradable

The fashion cycle: cradle to cradle (biological)

Or a “technical” one, whereby the clothing we buy made of man-made fibres is designed in such a way that the fibres can be separated and reused in a never-ending production cycle, whilst not degrading in quality.


fashion clothing lifecycle recycle circular cradle to cradle

The fashion cycle: cradle to cradle (technical)

Some organisations are themselves working on large-scale collection schemes in their shops. These schemes provide them with the raw materials to experiment with ways of recycling fibres.TT

Unintelligent and Inelegant Things…

My favourite phrase from ‘Cradle to Cradle’ is: ‘products that are not designed particularly for human and ecological health are unintelligent and inelegant –what we call crude products

Everything we buy, and everything we do, is part of a bigger process.

We can’t know everything. But know this: as a wearer of clothes, what you chose to buy and wear really matters. Because with every purchase, you are telling the world who and what you support.

Choose not to buy cheap clothes from people who cannot tell you how or where their products are made.

Chose not to buy clothing from companies who ignore our collective responsibility to address the issues the fashion industry and, by default, we all face.

A product without background, without craftsmanship, made without thought or purpose or regard for the future is a product without beauty, without meaning and without worth.

It’s a crude purchase. Simple.

*This story first appeared on Study 34

This Budding Designer From Delhi Makes Eco-Friendly & Affordable Wedding Wear From Waste Fabric

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Can fashion go hand-in-hand with being environmentally conscious and affordable to the masses? With heavy price tags, swiftly changing trends and lack of recycling options, the clothing industry ranks low on the eco-friendly scale. Moreover, fashion is associated with being accessible only to the elite. These are notions that budding fashion designer Devyani Kharbanda hopes to change for the better.

Raunaq by Devyani is the young designer’s brainchild—a line of ensembles made from kataran, the waste fabric left behind after making a garment.



Devyani, a final year student of fashion designing at Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi, began working on the initiative as part of her college curriculum. Her aim was two-fold. One was to bring down the cost of special occasion wear, and the other was to take an eco-friendly approach to design.

“Wedding dresses these days are exorbitantly priced,” she says. “Having elaborate surface work adds up to the cost of the garment along with the kind of fabrics used. Hence I chose kataran to make my garment look more interesting, unique and beautiful. My main aim was to make best use of the waste material available without spending a lot on the beautification of the garment.”

She began by sourcing the waste fabric. No place abounds in leftover fabrics more than tailoring shops and that’s where Devyani began sourcing. “I went to nearby tailors in and around my colony,” she says. “That was a task, as tailors don’t entertain students easily. Though at some places it was easy, but at times convincing the tailors to take out time and give me all the kataran they had was difficult.”

As she collected the scrap fabrics, she also simultaneously worked on the design element. Her strength as a designer lies in surface ornamentation and her designs showcase the possibilities of using waste fabrics to create eye-catching ornamentation and detailing on the garment.

Devyani conceptualised Raunaq as a collection of five brightly-hued ensembles, celebrating the union of two souls.


She started the design process with a hypothetical celebrity for whom she could make garments to wear at wedding functions. Devyani chose director Kiran Rao as a subject. “Keeping in mind what kind of garments she generally wears, the garments don’t have a lot of bling. According to me it would suit her kind of styling,” she says.

She adds, “The concept of using kataran for beautification is not very common, so a celebrity client would’ve been perfect to probably start a trend of such beautification techniques and spread amongst people as we all generally look up to celebrities and their clothing.”

The vibrant ensembles that make up the Raunak collection also showcases a variety of surface techniques. Devyani used couching, fabric flowers and yoyo flowers in the garments, and also made a lot of tassels using waste fabric.


Devyani admits that while the project seemed easy to start with, she faced many challenges during the process, which have helped her grow as a designer. “The biggest challenge was to bring my thought into reality as most of my garments were hand-done. Procuring the fabric, deciding colour combinations, doing the surface work and giving a finished designer look to the garments, while meeting timelines was another challenge. I even made matching accessories with the garments.” She credits her family and mentor Ambika Magotra for supporting her through the process.”

Devyani’s first designs were showcased, along with other student projects, at the latest edition of Amazon India Fashion Week.


The affordability of the designs made Devyani’s ensembles stand out in the crowd of designer ensembles. She says, “I made sure that I do something to beautify the surface of my garments without spending a lot. Making it eye catching but not having to spend too much on purchasing it was appreciated by everyone.”

