When I decided that I wanted re-vamp my wardrobe with clothes that were labelled ‘sustainable’, I was defeated by the price tags (even after broke college days gave way to a regular first-job pay cheque). While up-cycling material was relatively budget-friendly, buying new clothes that were in sync with the slow fashion movement came at a high cost, one that needed me to dip quite deep into my Euro-Trip savings account, even if I just wanted a couple of garments, begging the question–why is ethical more expensive?
That’s because the fast-fashion world where I (and the majority of the modern world) from where I wardrobe, makes somebody else pay the true cost of the garment. H&M’s owner is Sweden’s richest person, the Spanish founder of Zara has overtaken Bill Gates to become the world’s richest man, while Forever 21 co-founders are reportedly worth more than four billion dollars. Yet, as seen in Rahul Jain’s documentary ‘Machines’ the workers of an unnamed textile factory in India get paid $3 dollars per 12-hour shift and most of the workers are only given a one-hour break between these shifts and this is just one of the many harrowing stories of humanitarian crimes brought by fast-fashion. Needless to say, one of the world’s most polluting industries, second only to oil, fast fashion ha also done irreparable environmental damage to the planet.
Now of course none of these facts or figures can magically double your income for a sustainable shopping spree, but that’s not what you should be aiming for anyway. It’s actually quite the opposite, where you must want better things rather than more. What are these better things? Slow fashion ensures that every step in the supply chain is mindful. The natural fabrics used for their creations are kinder on your skin, and also empower indigenous communities that are involved in its production and design. The price point of the products are a direct result of the ethical wages the slow fashion movement offers its skilled and unskilled labour. While fast fashion clothes are made to come apart, so you can rush to the next store for more, creations from sustainable fashion are made to last. Now that you have understood the paradox of affordable sustainable fashion, let me give you some good news.
We decided to navigate the depths of the web, to curate a list of Indian fashion labels that promise to stay true to the slow fashion movement, while tirelessly innovating so you won’t break the bank (well, almost.)* Started by individuals with a fierce passion for conscientious couture, these brands are reflective of unique, mindful philosophies. Using indigenous textiles, handlooms and upcycled material their fashion lines are an eclectic mix of minimalism, elegance and a fair bit of quirk which often seamlessly come together when traditional and contemporary aesthetics merge. Yes, sustainability doesn’t necessarily have to compromise with style. So if you are itching to make some additions to your wardrobe, scroll down to do it with the sustainable (and relatively) affordable way.
*Our benchmark for affordable sustainable fashion is under INR 3,000.
I. No Nasties
‘Easy on the eyes, easy on the planet’, is the snappy attitude of this brand. They started manifesting their beliefs right at the grassroots level–all the cotton is sourced from organic fair trade farms in India, grown by small-scale farmers who use no GMO seeds, no synthetic pesticides, and well, no nasties. As testimony to their commitment to slow fashion, they have also started a not-for-profit project Doug, which aims at giving women from the cotton farming villages of India a dependable source of income. As a patron of ethical fashion, No Nasties has stepped up to it with sass-minimal design, and bohemian silhouettes, in no fuss cuts for both men and women. For all those looking to make sustainability part of your everyday wardrobe, No Nasties is perfect.
Price: Rs. 999 onwards.
The ethos of Forty Red Bangles finds its roots in traditional organic sources. Its handcrafted designs, pay homage both to the forgotten rural artisan and Mother Earth. Made from sustainable materials, the brands collaborates and outsources its production to artisan groups in various pockets of rural India. With an affinity for earthy colours and elegance, their in-house creations feature organic women’s clothing-we particularly love their casual chic wrap-around dresses. They also house accessories, handcrafted, jewellery, all-natural candles, up-cycled homewares, kids wear and handmade toys! This label is a seamless marriage of sustainability and design.
Price: Rs. 3,000 onwards.
III. Brown Boy
Brown Boy, a strictly vegan and PETA approved brand believes that it can be an agent of change in a world dominated by the unethical supply chain of high street fashion. This 100% ‘Make In India’ brand uses pure cotton, and non-toxic dyes so that its garments cause minimal ecological harm while also treating the skin to chemical-free goodness. Their designs, a product of supporting independent designers and rural craftsmen, lend themselves best to men’s minimalist tees and pastel bohemian creations for women. With a belief in ‘quality’ that is rooted in longevity with timeless aesthetics, clothes from Brown Boy are sure to become treasures in your wardrobe.
Price: Rs 1,200 onwards.
IV. The Pot Plant
The Pot Plant, a sight for sore eyes in the concrete fast fashion jungle, is grounded in its love for ‘natural fabrics and congenial clothing.’ Founded in 2014 by Resham Karmchandani and Sanya Suri, The Pot Plant’s clothes have been crafted for lazy Sundays – unhurried, mindful, yet playful. Anti-fit dresses, asymmetrical maxis, flared trousers and calf-grazing culottes – made from natural fabrics (khadi features prominently) – the label’s ethical, sustainable collection hinges on the principles of conscious dressing and mindful living.
Price: Rs 2,500 onwards.
Anokhi has been pushing sustainable couture in India for the past 40 years––perhaps the first brand to set itself up at the forefront of the slow fashion movement in the country. Block printing with vegetable colour dyes, they hone relationships and empower artisans. With their steely ideas of conservation, Anokhi has successfully revived the age-old dying craft of block-printing. One of the best role models for ethical business practices, Anokhi produces a line of eclectic ethnic garb for women–contemporary cuts, striking indigenous graphics, bold colours-against the backdrop of ethics.
Price: Rs 2,000 onwards.
VI. Red Sisters Blue
The founders of Red Sister Blue, Nanda Yadav and Michael Grobe hero khadi– a centuries-old Indian organic fabric-by making it wearable for the jeans-clad, crop top dresser of today. The Mumbai-based apparel house seamlessly blends the old with the new in its collection of pants, shorts, dresses and skirts. Heaven sent for humid Mumbai days, the collection is dominated by vibrant colours and fresh silhouettes. An appealing alternative to environmentally toxic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic, Red Sisters Blue is modernising khadi by bringing it into the 21st century.
Price: Rs 1,500 onwards.
VII. Brass Tacks
Inspired by the founder’s memories of growing up in Madras, in a house filled with Indian textiles and the scent of her mother’s freshly washed handloom cotton sarees, Brass Tacks is a breath of fresh air in the fast-fashion saturated market. The design team at this label that works with traditional indigenous fabrics keeps to the rhythms of the slow fashion movement by producing only three collections a year that, apart from being available online are also retailed at the brand’s stores in Chennai and Bangalore (they are coming to Mumbai soon!). With their own in-house size-charts conceptualised for the naturally curvy Indian woman, the brand is breaking the norms created for the fast fashion world in more than one way. Comfortably bold boxy dresses, flowing tunics, and chic jackets their designs come with comfort and clean simple lines (their latest collection is inspired by the Kanjivaram) represent a fine blend of traditional and contemporary Indian aesthetics.
Price: Rs 900 onwards.
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