Hiral (extreme left) posing with her team and models wearing her collection at the show

Sustainable fashion is the next big thing. While companies are promoting this kind of fashion, students are not far behind. When it comes to students, the zeal, gusto and motivation with which they have been working towards achieving sustainability in their respective study spheres, is worth some appreciation.

Hiral Sumra, a student at Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai, studying Dress Designing and Garment Manufacturing says, “In a world facing serious environmental issues like global warming and green house effect, it becomes extremely important for each and every person to take to sustainability as a way of life.”

Being a fashion student, Hiral has weaved considerable traces of sustainability into her field of study. In February 2016, she was part of a conference called Consortium of Green Fashion, which was initiated three years ago by SOFT (School Of Fashion Technology), Pune. “At the conference, we were briefed about handloom, Khaadi and the different arts in India by speakers like Rahul Bhajekar, Director and Quality Controller, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Albert Ian Rigo, FabIndia.”

After the conference, Hiral and her teammates embarked on a seven-month long project that included extensive research, travelling to the interiors of Kutch, speaking with local artisans, and learning the tricks of the trade. The motive of the project was to pick a particular art or technique originating from any Indian state and showcase it to the audience in the form of a full-fledged collection.

Rogaan art on fabric
Rogaan art on fabric

Hiral’s team skilfully merged two concepts – ‘Fashion for All’, where their models were family members of all ages, while also using Rogaan art in a contemporary way. “Rogaan art from Bhuj, is a 300-year-old art form practised only by the Khatri community from Kutch. It is a form of textile painting,” says Hiral.

The team presented their collection at M. S. University, Baroda. While their focus was on an extinct art, their counterparts based their collection on fabrics such as Ahimsa Silk and Muslin. The objective of the collection, Hiral says, was to support the artisans and come up with something innovative in terms of design.

Rizvaan Khatri demonstrating Rogaan art at an exhibition organized by Hiral Sumra and her teammates
Rizvaan Khatri demonstrating Rogaan art at an exhibition organized by Hiral Sumra and her teammates

Later, she and her team went on to hold an exhibition-cum-sale called Rogaan Art – Woven In The Air, which aimed at empowering artisans who practised the art. The exhibition also included a demonstration by an artisan, Rizvaan Khatri, a German Award winner. The exhibition received around 90 visitors.

“Rogaan art makes for a good substitute for rubber print. In earlier times, when the richer communities could easily afford art like abla bharat and kutchi embroidery, those with lower incomes started making use of Rogaan art which is beautiful nevertheless,” says Hiral.

Hiral opines that not enough weightage is given to sustainable fashion as a core area of study in universities and colleges of Maharashtra. However, she continues, “There are a few institutions and projects that are doing a great job. For example, CGF (Consortium of Green Fashion) is playing a great role in promoting the concept of sustainability and SASMIRA (Synthetic and Arts Silk Mill Research Association) which offers a three-month course on Handloom and Khaadi.”

A weaver at a handloom
A weaver at a handloom

Talking about future endeavours, Hiral says she is preparing for an annual fashion show called Tvashtar 2017, based on the theme ‘Handloom and Khaadi’. Being a lover of human history, civilisation, traditions, and all things Indian, Hiral says, she would definitely want to venture into the eco-fashion sphere for a long-term career. “I think that handloom will flourish more if Bollywood personalities start wearing more of it, since it holds tremendous influence. As a fashion student, one must be constantly updated about trends, and also be keen on sustainability and eco-fashion as that is the future.”

Ankita Swetta, studying Fashion Designing at Mod’art International, says, “Being a fashion student, I was aware of the concept of sustainable fashion due to some recent environmental initiatives taken up by many well-known as well as emerging designers.”

Ankita’s first project in terms of sustainable fashion was about using organic cotton with the help of natural dyes such as indigo and vegetable dyes, and learning how to use it to block print to create a garment.

She went on to work with a brand called Akuri by Puri owned by an actor-turned-designer Amrita Puri. “I had to recycle waste from garments, design clutches, and other accessories. I think this is a brilliant concept to reduce waste by recycling fabrics”, she says.

According to Ankita, the concept of sustainable fashion plays a very minor role in colleges and institutions of Maharashtra. “Sustainable fashion can be considered as slow fashion wherein quality and longevity play a very important role. Colleges should expose students to the concept of sustainable fashion on a larger scale. Industrial visits and trips to places practising eco fashion should be incorporated. Projects should then be assigned on the same,” she adds.

She says that sustainable fashion is long-term, has quality, and a lot of value at the same time. It will help create a better environment to live in, as fashion is the second largest industry responsible for global warming.

Ankita is currently working on a Khaadi project that aims at promoting and supporting the use of Khaadi, the purest form of wool in India.

While sustainable fashion has been on the fashion scene for a long time, it has only been a few years since it has started getting recognition. Is it the Indianness of it, or is it the whole idea of ‘minimalism’ that is slowly taking the modernist mass by storm? Be it in the form of e-commerce websites, student level projects, government organisations, or initiatives led by designers, sustainability, quite gingerly, is winning the great race of fashion in India.

Mili Doshi is a handpicked product of the Bayside Pathfinder where we empower the young and the young at heart with the power of storytelling. To become a part of our extended family of unique contributors, call up Prem Madnani at +91 9892913788 or email him on prem@glowormapp.com.