The young designer is elated with the response the show has generated. “Post the show, reviews and media have been very encouraging which has boosted my confidence. I received a lot of positive feedback from everyone for my designs and unique idea,” she says.


Once she completes her degree, she hopes to work in an export house and learn about its operations. “I will hopefully one day build my own export house, where I plan to make garments using waste materials, inculcate eco friendly practices and explore further innovative ideas to incorporate in my design process.”

Till then, Devyani is eager to craft garments from kataran on request from interested clients. Invested in combining great design with sustainable practices, she says, “I would love to work on reusing waste fabric and offering something beautiful yet eco friendly. This way,, even though little, I am surely able to do my bit.”

To contact Devyani, click here.

*This story first appeared on The Better India

From Cotton Fields to High Street Racks, Fashion Bids to be 100% Sustainable

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Conservation charity WWF and the fashion industry aim to make desirable clothes that have zero impact on the environment

Are Ethical Brands Greenwashing?

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5 questions to figure out which brands are LEGIT

As a responsible shopper looking to do the right thing, you might think if a brand is openly talking about their environmental or labor practices, they’re probably legit. And if they show you a picture of a happy worker or an NGO partner, it’s probably a sign of good intent and practices, right? Swipe that credit card.


Buyer beware — greenwashing is definitely a THING, and it’s not just the big fast fashion brands.

We’re always getting questions about H&M, Zara and others. Are they “greenwashing”? (i.e. exaggerating their environmental chops or social practices in an effort to make themselves seem sustainable, and even diverting attention away from negative practices like child labor, or the consumption-driven fast fashion model. Ew.)

But recently, savvy readers, like yourselves, have been asking more questions about the credentials of smaller “ethical fashion” or “eco-fashion” brands, and whether their practices add up to all their marketing.

Greenwashing is never good. But with the smaller “ethical” new kids on the block, it’s almost even more dangerous if they don’t stack up to their claims. It seeds pessimism and cynicism among consumers, just as a new vision of a sustainable industry is starting to gain traction.

So over the last month we did a mini experiment to dig into the practices of a few exciting and popular “ethical” brands, who outwardly celebrate their positive impact, intentions or transparency, and see what evidence they had to back up these assertions.

We looked at:

  • Everlane, the “radically transparent” basics brand
  • Warby Parker, the “social impact” eyeglasses company
  • Kowtow, a fairtrade, organic cotton brand making knitwear and basics from New Zealand
  • Krochet Kids, a social impact brand, empowering women in Uganda and Peru

We studied their websites and social media, contacted them through numerous channels, looked at publicly available records and everything else we could find. We did an intensive search beyond what a consumer could do in an afternoon, but without using any tools you wouldn’t have at the ready.

We went to these brands with a lot of questions surrounding labor practices, environmental practices, community engagement, management practices, size and business model, intention, innovation and transparency.

Below we’ve shared some highlights, AND, as we did this in-depth research, we pieced together the five questions we realized could help you sniff out greenwashing. (If you’re a nerd for this stuff like us, you can view everything we found on their updated brand pages on our Project JUST wiki)

So check out what we found and TRY these questions on for size:

Curious about fibres?

1. First, check out what kind of fabrics / materials they are using.

Fabrics are an easy way to really change the impact of a supply chain for the better. PLUS it’s a super easy way for you as a shopper to know which brands are serious about changing the game. Raw materials are a big portion of the product, and consequently, its environmental and social impact. As a designer or a brand, committing to a restricted set of fabrics can be difficult — sustainable fabrics can be more expensive and not as easy to source — but it pays off in both your impact and performance in the end. So how did the brands we picked stack up?

Kowtow uses organic and fair trade cotton. Organic cotton is proven to be significantly better for people and planet, and fair trade means farmers and workers get fair wages for their work.

Krochet Kids uses some sustainable fabrics, but also uses acrylic and polyester (oil). They’re in the process of rolling out an organic cotton line.

While Everlane uses some natural fibres, none of them are certified from sustainable supply chains — you can read all about the impact of basic fabrics here. And, they also use synthetics like nylon (again, oil).

