India has evolved much in the past few decades in terms of fashion, however, when it comes to maintaining tradition, people prefer things with a heritage value. Indian handicrafts are demanded and appreciated worldwide for their traditional and regional arts.
Also, people are ready to pay more for planet-friendly consumer brands now. A new survey by Bain & Company said that 52 per cent of consumers in urban India expect to increase spending on sustainable brands in the next three years.
Over the years, many Indian handicrafts and artisans have opted for natural methods and procedures to protect the environment.
With a mission to strengthen communities and adopt sustainable methods, Etsy-a global online marketplace, is home to a universe of special, handmade, and extraordinary items, from unique handcrafted pieces to vintage treasures. It is a seller-focused platform committed to helping Indian creative makers become successful entrepreneurs, catering to a global audience.
Etsy has a community of creative business owners, especially women, who have embraced the art of sustainability to produce eco-friendly and handmade products. Here are five such women who have founded and are leading popular homegrown brands and companies:
Sonali started by getting outfits made by her local tailors. The motivation behind doing this was simple. She wanted dresses for herself, with soft, flowy cotton made with soothing hues. Much to her disappointment, there was a dearth of such dresses in the market, as polyester and other synthetic fabrics had taken over.
She realised that people wanted easy-to-wear and wash garments that were light on the pocket, and that's all that the big retailers had to offer.
This led Sonali to design and create clothes for herself. Once she started wearing them, her relatives, friends, and extended social circle wanted the same designs. They couldn't imagine a dress made of a traditional ikat or block print material, and were pleasantly surprised to see those on someone as young as Sonali, which looked beautiful!
This led the young woman to launch Label Raasleela in 2013, out of her mother's basement. She slowly started selling to friends and family, and, after setting up her shop on Etsy, Label Raasleela began to sell globally.
As a brand, Label Raasleela's prime focus in every new collection is to use Indian fabrics and crafts in every product. Through her Etsy shop, Sonali aims to provide natural handmade clothes, empowering rural artisans from all over India.
Presently she works with hand block printers, hand-dryers from Jaipur and hand-weavers of ikat from Andhra Pradesh. She aims to find a global audience with the same values of slow fashion and 'less is more'. Label Raasleela is a team of dog lovers, and 25 per cent of the revenue goes into rescuing, rehabilitating, and feeding dogs.
Jyoti is a fashion designer, stylist, and the creative head of Niraa. She has always had a keen interest in fashion and styling. During the first three years of college, Jyoti was encouraged to learn about the crafts of India and do projects on them. This is what led her to develop an admiration for Indian handloom and craftsmanship.
During her graduation project collection, she realised her love for weaving, after which her passion and desire to work in the Indian handloom, weaving, and craft designing became even more ardent. During her final semester, she presented her project called SOUL, which focused on draping and its techniques. The mere admiration towards this project finally branched out in the form of Niraa.
Niraa is a sustainable contemporary-wear label whose garments mirror the (qualities borne by our Mother Earth) luscious pastel tones of blooming flowers and sparkling waters. Handcrafted and hand-woven, Niraa aspires to stay true to its rich Indian heritage along with unveiling its subtly well-designed and timeless attire. Jyoti desires to stay true to the rich heritage of India while unveiling minimal yet timeless designs. Chosen from a variety of ambient hues, these garments are an ultimate personification of relevance and utility, be it in our day dresses, tops, palazzos, jumpsuits or even capes.
Not only do these garments radiate exuberance, but they have also been crafted in a sustainable environment, ensuring to revive the Indian handloom and various textiles of the country.
Etsy seller Rupa Amna quit her 9-5 job to focus on her passion for creating garments where purpose and social good are woven into the thoughtful design. LOVExLINENCO uses all-natural fibres - linen, cotton, and khadi, which are hand-woven into unique, expressive fabrics using centuries-old traditional methods of handloom weaving.
Rupa aims to create versatile, seasonless pieces that serve more than just one function in a conscious closet. All products are designed, cut, and sewn by her at her home studio in Bengaluru. She realises that weaves, natural fabrics, and classic garments have all been done before but is ardently motivated by her ability to talk through the cloth.
Rasmi Poduval, a graduate of IIM Bangalore, had worked with Coca-Cola and Saregama. However, she joined the family business full-time over the years, observing and assisting her now late mother-in-law, Vimala Viswambharan, in weaving and pattern making.
Vimala was a seamstress with over 30 years of experience in bespoke tailoring. She started her first unit in the '80s called Ideal Cholis. After that, she established branches in Udupi, Trivandrum, and Thrissur. She now works with weavers and artisans from around the country, reviving ancient weaves and crafts. She is currently working with weavers across Kerala, designing and adapting age-old weaving techniques to create new textile forms.
Rasmi describes 'The Kaithari Project' as a richly rewarding experience and journey of discovery and learning, which is an ode to the rich weaving heritage of Kerala. 'Kaithari' is a word derived from Malayalam meaning 'handwoven'. Through this project, she has travelled the length of the state, visiting weaving cooperatives and distinct weaving techniques of each region, creating textile designs that bring out unique traditions specific to each geographical area.
While one is accustomed to associating Kerala handlooms with the kora (white) and gold, The Kaithari Project has attempted to infuse a riot of colours and textures inspired by the lush vibrance of Kerala. The Project believes in handcrafted products using the finest natural fibres, such as handwoven cotton and hand-spun Khadi fabric, which are sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to machine-made materials.
The subtle variations in colour, texture, and finish are the signature of the human hand. The creation of each product is a lengthy process rooted in the craft-based traditions of hand spinning, dying, weaving, and embroidery.
During her college years, Meenal Kaushik found herself utterly motivated to start something of her own. Upon observing the unethical choices made by fast fashion, she aspired to create something that leads a path toward a sustainable lifestyle. Born out of this notion, Studio Naach, a textile jewellery brand, came into being in 2019 and since has produced unique embroidered jewellery pieces using waste fabric sourced from local boutiques.
This small business is on a mission to build a community of people who admire handcrafted products and follow a more sustainable and circular approach to fashion. Studio Naach celebrates an open world, with love and expression at its core, inspired by the beautiful colours and 'karigari' of the Lambani Community of Karnataka.
Since 2019, Studio Naach has made its place in the sustainability community. Meenal was featured as a budding entrepreneur in Candy Magazine with the Indian actress, Ridhima Pandit, wearing Studio Naach designs in the cover story. In April 2020, the label was recognised as one of the 20 brands from across the globe, chosen by the talents of Vogue Italy for a portfolio review.
The brand also ran a 'Support Your Artisan' campaign in the summer of 2020 to help artisans survive the unprecedented times during the pandemic, where it pledged to dedicate 50 per cent of the monthly sales to the label's own artisans.