“The Indian market still has a long way to go for natural fabrics to be accepted by the masses. However, the ongoing climate crisis has got people talking about healthier alternatives to aspects that were otherwise ignored. Fabric is like the second skin; it is important that it’s breathable and free of harsh chemicals. The consumer is now ready to make that shift and slowly realise that natural, more sustainable options are a necessity, not a luxury,” says Shirin Salwan, Founder, Saphed Home.
The pandemic has raised environmental concerns and people have started to ask for anti-viral clothing, which triggered the growth of eco-friendly fabrics and garments. People started looking for a protective way to safeguard themselves that, in turn, heightened the concept of ‘green textiles’.
“Plant-based fabrics are expensive, but at the same time, provide quality, richness at par with organic cotton, silk and velvet. The look and feel of these plant-based fabrics is at par with the above mentioned materials. There are a limited number of manufactures who are completely into vegan, eco-friendly production,” mentions designer Anjali Bhaskar.
She has recently introduced an impressive new line of clothing that has been effortlessly curated with the usage of pure fibres. The line of clothing is fabricated from plants such as orange, aloe vera, eucalyptus and banana fibres.
Talking about the use of eucalyptus fabric, she says “The fabric is very intricate and fine. The plant itself has many healing properties which are transpired through the fibres when adorned. These fabrics have a long shelf life. This was a first time for us, as we experimented using these fabrics for a very limited capsule line. The line of clothing has received a positive response. Our customers who have purchased these garments are very content with the quality and finesse of the material. Since the fabric itself is expensive, it will take a while for it to become a high fashion choice. People still prefer organic cotton in India because of the overall climate in the country. Our customers who have purchased our outfits are extremely content and happy with the quality, silhouette and finesse. While using this fabric, we have understood that it is quite hard to sew intricate embroidery because the material itself is very intricately produced. It was one of our major challenges, you can say.”
Considering the cons too
Shirin underlines, “Linen is one of the most sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics known to man. However, it has always been touted as something that is for the elite and is considered unaffordable. At Saphed, our aim is to make linen accessible to all and change the age-old perception that cotton is the most comfortable fabric to sleep on. As Indians, we are so caught up in the thread count myth that we’ve never really looked beyond Egyptian cotton for bedding up until now. We wanted to add to the global linen renaissance movement and create awareness around the versatility and unique texture of natural linen for Indian homes. Right after we started Saphed, the world went into a lockdown and everyone found themselves at home. Suddenly, people started giving more thought to their surroundings and becoming aware of the impact of what and how they are consuming. Much to our surprise, linen was well received by the Indian consumer, who is now ready to ask the right questions and gravitate gradually towards more eco-friendly offerings. Of course, there are still some apprehensions regarding the natural texture, as many people do not like the rawness of fibres or the fact that it creases. But at Saphed, we do not believe in excessively treating our fabric and like to educate our customers regarding the benefits of linen.”
Many experts necessarily still believe that processing the plant fabrics like eucalyptus and bamboo may lead to concerns for air, water, and worker health. This, in turn, depletes the viability of the fabric, and unless fully monitored, which is only possible for smaller productions, the long-term benefit of these fabrics is yet to be noticed.
Bamboo all the way
Saphed, as a brand, is focused sharply on improving the quality of bedding products available in India. Shirin says, “For us, the focus will always be 100 per cent linen, irrespective of the trends, and we are trying to fortify our brand by offering everything for your home in earthy natural textures inspired by India.”
On the other hand, Peeyush Singhal, Founder, NatureFab, mentions that he has witnessed a lot of potential in bamboo fabric, and over years of research and QCs, he has been able to use bamboo fabric for performance wear. NatureFab is a clothing brand that manufactures performance apparels like tees, pajamas, leggings and other products using bamboo fabric.
“Perfecting the thread count, making the fabrics react to dyes, and then at every step tightening the production process further helped us to achieve that perfect backbone for our collection. It took us more than 7 months to get the process right, and erasing the lint formation or colour fading cons of the fabric was always on our agenda, and even after the production units we worked with refused to carry on with our requirements, we didn’t stop. Constructed by a team with more than 20 years of experience, our T-shirts currently provide a living to 100+ workers,” Peeyush highlights.
The only concern that Peeyush has right now is product expansion. He wants to keep the price tag of products comfortable for the customers and still innovate and diversify his product line as much as possible. Exports are on the card and presently they are selling in the US, UK, and Denmark, and Peeyush is definitely looking to diversify his market in the days to come.
Jigisha M Shukla, Founder, Bageeya, mentions that people are researching more about sustainable choices and are looking to shift their lifestyle adapting innovative approaches. Shirin avers that the supply chain will take a considerable amount of time to recover from the pandemic impact and there are unprecedented delays, so in order to cater to the customer demands, an honest line of communication will help them understand the truth behind eco-friendly fabrics.
Jigisha agrees, “Handcrafted fibres and fabrics itself require a lot of understanding among consumers and it is one of the biggest challenges a small business has to navigate through in order to keep selling to consumers by creating that awareness. Even though we always procure fabrics that have the GOTS or handloom mark, making the customer understand the quality, and thus, reasoning with them on the price is a big challenge. Selling eco-fabrics in itself is a big thing, and then when it comes to just focusing on plant-based fabrics, the viability further reduces. Unless the eco-system starts to ‘go green’, the adaptability and production of fabrics made from bamboo, eucalyptus and anything else will be a pocketed affair.”