Founded by Kamna Tripathy, Noupelle, is the new brand on the block that upcycles leather offcuts into fashion accessories. Its rather intriguing name is in fact a portmanteau of words “nouvelle” (meaning “new”) and “pelle” (meaning “skin/leather”). It was named so with the intention that its products can be worn as a new skin or identity by its wearers.
Through the brand and its products, Kamna seeks to not only redefine what consumers consider as “new”, but also make a case for upcycled leather fashion accessories. Her experiences working at export and manufacturing houses were crucial in her decision to work solely with leather offcuts. She would regularly observe large scale production processes generate huge volumes of offcuts which are discarded as waste.
These offcuts presented a huge opportunity for Kamna to tap into which eventually made way for Noupelle. Armed with an education in leather design from NIFT and a determination to use only offcuts, Kamna created products that can demonstrate the material’s immense versatility. The brand’s offering today include a wide range of accessories with a specific focus on jewellery and wallets.
The design process of the Noupelle products starts with the sourcing of the leather offcuts. Rescued from designers and manufacturing houses, these offcuts come in varying shapes, patterns, colours and textures. They then get cleaned, polished and prepped for further surface conditioning and embellishing.
It is in this next phase that Kamna’s creativity truly comes alive. She employs contrasting raw materials like wicker and raffia that can hero the leather component in the resultant product. The chosen materials are then treated with different techniques like weaving, hand-painting and colour-blocking. To be able to juxtapose unique colours, textures, materials (some of which have inconsistent supply) and techniques and still present a cohesive end product, is no mean feat. But Kamna achieves this and more through her delectable designs.
Apart from this, she even weaves customer feedback into her design process to ensure their needs and preferences are not just heard but also met. Her constant engagement with her customers continued even during the lockdown wherein she engaged with them through social media campaigns to get to know them better.
Much like other brands that work with offcuts, leftover materials and deadstock, Noupelle also faces the challenge of ensuring a consistent flow of leather offcuts. “To mitigate this we connected with tanneries so that we can access their waste and over produced or rejected leftovers”, shared Kamna. Additionally, working with offcuts makes it difficult for one to predict or foresee what types of leather offcuts will be generated. However, on the bright side, these very factors allow Noupelle to be a slow fashion brand that only offers limited quantities of unique made-to-order products.
Another challenge that Kamna shared was with regards to training her craftsmen. “There is no dearth of skilled craftsmen in India. The challenge however was diversifying their skill set”, explains Kamna. When employed by manufacturing houses or factories, these craftsmen are usually made to perform only one part of the entire production process. But in a small team like that of Noupelle, it becomes essential for one to have diverse capabilities from pattern making, cutting, embellishments, assembly and so on and so forth.
Sustainability being the foremost guiding principle of the brand we were curious to understand Kamna’s personal journey with sustainability. “When I was working on the brand ethos, I wanted to also align my personal lifestyle with it, for it to be a reflection”, she shared. She also added that she carries a cloth bag or glass/steel water bottle with her at all times to avoid using any single use plastic. She has in fact also transitioned from being a beauty products’ hoarder to one that minimally consumes ethically made products. Staying true to the theme of the brand and her personal sustainable practices, Noupelle’s products are packed in a reusable jute bag and then placed in a 100% recycled paper container before being shipped out.
Kamna hopes to continue experimenting and perfecting Noupelle’s jewellery range as the brand’s journey progresses. She also highlighted that while the primary material will always continue to be leather, other recycled materials and more luxe materials will surely be introduced. Browse through Noupelle’s current catalogue of statement accessories here and make them your own.
Image Credits: Noupelle
Feature Credit: Harshitha Venati