It’s the age of sustainable fashion. Needless to say, India’s first organic farm to sustainable fashion brand—Ethicus—is making all the right noises. After a successful debut at the Lakme Fashion Week last year, the Pollachi-based brand returned to woo Delhiites with its spring exhibition last month. The brand’s second outing comprises three new collections of saris and ready-made blouses showcasing weaves made from organic cotton—All-Day Elegance, Ratan, and Made by Hand.
All-Day Elegance’s contemporary designs symbolise smart dressing for all-day needs and give the wearer the comfort of the finest of organic cotton but the drape of a crepe or georgette. Ratan is a classic and timeless collection with gold and silver threads and elaborate borders, buttis and jaals all over. Available in festive and pastel shades, these are perfect for summer weddings and party wear—with each piece painstakingly woven by an artisan over the period of a month. Made by Hand are handwoven on looms in Pollachi, and further fine-crafted by artisans from Kutch. This limited edition collection of Ajrakh and Bandhani saris are printed with natural dyes.
What’s more, each sari carries a tag mentioning where the cotton was grown, who the artisan is, how many days it took them to complete it. “It’s all about recognising the effort that people have put into the making of a product. The textile value chain is so huge that the cotton goes through the hands of hundreds of people before the final product is made. When a consumer knows who has made their product, it’s not nameless and faceless anymore. It then has a soul,” explains Vijayalakshmi Nachiar, who, along with her husband, Mani Chinnaswamy, established the label in 2009.
Ethicus, which actually stands for ‘Ethics and Us’, is aimed at reviving the rich local hand-weaving traditions of the area through product development and design intervention. Explaining the farm-to-fashion concept, Nachiar says, “It’s all about forming a sustainable value chain and bringing in traceability to it. It’s also about ‘inclusive growth’ and giving an identity to the people involved in its manufacture. The main objective has been to grow the finest of organic cotton and produce textiles using the tradition of handloom weaving to make our heritage fashionable.”
Nachiar’s idea translated into six yards of wonder in cotton to make women rediscover the joy of wearing saris as a part of daily routine. “Through Ethicus, we are trying to bring in the humble ‘cotton’ into the forefront of sustainable fashion by taking it to boardrooms, parties, to social events and even to weddings,” she says.
Hailing from a family rooted in the cotton business, and armed with a master’s in textiles and clothing, she calls Ethicus a ‘Made in India brand’ that has its ethos firmly based in creating the best of Indian textiles and reviving the pride in the traditional textile heritage of India. Its parent company, Appachi Eco-Logic Cotton (P) Ltd, pioneered India’s first cotton contract farming model and today grows the finest organic cotton in the country. Taking immense pride in the fact that they had got into the business when sustainable fashion was not the rage, she says, “My fascination with textiles is inherent. We are not just another label. We are keenly aware of the resources we use and our carbon footprint. Our process is slow. Our products are of the highest quality, and our designs are timeless.”
Nachiar ensures that a minimum of two collections is made every year, one for the summer and the other for winter. These are available through exhibitions in India and abroad, and retailed from select stores across the country as well as online. “We would like to foray into ready-made garments in the future and are also looking at expanding our business online,” Nachiar adds.