Warby Parker uses cellulose acetate, titanium, and stainless steel in its frames for both eyeglasses and sunglasses. Cellulose acetate is usually made from wood pulp. In February 2014, the brand reported via its Facebook page that Warby Parker frames are made of acetate that comes from a family-owned Italian manufacturer.

2. Second, do they have any certifications?

When you’re shopping, check out the tags — any symbols or certifications there? A certification offers a brand a rigorous program of standards and assessment, and a signal to shoppers of monitoring, high standards, and intention. A brand doesn’t have to have a certification to do good work, but often times, brands use them as a roadmap to build out a more sustainable supply chain. You have to be cautious though — some certifications aren’t that rigorous, or have major flaws in monitoring or auditing what’s actually happening on the ground. You can read more about certifications in our New Slang dictionary.

Fair Trade Cotton UK

Survey says?

Kowtow has organic and fair trade certifications. Plain, simple and thorough.

Warby Parker is a BCorp, but we couldn’t find any information about what this means in terms of their environmental impact, or how they treat their workers. However, their recently released response to the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act means that the brand has now made its Code of Conduct publicly available (check out this release of new information on our Warby Parker brand page).

Krochet Kids is launching an organic line, and has their own special impact measurement tool that they use at each of their facilities.

Everlane doesn’t have any certifications that provide us with an easy signal to show that they’re trying, but it’s clear they like to set things up their own way. For their supply chain, they have three pillars of work: they started with transparency, are currently building their compliance, and sustainability is next. They do hold the factories they work with accountable to a 85% or higher score on the labor audit. If they don’t hit the mark, they step in with a corrective action plan, in partnership with their auditing firm, Intertek, to help.

Certifications aren’t for everyone, nor do they always work, but for the shopper and for us, it’s an easy way to know what standard a brand is holding themselves to, what are their intentions and to look into what’s actually happening to meet it.

3. Third, how transparent are they… really?

This basically comes down to what — and how much — they’re truly sharing with us. What’s on their website? Their social media? What data do they share to back up their claims of social or environmental impact?

Let’s stack ’em up.

Everlane: As fashion supply chain nerds, ever since this brand came out with their tagline, radical transparency, we’ve been curious to know what constituted “radical” from the information they shared. After all, “radical” by definition implies something beyond average. But, when we looked on the Everlane website, we didn’t really find much beyond where some of their factories were located, and what they made. What were we looking for? How they guaranteed fair wages and safe working conditions, what kinds of environmental policies they had in place, and their intentions for future improvement.

So we reached out to their team with a list of questions, and low and behold, got to sit down with the Founder & CEO, Michael Preysman —getting serious now.

He shared quite a bit of info with us including:

  • Their code of conduct
  • The average score of their factories on quarterly audits: 90.1%
  • The number of times a year their team visits their factories: 3
  • Their current lack of environmental policies, but their intent to work on this as the next phase in monitoring their supply chain
  • And lots more! (available for you to see behind a tiny little paywall, but trust us it’s worth the 5 bucks)

So why isn’t all this info available on their website?

Michael said (paraphrased) that they prefer not to reveal their work until it’s fully complete, so that the company can figure the right strategy to communicate the information to their customer, in a way that makes sense.

You tell us. Given that these guys have shaken things up before, we’re excited to see what they churn out in the coming months to truly be “radical” in their supply chain practices.

More than just transparent pricing?

Warby Parker: When it came to Warby Parker, we received not one answer to our questions. Not one! Between January and February 2017, we reached out six times to the PR company and twice to the brand, who then redirected us back to the PR company (head spinning emailing 😕).

This brand that claims positive social impact, and even has a BCorp certification (!), never answered our questions about whether they can trace their entire supply chain, where their suppliers are located, if they have a code of conduct, how much the workers in their supply chain are paid, how they monitor their social and environmental practices, and what their goals are to decrease their negative impact. In just the last two days, they did release a new set of info to comply with the California Transparency Act. Great – but we’ve still got questions.

Kowtow and Krochet Kids: These two brands both have a lot of information available on their website. Krochet Kids was willing to answer any question we threw their way, while Kowtow had enough info on their website and via their certifications to thoroughly answer our questions.

4. Do they express intention for improvement?

No brand is perfect. But given the major impact of fashion supply chains on people and planet, it’s important to at least have the intention and plans to continue to improve. Do they have goals on their website? Any plans that they share with the media, or consumers?

