Reviving forgotten fabrics to slow down fashion: why Chennai designers are revaluing clothes

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Tamil-born teen star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan recently walked the red carpet in a stunning Banarasi dress. The multicolored silk design quickly went viral on social media for several reasons. Designed by Chennai designer Ashwin Thiyagarajan, the dress was made from scraps and recycled fabrics from Banarasi lehenga fabrics.

Ashwin, who was inundated with appreciation, was pleasantly surprised by the reactions. “When I made the dress, I didn’t make it to be sold per se. I wanted to express myself creatively through these beautiful fabrics. I have already received a handful of orders for the dress. We’re going to be pretty busy for a while with this one dress alone, ”he smiles. The idea was to give an ethnic touch to a modern silhouette, while keeping slow fashion in mind.

He adds, “When we had a lot of fabric scraps and scraps from a previously made banarasi collection, I decided to go wild and create unique styles and shapes. This is how the dress was born. As a brand, we are slowly moving towards making clothing that is fully sustainable. It can’t happen overnight, but we make a conscious effort every step of the way, ”he adds.

City designer Asmitha Ashok adds that it’s disturbing to think of the amount of landfill the fashion industry is responsible for. And that’s exactly why she regularly reuses clothes for her clients. “In our Indian fabrics, the fibers are organic and comfortable to use. Their quality doesn’t change when you reuse it, ”she says, adding that there’s a lot of nostalgia attached to this process as well.

“For example, we recently made a grandmother’s muhurtam saree into little squares for the grandchildren, which they then framed. Since the sari faded, the grandchildren wanted a part of the sari to remember the moment that marked the beginning of the family, ”she recalls.

Sanjana Susaritha Ravi worked with forgotten traditional Tamil fabrics such as Madurai Sungudi. When she started reusing Sungudi fabrics in 2017, only a few brands were upcycling, she recalls. “But now many brands have started to reuse fabrics and that makes me very happy because a group of artisans are taking advantage. Apart from that, I have also worked with Kanjivaram cotton and moonu pulli Sungudi sarees, ”notes Sanjana. The designer from Chennai sees culture as giving fabrics a new purpose.

“I think it’s important to do things that match the times we live in. You are giving tissue a new purpose. It is economical and sustainable. And at the end of the day, the waste is reduced in your capsule wardrobe, ”she notes.

As rewarding as the process is, it is a labor of love, Asmitha points out. “In general, people much prefer saree dresses because all parts of the saree are used. The pallu is transformed into an empire, and the upper part of the sari is used for the flare of the skirt. We have been doing this for some time. But it’s a labor of love and it doesn’t make a huge profit out of it, ”she says. And with the pandemic having shed a light on all things sustainable, shoppers are aware of their buying habits, designers tell us.

“People today don’t buy clothes just for the gram. When shopping for an item of clothing, they take a close look at the fabric and often think about how they can possibly give it a makeover in their wardrobe. Awareness of slow fashion has increased considerably, ”she adds. Tamil actress Lakshmipriyaa Chandramouli, who organized a wedding with minimal waste, recycled her mother’s old saris for her sangeet, mehendi and reception functions.

“Normally the clothes you wear for your wedding are so grand you can’t wear them anymore. I am a total believer in re-wearing your clothes. The most important thing is to find the right kind of person to sew it according to your tastes and requirements. You can even reuse clothes that you are tired of wearing, ”she says, however, noting that the pressure to catch up and be trendy is pretty high thanks to social media. “We should start focusing on what is important to the land and the environment,” observes the actress.

Global celebrities who reused clothes in 2021


Emma watson
The Harry Potter actress, who is a well-known environmental activist, is an avid follower of slow fashion. The actress wore a stunning recycled wedding dress to the recent Earthshot Prize Awards held in the UK, making a powerful statement about the importance of sustainable fashion choices.

Kate Middleton
Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton is known to have repeated her clothes on numerous occasions. She recently rehearsed a ten-year-old dress, accessorizing it differently with an embellished belt, at the Earthshot Prize Awards.

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