Vijayalakshmi Nachiar, co-founder, Ethicus, talks about sustainable fashion and their Matchmaker collection on display in the city
We have heard about sustainable fashion and how it is bringing back traditional handmade prints and styles. Of course, there is a long process involved behind sustainable fashion creating a marriage between local weavers, farmers and designers. Although we rarely get to hear the stories of all the people involved in the system and the efforts that they invest in presenting a beautiful product, Ethicus is trying to bring in a change by presenting their Farm to Fashion collection.
Grown in the pristine surroundings of the Western Ghats by tribal farmers and using age-old knowledge of organic farming methods, the cotton used in their sarees are extra long staple, soft to the touch and as sheer as gossamer. From colourful tassels, to brightly accented selvedge every inch of the saree is their artistic interpretation. The brand is aware of the need to keep the traditions alive, which is why they are constantly experimenting with new designs, themes and techniques to develop innovative designs for the modern woman of today.
HANDLOOM FOR YOUNGSTERS
Set up by husband-wife duo — Mani Chinnaswamy and Vijayalakshmi Nachiar — Ethicus’ main objective has been to grow the finest of organic cotton and produce hand-woven textiles making our heritage fashionable. Talking about their concept, Nachiar says, “Ethicus is a product of a parent company called Appachi cotton which was launched in 2009 where we make products made from the cotton that we grow on our own. As a country, we have a lot of people involved in sustainable fashion but the focus is still on the export market. But we realised that youngsters especially are now earning and can afford to wear handloom sarees and create their own collection. Thus came the idea of presenting beautiful products for the Indian market itself. All our sarees have a tag which talks about the makers and making of the product.”
MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE FOR ALL
Nachiar understands that just because it is sustainable fashion it doesn’t mean it will be affordable. But she also emphasises on the fact that we pay extra for machine-made clothes and hesitate when it comes to handmade designs.
She says, “If it is sustainable fashion, then it should be sustainable for everyone in the value chain and not just buyers. For example, if the whole family of a weaver is involved in making one product, it doesn’t mean that we pay his entire family. Only he is paid for his work, so how is it sustainable for them? Unfortunately, the government has a certain way of selling handloom products, maybe on rebate prices which has prompted people to look down upon handloom. We are now re-learning and re-booting traditional handloom and handicrafts which will die if not paid attention to.”
TAKING INSPIRATION FROM NATURE
The duo recently showcased their collection ‘Matchmaker’ on the second day of Lakme Fashion Week Winter/ Festive 2017. Nachiar says that their collection created a match between the stories of farmers and fashion to produce a beautiful product. “We presented the poetry of lush green forests, magnificent wildlife, grassy meadows and a meandering river which describe Kabini — the land of the magnificent elephant and the majestic tiger. For example, the green colour represents forest areas on the Western ghats, the grey colour is symbolic of the elephants, the yellow colour is inspired by the Royal Bengal tigers, and the blue colour is taken from the Kabini river and the sky.”
Nachiar also feels that sustainable fashion is the way forward and should be promoted by everyone and become a movement. She says, “If you wear a saree at a wedding but won’t repeat it for another occasion because you are worried that people will know that you have repeated it, then it can’t be termed sustainable fashion.”
ST READER SERVICE
Matchmaker collection to be displayed at Either Or, Sohrab Hall, 21, Sassoon Road, opp Jehangir Hospital, on September 1 and 2, from 11 am- 7.30