Startups

Pune Inc: With leaves as raw material, startup turning sustainable fashion into business idea

Shraddha Joshi-Barde goes about collecting fallen leaves, twigs and barks of trees in interesting shapes and colours in her Pune neighbourhood. What she does next with these sustains one of India’s few e-prints textile businesses.

Joshi-Barde retails apparel and home decor items in which the texture, shape and colour come from leaves, barks and twigs, without the use of chemical or synthetic dye. The bootstrapped company, named Leafage, despite taking a hit during the pandemic, has seen its sales picking up and several designs, such as mul-cotton dupatta with marigold prints and cushion covers with oxalis prints, are sold out.

Leafage client includes people in their twenties, for whom sustainability is a priority, as well as older women who collect stoles in tussar silk and sarees made with inion skin prints.

“The challenge in botanical print or eco print products is that a client needs to understand it before buying. By looking at a leaf, you cannot confirm if it will print. Not all leaves print. A few leaves have colour pigments apart from chlorophyll and they print well, but we only come to know this only when we carry out testing, placing the leaf onto the fabric and treating it. Only when you open the bundle, do you come to know if the colour and texture have been imprinted on the fabric,” she says.

The natural dyes used in the fabrics are “99 per cent Ayurvedic medicinal products”, such as pomegranate seeds. The result is that the colours are subtle, unlike the bright tones you get from chemical dues.

The United Nations Environment Programme has been ringing the warning bells on the dangers posed by fast fashion to the environment for several years.

Joshi-Barde says that attitudes are gradually shifting towards sustainable fashion.

In a report, it has said: “Fashion revolves around the latest trends but is the industry behind the curve on the only trend that ultimately matters – the need to radically alter our patterns of consumption to ensure the survival of the planet? The fashion industry produces between two and eight per cent of global carbon emissions. Textile dyeing is the second-largest polluter of water globally and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans. Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget. Textiles are also estimated to account for approximately 9 per cent of annual micro-plastic losses to the ocean.”

Since the lockdown began to ease, Joshi-Barde is planning to continue the awareness activities that were disrupted by the pandemic.

Joshi-Barde says that attitudes are gradually shifting towards sustainable fashion. The Leafage client includes people in their twenties, for whom sustainability is a priority, as well as older women who collect stoles in tussar silk and sarees made with inion skin prints. “The beauty of eco-printing lies in the fact that you cannot control the design. Although I am now five years into this art and craft form, I cannot say how the outfit will look until I open the bundle,” she says.

Joshi-Barde retails apparel and home decor items in which the texture, shape and colour come from leaves, barks and twigs, without the use of chemical of synthetic dye.

Joshi-Barde was a chartered accountant who took a sabbatical in 2015, undertook a fashion design diploma and interned with an image consultant. In 2016-17, she first saw eco-printing on YouTube and, since there was almost no way to learn the method in India, she enrolled with teachers in the US and Russia. Since the lockdown began to ease, Joshi-Barde is planning to continue the awareness activities that were disrupted by the pandemic. “As we become aware of the threat posed by climate change, we are becoming aware of the importance of sustainable lifestyle. The clients of Leafage are discerning because they know that what we wear if important,” she says.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-inc-with-leaves-as-raw-material-startup-turning-sustainable-fashion-into-business-idea-7785091/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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