Eco- fashion may be a growing part of our recent design vocabulary; yet, a consciousness of the human and environmental impact of all our decisions, has been a constant in our design philosophy over the last 15 years. Our engagements with artisans and craftsmen are underwritten with the goal of sustainability. Hand-made is given precedence over machine-made, wherever possible. Usage of synthetics is an absolute no-no. Fair wages and a safe, healthy work environment are assured to everyone who plays a role in the making of our clothes.
So what does ‘The Other O’ do that we haven’t done before? The term ‘organic’, besides encompassing all of the above values, can be applied only to clothing that is made from raw material which is grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards, without toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are proven to harm the environment, farmers, producers and end-consumers.
When a retail brand applies the term ‘organic’ to its product, it is therefore duty-bound to reveal its source and trajectory. The organic cotton fabric that goes into the label, ‘The Other O’, is sourced from one of India’s torchbearers for sustainable lifestyle products – the Ahmedabad based ASAL. This fabric is made from an indigenous variety of organically grown cotton in Vagad, Gujarat, and is called by the same name. While conventional cotton production may be one of the largest water users among agricultural crops, Vagad does not require irrigation, and is cultivated using dry farming techniques.
The short staple yarn spun from this cotton is dyed in natural dyes, and woven by hand on traditional pit-looms. While working with these fabrics, I was reminded of the delightful phrase coined by Fabindia – “Handloom, by definition, means a glorious uncertainty when it comes to uniformity”. Add organic cotton and natural dyes to that phrase, and you have uncertainties galore! So, you have checks that are not perfectly mitred at the seams (even if our cutting masters lost much hair over it), texture that is uneven, and colours that are photo-sensitive. Indigo, as is its wont, will show you some love. But, from my long experience of loving and being loved back by indigo, I must say that ASAL’s indigos are more taciturn than usual. Shripal Shah, founder and driving force behind ASAL, assures me that they have been boiled in the juice of the harida fruit, which ‘fixes’ the colour to some extent. Conscious consumerism encourages you to mull over these uncertainties and embrace the minor imperfections of the human hand with open arms. In return, you get to bask happily in the afterglow of nature’s caress and rest on the absolute certainty that these garments can never cause you or the earth any harm.
‘The Other O’, with its palette of natural primary colours – madder, indigo and turmeric, and unbleached white, stripes and checks in varying measures, and minimalistic peasant embroidery, has a rare rustic sophistication that blends old-world elegance with this new-age consciousness.