India is a country that is smattered year after year by unforgiving summers and swathes of irregular rainfall. The plight of those who toil day-in and day-out, to grow the raw material often goes unnoticed by you and me. Farmers and their industries are the backbone of a nation’s economy and sustenance, and to be ignorant of the current plight they are facing is an undeniable folly of which many of us might just be a tad guilty of. Of course, some might argue that it is the prerogative of the government to ensure that agriculturalists are protected in times of dire need and that of course is a valid argument.
Enter Nisha Natarajan - A self-taught designer, entrepreneur, and founder of Zariya, a bespoke bridal wear boutique that is as much about fashion as it is about giving back to the rural community. Established in 2013, Zariya is a fashion brand that takes pride in its departure from conventional norms of the industry, spawned out of Nisha’s own runway pursuits.“ Zariya was conceptualized purely out of my passion for design and textiles, which is also what pushed me to explore and learn more about locally grown and made fabrics.“ Her quest led her to discover Microspin Machine Works, a brainchild of Kannan Lakshminarayanan which was incubated by IIT Madras in 2011. Microspin invented a micro spinning machine that enables farmers to convert cotton into yarn themselves and successfully set up their first unit in Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
Here farmers are able to walk in with their produce and walk out with a finished product much unlike large production plants and factories that offer very little to the farmer in return for the raw material. This unseen underbelly of India’s booming cotton industry is threatening to destroy the very source that it thrives on. When asked to describe the pains a cotton farmer faces in India, Nisha laments, “The cotton after harvest goes through a number of middlemen who take it through various stages of the production and supply chain. They see profit at almost every stage, whereas a farmer sees none of these profits and makes barely a living! “
Microspin aims on breaking down this age old tradition system by eliminating the middlemen completely.
The company aims to combat this menace by setting up a larger number of smaller processing plants that would benefit the tillers of the land. The term “ Microspin “ is also derived from the fact that these plants have spindles of much smaller capacity ( 500 spindles ) compared to their goliath counterparts that have massive capacities ( 25,000 spindles or more).
Microspin also pride themselves on their unique crafting technique that differs hugely from the usual aggressive mechanical processes applied. The technique that is currently awaiting a patent clearance works by tossing and tumbling the cotton fibres in the air rather than using mechanical slubs. The fibres are then carded using aerodynamics and buoyancy helping the fabric retain fullness, bounce and a natural texture.
The yarn produced, now registered and trademarked is called “ Crafted Yarn “ and is available locally. The Organization is presently working with 200 farmers who are benefitting from this project because of their inclusive production model, allowing the hard-working farmer to reap the rewards of his own produce.The project aims to revitalise the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra with the National Skills Development Corporation by improving local textile production and has already been well received.
“Spun, dyed, and woven by the farmers and their families who also grow the cotton, the fabrics represent hope for the people of Vidarbha” Nisha says as she debuted the fabric in the first series of her collection. Her work drew much praise from all quarters of Bangalore’s fashion fraternity and was even championed by regional movie-star and her good friend Nabha Natesh. So much so that the collection also made it to Bangalore Fashion Week Winter Festival 2015.
Nisha’s endeavour and beliefs have also seen her join Microspin and take over the business development position for Bangalore as she hopes to spread awareness among the general public and through Zariya , promote the concept of “Fashion with a conscious” .