Krochet Kids told us all about their future plans. So did Everlane. Warby Parker — no answer and nothing available on their site. And finally Kowtow, who by committing to only use fair trade and organic cotton, has restricted their growth and made a sustainability commitment for the long run.

5. Fifth, and finally, will they get back to you / us / anyone?

When you ask a question — do they respond? And do they give you a straight answer?

After we emailed them this month, Everlane gave us a sit down with their founder & CEO. We had also reached out to them before with questions through various consumer channels, and had received responses — but not nearly as comprehensive as this. We appreciate this, but we also recognize that not everyone is afforded this kind of access. We hope they continue to strive to be as responsive to consumers as possible to attain this same standard of radical transparency.

Krochet Kids’ CEO and COO had a phone call with us after they answered our comprehensive survey. We were impressed with their brand, and especially with their willingness to share and open up to us.

Kowtow and Warby Parker both didn’t answer our repeated efforts to get in touch with them with our questions. That said, Kowtow has a ton of information about their brand and practices available on their website for anyone (not just supply chain dorks like us) to see. Warby Parker? Not so much.

So what did we learn?

In this day and age, with consumers buying products made by global supply chains, and with issues of human trafficking, child labor, worker abuse and environmental violations — the consumer should have a right to know how the product they’re paying for is made and be able to see the evidence to back it up.

And with brands like these, consumers should also know legitimately that the brand’s vision and proclaimed values match how they treat workers in their supply chain, and how they treat our planet. If you’re paying, you deserve to know.

So don’t get taken for a ride— keep searching, keep asking questions and tell your friends to ask, too. From our experience, you might even get to sit down with the CEO.

*This story first appeared on New Co Shift

Push for the Plastic Weave

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By Pankaja Srinivasan

From the Paris runway to Chennai’s pop up, we trace the journey of Coimbatore industrialist Kavitha Chandran’s brand of bags, Urmi


The colourful koodais (baskets) that your grandmum wove with tubes of plastic just became haute couture. All thanks to Kavitha Chandran and her brand of bags, Urmi. Chandran, who employs women from in and around Coimbatore to hand-weave totes and clutches from recycled plastic, using age-old basket-weaving techniques from the region, says it’s all about women empowerment, sustainability and reviving an almost-forgotten craft.

The stylish Chandran could easily pass for a model herself, but is intensely private and would rather not have her photo taken. “But you are welcome to ask me anything,” she says. Chandran speaks about Urmi’s collaboration with designer Manish Arora at the recently-concluded Paris Fashion Week 2017 (PFW). His models carried Urmi bags, and now, boutiques in New York, Tokyo, Ibiza and Paris are selling them. The bags will also be seen at the London Design Fair in September.

Chandran, who was always fascinated by baskets, says the idea for Urmi was born when she saw an employee’s wife and mother hand-weave baskets. The idea took shape when she got into a discussion with Amirthavalli who ran a small shop near her textile factory in Udumalpet. From her, she learnt about the various weaves. “I learnt about the Malli Muggu (jasmine or flower bud weave), Shiva’s Eye, Star and the regular weave. The Nellikai (gooseberry) and the biscuit weaves are in the pipeline,” she says. Amirthavalli became the first point of contact and she gathered together other women who still practised basketry.

Speaking of her first lot, Chandran says, “I showed the first batch of bags at ‘Who’s Next Paris 2015’ and people loved it.” She was flooded with enquiries from across the world, and that got her thinking. “It was not just about a fashion accessory,” she says, “but one that ties in with my commitment to sustainability and women empowerment.” Chandran, who recently received the Astitva Samman Award by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was the President of the FICCI Ladies Organisation in 2012. “We provide women the opportunity of working from home, as for many, stepping out to work is not an option. They are given the raw material and specifications. The bags can take anything between eight to 22 hours to weave,” says Chandran, who now employs 40 women in Udumalpet and Coimbatore.

The Urmi collection has evening clutches, box clutches, shoppers, tote bags and casual bags. The next big thing is going bigger with events like the Amazon Fashion Week and Lakme Fashion Week.

Urmi is available on 16 stores online, besides their outlets in Puducherry, Kochi, Delhi and Jaipur. Bags are in the ₹3,200 – ₹5,000 price range. The Chennai pop up is at The Amethyst Room, from April 5 to 15.

*This story first appeared in The Hindu