FT Special

Upcycling Tales- Brands that are creating magic.

Has anyone ever wondered how much are we adulterating and depleting our natural resources by being on a shopping spree every second day? Well, I did not and I didn’t have to. That’s because my go-to labels are those few Indian
brands that upcycle apparently waste pieces and provide me with beautiful yet à la mode articles of fashion.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of “upcycling”, I’ll be glad to be your guide. Upcycling is a notion which involves using pre-existing clothing, accessories or other items, and restructuring them into novel articles.
Deadstock, otherwise known as fabric left-over from the fashion industry, can also be used to make new clothing. There are plenty of benefits existent in this idea-


I. Upcycling reduces clothing and textile waste by reusing deadstock or used fabric to create new products. Making a single cotton T-shirt requires over 700 gallons of water, whereas, using a pre-existing
T-shirt to make something new requires nearly no water. In addition, upcycling diverts some 85% of textile waste that ends up in landfills.
II. A Cheaper Wardrobe –Upcycling can be less expensive since used or pre-existing materials, that go into the making of items, are typically a fraction of the cost of the newly-made textiles.
III. Uniqueness –Upcycling requires creativity to envision the potential of existing materials in order to create something new and beautiful. One man’s junk is another man’s art, they say. Well, these brands are proving
just that! Crafting something useful and ingenious out of the articles that were once thought to be worthless, is a skill reserved for the passionate and artistic few. Enumerated below are 5 Indian upcycling brands that highlight that
protecting the environment can be chic too.

Doodlage is the brainchild of Kriti Tula, who is the founder and creative designer of this label. The brand was born from a simple idea- to create unique and eco-friendly products, that were high on style statement. Kriti had her ‘big-idea’ moment during a student internship at a big export house. She wondered if she could put-to-use the moulds of fabric discharged due to minute variations in the pattern, design or colour. With thorough dedication, hard-work and patience, she and her talented team now conceive of clothes that are one of its kind. Bits and pieces of clothes, much like a puzzle, are put together to hatch an exclusive piece of clothing. They incorporate only environment-friendly
fabrics like organic cotton, banana fabric, and corn fabric. They even source fabrics from what is left over by various big manufactures, discarded good- quality textile and unused pieces from other retailers
Doodlage is a perfect blend of sustainability with innovativeness.

Crafted by Karishma Shahani Khan, kaSha takes upcycling to a whole new level. In one of her interviews, she had revealed that the brand’s vision is to “focus on merging art with sustainability, our label strives to follow fair trade practices, procure quality produce and adheres to a strict ‘zero-waste policy’”. With discarded plastic bags turned into jackets, second-hand sneakers chopped and revamped into stilettos, discarded chandeliers converted into beautiful jewelry pieces, skirts being hemmed with old Benarasi sari borders, and crop tops fashioned out of discarded T-shirts and leftover fabrics, she and her team have come a long way. So long that the label began its journey in 2000, but got noticed much later when it showcased its collection at the Lakme Fashion Week ’15.

The philosophy of her products lies in visualizing design as a celebration with an aim to ‘Think global, act local’… Glocal, in short! At this hip clothing brand, a new style is spun out of every piece of ‘junk’

Péro means ‘to wear’ in Marwari, the local language of Rajasthan. The label is a contrivance of Aneeth Arora, a textile and dress maker (she loves to call herself so instead of being termed as a designer). She got her inspiration from the dressing styles of Rajasthan’s local public, who fascinate her, and she considers them to be the real trend-setters. This is so because their outfits incorporate effortless style and trend.

Digging through vintage stores for lost gems, amongst other things, the label discovers reusable fabrics and shapes them into chic, wearable products. Age-old traditions of hand-made crafts are weaved into their designs, with intricate embroidery and unique patterns coming together in surprising yet fashionable ways, making Péro a much-coveted upcycling label.

The resulting garment evokes some sense of culture from where it originates. This culture communicates internationally in a way that the wearer looks equally at ease in the streets of London or Paris, as she does here in India.

The inspiration for the label name came from tailors who referred to tonnes of waste fabric as ‘chindi’. Tanushri Shukla, the architect of this brand started off Chindi as a fun project because of her love for knitting. Along with a friend, who enjoyed crochet, the duo started on a small scale. Only gradually, around two years ago, Chindi started working with women from Mankhurd slum in Mumbai, to develop itself into a design firm that handmakes and upcycles products.

The raw materials come from the waste that gets generated at Tanushri’s family-run wholesale garment manufacturing unit. These raw materials are used in creating goods like rugs, hats, bags, sweaters, etc.

In one of the interviews, the founder talked about her aim and expectations from her label- “Will we ever be able to churn out thousands of pieces on a daily basis? Yes, we could, but is that our goal? No, not really. I like to think of scale as depth rather than breadth. We are creating a few carefully designed pieces that we know our audience will love and use. Our women are paid fairly, and they also find a creative satisfaction in this work, and so there’s a depth of impact. This is what we’re aiming for.”

Boro, which is Japanese for ‘too good to waste’, is Paromita Banerjee’s upcycling fashion label with three distinct collections paying homage to the name it stands for. Making a case for Indians to stop seeing recycling as ‘jugaad’, she uses a mix of fabrics, especially Ajrakh prints, with weaves and Bagh-printed textiles in Khadi, featuring in her designs. “I always think about how I could take recycling to the next level. Since each of these garments is created with a mix of different discarded materials in fabric, colour or texture, the composition of each piece is different. It is like creating my kind of couture in my tiny way,” said Banerjee, in an interview about the latest collection Boro Part II. The brand works closely with artisans and craft clusters around India, narrating the saga of the craft persons and their weaves, through simple and effective garments. The garments are a mode of storytelling emphasizing the feel of “handmade”.

While upcycling might sound like an environmentally conscious concept, with a philosophical base that challenges over-consumption, it’s also a concept that can be seen walking down runways, bringing contemporary clothing to the world with an unmistakably strong identity. Bringing sustainability into the garment industry, several fashion brands are focusing on reusing discarded buttons, broken beads, old rags and so on to weave them into a coherent and wearable design. In an industry, where unwanted garments are tossed into clothing bins, designers like above are giving our old clothes a second chance and almost a new life. The textile industry is the second in line for using water, after the agricultural sector. So, let’s become the thread of change by paying our allegiance to the planet that provides us with all the resources so that we can make things in the first place