We had no idea there were so many eco friendly Indian fashion brands! We think you’ll be impressed, too…
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Forget Paris, Milan or London. India used to be the textile epicentre of the world! Its prolific trade in cloth reached a peak in the 18th and 19th centuries, when silk and cotton handkerchiefs, neck-scarves and table napkins were shipped in their thousands to England and beyond. One of the most commonly sold items were tie-dyed silk handkerchiefs from Bengal called ‘bandannas’, which were exported as neck cloths for sailors, agricultural labourers and other working people.
Of course, we still use that word for that particular piece of cloth. But did you know there are many other words we adopted from India to refer to clothing? These include: pashmina, calico, dungarees, gingham, khaki, pyjamas, sash, seersucker and shawl to name a few.
Of course, we borrowed more than words. British manufacturers copied Indian designs and patterns liberally, and then undercut their European markets by cheaply printing ‘Indian’ textiles with machines and synthetic dyes.
Fortunately, Indian textile traditions have never died, and today there are a few amazing Indian fashion designers such as Haya Creations (pictured above and below) and others. These eco friendly Indian fashion brands are reviving ancient techniques in their sustainable and/or ethical collections.
Here’s our pick of some of the best modern, eco friendly Indian fashion brands around today.
Out of India: Eco Friendly Indian Fashion Brands
Anokhi is based in the pink city of Jaipur, the historic capital of Rajasthan. The city has a long, rich history rooted in the arts and crafts. The Anokhi brand has fully embraced this in the course of its 40 years of producing eco-friendly textiles. Their materials boast a range of natural colours, clothing styles and excellent artisanal product quality. The company is well known for its solid business practices, as well as its preservation of handprinted traditional textile techniques.
Ever since its founding in 2009, Bhusattva has gained a reputation for creating feminine silhouettes in a soft colour palette, all with an Indian flare.
This is not only eco friendly Indian fashion; it’s ethical, too. In addition to always using organic fabrics in its collections, Bhusattva launched its ethical “Khadi Art” project in association with the WEC (Women’s Empowerment Corporation) and OWM (Ora World Mandala). They did so in order to apply a basic principle of Gandhian philosophy: to empower clothing creators both economically and socially.
These are just a few examples of the many ethical projects linked to this label, which is proud to promote both environmental and social sustainability.
Delhi based designer Samant Chauhan won a variety of awards after his eco-friendly graduate show in 2004. Since then, he’s continued to use handwoven Indian textiles to create collections defined by their simple, clean-cut silhouettes. For that Indian flare, he often chooses embroidered embellishments.
Chauhan gives credit to the Bhagalpur craftsmen for his ever evolving and innovative designs, and he launched his Rajputana Collection in their honour.
Behno’s style departs from the traditional and instead embraces pure minimalism. Their looks are inspired by Le Corbusier’s interpretation of Chandigarh, India’s first city to embrace the Modernist movement.
Le Corbusier called for a new era where society would conserve its resources by rediscovering traditional values and creation processes. With this in mind, Shivam Punjya founded Behno. The intention was not only to create a fashion brand, but also to help boost the incomes of women who were normally earning less than $1 per day.
He pays these women fair wages to produce beautiful hand-spun, hand-woven textiles. He then fashions those materials into highly wearable collections for an international clientele. So far, Punjya has been successful both in terms of achieving his social goals becoming a noted creator of some of India’s most cutting-edge clothing.
5. Payal Pratap
A design graduate from NIFT Delhi in 1994, Payal Pratap worked in the fashion industry for six years. She then decided to join her designer husband, Rajesh Pratap Singh, to assist him in his work.
In 2010, Pratap decided to launch her own label for the modern Indian woman. Her typical client is stylish and independent, yet deeply rooted in tradition at the same time. She believes in timeless elegance, and caters to women whose concept of chic goes beyond trends dictated by fashion magazines.
Cross stitch embroideries and delicate detailing decorate natural fabrics such as linen and cotton dupions. Chanderis, crepes and georgettes are also used to create slow fashion collections that will look stylish decade after decade.
Anavila is a brand catering to and redefining the elegance of Indian women today. This label is all about sustainable fashion made with responsibly sourced materials. Rooted in its Indian heritage, Anavila is taking the iconic sari and redefining it for the modern era. Of course, they’re making it both comfortable and eco-friendly, too.
The backbone of this ethically chic brand is the cluster of artisans behind it. Their skilled hands help to craft the trademark hand-woven linens of Anavila’s saris. Importantly, they also help to make them drape beautifully. Using soft, organic materials, Anavila is truly bringing an innovative flare to the sari, transporting it into the modern world.
Delhi-based designer Amit Aggarwal is giving recycled plastics a new lease of life by morphing them into fabrics that are transformed into edgy, modern fashion pieces that are worthy of red carpets.
Fusing together sculptural shapes and industrial materials, these unique garments have a fantastical, somewhat futuristic element to them.
Maku designers Santanu Das and Chirag Gandhi are truly getting the conversation started on eco friendly Indian fashion. While respecting the historical crafting practises of India, Maku creates comfortable cotton clothing that will blend into your wardrobe. These pieces will be your favourite daily staples.
Each garment is coloured with natural Indian dyes with an impressive 5,000 year old history. Khadi, muslin and jamdani fabrics are woven by hand by skilled artisans.
Don’t expect to find Maku hitting the runways, though. The ethos of the brand is strictly “anti-trend,” making them a slow fashion brand that’s meant to last for decades.
9. Anita Dongre
Trailblazer Anita Dongre has 20 years of experience in the Indian fashion industry. Her career has seen her work to create one of the most successful fashion houses in India. But the House of Anita Dongre is more than a fashion brand. It’s a family, employing over 2,7000 people directly and thousands more in rural villages who depend on the company for the livelihoods. This working relationship allows the effects of labour to be reverse, all while embracing fashion designs that are good for the planet, too.
What’s more, the Anita Dongre label works under its initiative, Grassroot, to preserve artisanal Indian handiwork. They turn traditional Indian crafts into contemporary, sustainable fashion.
10. Sanah Sharma
Sanah Sharma is a brand that truly pays exquisite attention to detail. The slow-fashion movement is gaining momentum, and fashion doesn’t come slower than SANAH SHARMA. The founder initially cuts each piece herself to ensure maximum efficiency of raw materials. Then, fairly paid workers follow this up by using Planar Flux. This is a unique cutting technique that reduces fabric consumption and is zero waste.
Bridging the gap between what is perceived sustainable and what is perceived fashionable all while keeping conventionality at the forefront of its designs, their new collection is practical for all aspects of daily living, from work to socialising. Expect light, feminine fabrics, unique, creative cuts, and clothing that really makes a statement from this eco friendly Indian fashion brand.
11. Harleen Kaur
Harleen Kaur is an eco friendly Indian fashion showcasing diversity. She does so by fusing South Asian heritage with a Western flare. Offering a distinct aesthetic that is versatile, innovative and contemporary, the brand provides a fashionable way to express many different ethnicities. From handmade Italian jacquard, to fine Japanese satin and tulle that has been hand-beaded in India, the fabrics used to create each piece are ethically sourced from around the world.
The brand aims to be a leader in eco friendly Indian fashion by using OEKO-Tex and recycled fabrics. Harleen Kuar is also taking steps towards a more zero-waste approach.