Repurposing a discarded or a pre loved product to elongate its' life is something we have all seen our elders indulge in. Be it, using an old sari to turn it into a contemporary outfit or reusing a glass jar for odd items in the kitchen. This practice of 'Upcycling' has been a prevalent practice in olden times, however in the past few decades, the advent of consumerism has swept consumers into a use and throw economy.
According to statistics, the global clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years, with garments on an average being worn much less and discarded quicker than ever before. Most of them end up on landfills, choking our planet and depleting it of its' natural resources. Today, the need for us as consumers to move away from a linear model to a circular model of consumption is even more imperative. Hence, upcycling is not just a creative way to re-use products and materials that have already been produced, but a key solution to ensure that waste products & materials don't end up on the landfill.
To get this idea into the mainstream, it's essential for Influential personalities and leading designers to embrace this movement and lead the way for making fashion more sustainable. One such collaboration that happened recently was when Katy Perry wore an upcycled skirt from Amit Aggarwal for Vogue India. We spoke to Amit to know more about the idea of this garment, its' design process and his take on upcycling.
REFASH: What was the idea behind this up-cycled piece?
AMIT AGGARWAL: This garment drew its inspiration from unusable, unclaimed pieces of the patola saris that actually take months of craftsmanship. These discarded saris usually end up being sold as wall-hangings or upholstery in street markets, which in my opinion is largely underutilising the textile. So, the need to breathe life into these discarded textiles was what inspired us to create this garment.
(Illustration for the upcycled skirt)
R: Where did you source the discarded materials from and how easy/difficult was it to get the raw material?
A: The whole process began when I met a lady at Delhi Blind School’s Diwali Mela. She was selling quilt and patch-work art made from worn old saris. The woman (who was from the Waghri community in Gujarat) described to me how women in villages trade these so-called shreds for aluminium utensils. I've always felt like traditional saris should be timeless and that’s what truly inspired me. So, we used ripped and discarded Patola saris and restored them by using modern industrial treatments to give them a new identity.
R: Can you tell us about the process for this upcycled piece and how different was it from the regular collections that you create?
A: I've always felt that a worn-out heirloom textile can be reinvented in so many new languages. This garment is our rendition of sustainable couture with traditional vintage elements returning as a new entity.
The handwoven Patola sarees have been treated with industrial methods like pleating, weaving with recycled metallic strips, etc., that have brought out the signature sheen of an Amit Aggarwal garment. For me, this process sustains the feeling that is attached to these sarees, not just the textile.
R: How do you think upcycling is relevant today in the realm of fashion?
A: When one up-cycles, they have the benefit of knowing that they are taking steps to do something for the environment, not just that, it's also a very creative process. Up-cycling is a practice that has been a very important part of many of our collections. In the past, we've created full collections with discarded patola and banarasi
(Katy Perry in the Upcycled Skirt for Vogue India)
R: How important do you think is for the leading fashion labels to tackle their textile waste?
A: The time we are living in demands a certain sense of awareness towards the environment and I feel every kind of practitioner needs to take measures that are beneficial towards the environment.
The fabrics in our factory that are leftover are re-used to create accessorises, labels to reduce wastage. Little things like being judicious with the usage and re-usage of paper, fabric go a long way. These daily practices are deeply embedded in the very existence of the brand.
Photo Credits- Amit Aggarwal.