India has a notorious reputation when it comes to the amount of waste we generate and irresponsibly dispose into the depths of our innocent oceans or carelessly dump into our landfills. While garbage collection seems to have become an insurmountable problem, waste generation is the root cause of it - one that we aren’t addressing nearly as seriously as we should. And our hurried lifestyles that are built around fast food, fast travel, and fast fashion are definitely not going to slow down anytime soon. Of course, the fact that India is home to the largest youth population in the world has quite a bit to do with it. But the same youth, it seems, is starting to step up to the situation and how.
LOTA, the brainchild of Delhi-based couple Adhiraj Singh and Shradha Kochhar, is the new sustainable fashion label in town and it’s really changing the game with its unique, eclectic collection of ‘wasteful shirts’ - clothing that’s made entirely out of industrial scrap fabric. Launched earlier this month, LOTA started with conversations around the current state of the fashion industry as the second largest polluter in India. “We felt there was a lot of talk but not enough execution so we decided to do our bit as two oompa loompas out on a mission to the save the planet,” the couple tells Homegrown.
To put it simply, LOTA’s designs make you stop and stare and the astonishment soon turns into inexplicable admiration that’s far from the kind of feeling a regular ZARA shirt would invoke. The cheeky stripes, mismatched fabric patches, and a distinct polychromatic palette make up LOTA’s constantly evolving aesthetic - which is driven by the desire to change people’s perception of ‘waste’. The idea is to create a distinctly recognisable visual experience that’s first a treat to the eyes, and then a reminder of sustainability and the waste that has gone into its making. “In our debut campaign LOTALAND, the shirts were scanned and mapped into 3D digital models. Our next campaign may focus on using analog or even play with scale and move to the microscopic. Our only aim is to keep it fresh”, says Shradha, a NIFT graduate.
Unlike other labels, LOTA’s debut collection was launched through an auction that was announced on their official Instagram page and took place on their website over a three-day period. “It was so crazy, people were outbidding each other by the second. It was so surreal that we even had Riz Ahmed find out about LOTA and buy two of our shirts!”, Adhiraj gleefully shares.
Describing it as “one man’s trash is another one’s treasure”, the couple takes us through the journey of a LOTA shirt. From discarded fabric scraps as small as a fist to metre-long rejected material, LOTA’s raw material comes from small and big manufacturing units across the city. These scraps then undergo an intensive process of sanitisation, after which it is segregated on the basis of weight, colour, and print. Depending on the design, the scraps are then sewed together into patterns that can fit both men and women. Almost like a beautiful tapestry in the making, every LOTA piece is unique and impossible to duplicate.
But to work in such an unplanned and spontaneous way comes with its own problems as Adhiraj explains, “One of our biggest restrictions is that we have to use the existing shapes of the waste. For example, in one of our pieces GAZE, right down the middle there is an irregular cut in the fabric that caused it to be thrown away. So we put it at the centre to highlight the imperfections of the cutting.”
Each of LOTA’s offerings don’t just come with a one-of-its-kind design, but also an unusual name like ‘Kinara’, ‘Dadar’, ‘Ziggy’ etc. which sum up the striking stories that come with these shirts. While some might have been inspired by the founders’ experiences, others have popped up in light-hearted conversations during production and stayed on till the very end. As Adhiraj explains, “‘Kinara’ came from Tahir Masterji’s habit of saying ‘kinare ko kinare se jodo’ (sew each end with the other) while stitching the striped pieces together.” ‘Dadar’ on the other hand is a recollection of the time they went to Dadar to source scarves and found Dadar Juice Corner as their saving grace.
With a design canvas that changes with every piece, a team consisting of just six people including Adhiraj and Shradha, and a drive to undo the irresponsible nightmare that is our clothing supply chain, LOTA is determined to create a parallel economy. One that is ethical, considerably slower, durable, and makes use of fabric waste in unbelievably creative ways. While the auctioning was a fun experience, the founders of LOTA don’t think they’ll be having one anytime soon as it doesn’t allow them to effectively make a dent in the country’s waste problem. And even though Adhiraj and Shradha are not the first ones to upcycle, they still are pioneers working backwards, and trying to create fashion out of waste instead of the other way round.
You can find their collection on their Instagram page. The shirts are available for purchase on their official website.
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