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 there are many other words we adopted from India to refer to clothing: pashmina, calico, dungarees, gingham, khaki, pyjamas, sash, seersucker and shawl to name a few. But 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, reviving ancient techniques in their eco-friendly 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 rich history rooted in the arts and crafts, and the Anokhi brand has fully embraced this in the course of its 40 years of producing eco-friendly textiles, which boast a range of natural colours, clothes and excellent artisanal product quality. The company is well known as a role model for its solid business practices and 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.
The label is both ethical and eco friendly: 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, often embellished by embroidery.
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, 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, with the intention of not only creating a fashion brand, but also of helping to change the lives 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 that he then designs into highly wearable collections for international fashionistas. 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 before joining her designer husband Rajesh Pratap Singh and assisting him in his work.
In 2010, Pratap decided to launch her own label for the Indian woman who is modern, independent, yet deeply rooted in tradition at the same time. She believes in timeless elegance, and caters to the stylish woman 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 to create slow fashion collections that are made to last year after year.
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, while making it both comfortable and eco-friendly, too.
The backbone of this ethically chic brand is the cluster of artisans whose skilled hands help to craft the trademark hand-woven linens of Anavila’s saris, and help make them drape beautifully. By using organic materials that are both soft and comfortable on the body, 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.
When it comes to sustainability and slow fashion, Maku designers Santanu Das and Chirag Gandhi are officially getting the conversation started. While respecting the historic craft practises of India, Maku creates comfortable cotton clothing that will blend into your wardrobe and become daily staples.
Each garment is coloured with natural Indian dyes that have an impressive 5,000 year old history of use in India, and khadi, muslin and jamdani fabrics are woven by hand by skilled artisans.
Don’t expect to find Maku hitting the runways; 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 twenty years experience in the Indian fashion industry and her career has seen her work to create one of the most successful fashion houses in India. 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.
Reviving and sustaining Indian handcrafted traditions, the Anita Dongre label works under its initiative, Grassroot, to turn these crafts into contemporary, sustainable fashion.
10. SANAH SHARMA
Last but not least, we feature a brand that pays exquisite attention to detail. The slow-fashion movement is gaining momentum, and fashion doesn’t come slower than SANAH SHARMA. Each piece is cut by the founder of the label, Sanah, herself to ensure maximum efficiency of raw materials. Each garment is made locally by fairly paid workers to reduce its environmental footprint, implementing Planar Flux – 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 SS’20 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 brand.