Top Indian Designer Ujjawal Dubey Goes Greener

Designer Ujjawal Dubey has come up with a great reuse, recycle initiative

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

How do you straddle tradition and modernity in fashion? Top Indian designer Ujjawal Dubey knows.

Through his brand Antar-Agni, he has managed to unite the traditional shapes and textiles that distinguish Indian garments with the modern minimalism so loved by cosmopolitan globetrotters.

And no wonder: his experience in design also merges tradition with the new.

After graduating in textile design at NIFT in Kolkata, he broadened his expertise as a couturier going Down Under. His experience at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane was influential in shaping this ethically minded designer. In fact, his label stands out in terms of consciousness by ensuring that textiles do not go to waste, also reflecting the nature-friendly philosophy of his home country of origin.

This menswear brand that has gained appreciation also from the ladies, has acquired popularity among Bollywood stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor and Sushant Singh Rajput. And he continues to get global attention. From Bollywood the next step is bound to be Hollywood, if we think of how many stars in Tinseltown are concerned about sustainable fashion, like Leo DiCaprio and Natalie Portman.

How Indian Designer Ujjawal Dubey Is Going Greener

How does Indian traditional clothing influence your approach to fashion? 

Traditional Indian clothing has always been the base of all our work, especially the stories attached to most. The unstitched and the traditional clothing was mostly about layers which give us the strength to continue with layers and drapes. Tradition is our alphabet, we are just trying to create a new vocabulary.

Tell us a bit about your ‘Restore Love’ initiative. What inspired it?

The world has been obsessed with owning more, and throwing the old away, a direct affront to our oldest Indian values of saving and passing on. Nature demands a course correction. We have always believed in the slow life and this idea has been brewing for a while now. Slow down life and let it grow on you and in this case the evergreen-ness of the clothes.

This inspired me to start with ‘Restore Love’ where your old, damaged Antar-Agni garments are brought back to life or enhanced in our studio.

Can you tell us what other traits make your brand sustainable?

At Antar-Agni we practice being conscious, be it creation, sourcing, or consumption. We believe that being conscious is to be incorporated into our DNA.  Restore Love is one of our initiatives that supports the philosophy of buying less and promotes the idea of rewarding more and more. We try our best to reduce fabric wastage and are conscious about the consumption of paper and water that we use. I prefer calling my brand a ‘conscious label.’

What are your thoughts about the ethical fashion movement in your country?

It is about time! However, India has always been a very conscious culture. We are told to re-use, reduce wastage, and respect all-natural resources as a part of our culture. It’s also about holistic development, how people are treated, paid well, and up-gradation in the working environment which is now gaining pace because of new policies and people who believe in it.

How did your experience in Australia influence your path as a sustainable designer?

For me, it was also about valuing the simple or valuing the basics and how small steps towards learning and every other aspect work well. It taught me to be genuine, ethical, and affected me morally as well. It gave me a lot of confidence too.

How do you coalesce traditional Indian craftsmanship with 21st-century demands?

India has been a powerhouse of craft and the sheer volume to artisans and craftsmen makes it possible to produce even large quantities by hand.  There is a different craft in every area of the country and I feel privileged to have so many possibilities around. It is always more exciting to work with people than machines or alongside machines and it adds so much character to every piece.

I think it’s more of the human touch and feel and energy that gets transferred into every product, art, and craft that it’s enriching in itself. Yet I believe a lot needs to be done in terms of no commercial exploitation and fair value (monetarily and emotionally) to the craftsmanship.

What do you hope for the future of fashion?

I hope the world becomes more conscious of its efforts. I hope the conscious effort doesn’t only limit to fashion and its products but also the chain it is linked to, the people it employs, the people who are directly indirectly connected, be more ethical, to value not just what’s visible but also the effort gone behind in making everything visible. To give credit to the ones who deserve it, since its art made to sell and appreciation is the most important tool and fuel. I hope for a more conscious future of fashion.

The basic DNA has to change, the effort towards saving water, saving paper, saving power, saving trees has to be collective and equally practiced. Recycling, reusing, upcycling, or restoring, a conscious effort made holistically, keeping all sides in mind.

For more information on Ujjawal Dubey, please click here.

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
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