— JASMEEN DUGAL
Purvi Doshi, acclaimed for her ecologically sustainable label, is making headlines with the launch of her debut menswear line and the showing of her collection in Paris. In conversation with her.
What inspired you to launch an ecologically sustainable label? What drives this passion?
To be honest, five years back, I used to work with silk and was completely ignorant about cruelty towards silkworms for a meter of silk!! When I became aware of the gruesome truth behind the production of silk, it resulted in a major shift in the brand ideology, and in that moment I began the journey of sustainability. The fact, 'Looking Fabulous Should Also Feel Great' drives my passion for sustainable fashion. For me, sustainability is a belief, not a trend; the fact that you are wearing something that is not harmful to skin, to mother earth and to any other human being drives my passion for ecologically sustainable label.
Since it is a relatively new concept in India… what have been some of the biggest challenges for you?
The biggest challenge was to combat a commercially viable fabric like silk with a handspun handwoven organic fabric. The point was to find the right flow and feel in a fabric that is design-friendly and wearable. Another challenge was finding naturally dyed fabrics and the disadvantages that comes along with this. While natural colors are good for the planet and for humans, they can fade and bleed fast. Our production cycle also becomes a hurdle at times as the process is slow — a single garment takes three- six months to get ready with hand-embroidered work being done in remote villages. Also, educating our clients and customers on the importance of each garment, which is made with a conscious effort to save the planet, without cruelty to animals and with an intention to revive art and craft. They don’t realize that their wardrobes act as a preservation space of the art each time they buy a Purvi Doshi outfit.
How would you explain the importance of fashion labels like yours making steps to become ethical and sustainable to consumers who aren't well versed in what that means?
Nowadays the awareness of eco-fashion and sustainable fashion has increased among our consumers. But for consumers who are not well versed, I would say we should ask simple questions, 'Would you like to wear something which involves killing?' 'Would you sacrifice someone's life Just to look good?' The answers to these questions would give them their answers :-)
What do you wish you could do more of in the sustainability space and what steps are you taking to do that?
In the sustainable space, we have already taken a step ahead, which is Vegan fashion — a completely cruelty-free brand where we don't even use silk, in spite of silk being a luxury fabric. Apart from Vegan Fashion, we are looking to create a zero-waste brand. The smallest fabric waste produced is used in some way. The waste collected is segregated in bigger and smaller pieces. The bigger pieces are used to make Purvi Doshi bags in which the garments are given to the customers while the small pieces are sent for recycling into paper which is used for making visiting cards, price tags and packaging covers. Some of the smaller pieces are used to make buttons, small embellishment and also to create upcycled fabric surfaces. Our creations are an innate tribute to arts and artisans whose dedication gives meaning to, "Looking fabulous should feel great!"
India's handicraft legacy has vast potential under the right stewardship. What is your opinion since you have experience of working closely with artisans, craftsmen and weavers?
It's not about the right stewardship. India is a country with traditional art and crafts, many of which are either minimal or on the verge of extinction due to the lack of opportunities for artisans and craftspeople. We, at Purvi Doshi, are conscious of these arts and crafts and the urgency for their revival and growth. The art of embroidery goes back to royalty, centuries ago. The kings and queens were once the only people who could do this beautiful art form. Now we are reviving it to its rightful place of pride in high fashion. These are not mass production pieces, these designs are art in and of themselves.
Is it difficult communicating and working closely with them? How do you overcome such challenges?
We have been working with more than three hundred artisans since the past twenty years; yes whenever we create new designs it is difficult communicating with them and getting the outputs we need, but when we start communicating with them it is all the more interesting as they tell us about their challenges and difficulties and we try to understand them and incorporate changes. There are a lot of challenges that we face — sometimes we end up getting completely wrong samples and at tother times there are defects and stains but that is the beauty of it!! When you work with artisans, the beauty lies in the imperfection of hands. We try to overcome such challenges by making them create new samples and working on things they are more comfortable with.
Is there a vision for the upliftment of weaver clusters? If so, how are you doing this?
Yes, there is a vision for the upliftment of all my artisans, not only weavers. We don't only adopt the art we adopt the artisans. We launched a collection in 2018 with Kala cotton and Kutch weave. We started with one loom and one artisan at that time and now we have fifteen looms and fifteen weavers working with us. We try to pick up an art form, form our own cluster and and give them work so they can lead financially sustainable lives.
What would be your advice to those of us who want to shop more responsibly or build an ethical wardrobe?
Buy less and choose well. Try to buy timeless pieces, particularly a piece of heritage. Adopt a capsule wardrobe concept i.e. a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don't go out of fashion such as skirts, trousers and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.
Lastly, what is the revolution you are hoping for in Fashion?
The major revolution that I am hoping in Fashion is recycling, upcycling, re-use and contributing less to the pollution that the fashion industry is currently creating.