Upcycle & wear your memories

Designers and consumers, who are giving sustainable fashion a shot, are ending up in a tricky spot when it comes to making each piece unique.
Ganesh Nallari
Ganesh Nallari

HYDERABAD: Designers and consumers, who are giving sustainable fashion a shot, are ending up in a tricky spot when it comes to making each piece unique. There is a new (and old) technique to resolve this -- make way for upcycling fashion.Whether it is a family heirloom or a hand-me-down, people treasure their ancestors’ wedding ensembles and other valuable apparel for decades. Many do not prefer to recycle these because it would mean shredding memories. Well, there is a way to keep these pieces of legacy and the nostalgia intact and still use them. 

Upcycling fashion is not new in India. Usually, women use their mother or grandmother’s wedding clothes for special occasions. But this went out of fashion as splurging on designer lehengas took over. The good news is, environment-conscious consumers and designers are bringing it back. Ganesh Nallari, a fashion designer in Hyderabad, says well-preserved silk sarees are the best ones to pick for upcycling. Sarees made using natural fibres, such as cotton, are not as long-lasting if worn a lot.

“With a lot of people using fast fashion for its affordability and trending designs, there is a lot of wastage. Take for instance, the life cycle of a t-shirt: it starts off as casual wear, a few months later it becomes nightwear and finally gets demoted to pocha kapda. But in India, I think there is still enough sensibility towards clothing,” he says.  

In case of a hand-me-down wedding saree, Ganesh suggests his clients to just get a new blouse stitched for it. “If the saree is well preserved, it is best not to make any alterations. Instead, get a designer blouse which can be used with other sarees as well,” he says. If you want to upcycle a saree, here are some DIY techniques by Ganesh -- appliqué, quilting and patchworks. If the saree has frayed and is not in a condition to be upcycled into a wearable item, he suggests repurposing it into a table cloth, cushion cover or a book cover.

Asmita Marwa, who is popular for her eclectic designs around the world, urges people to be more conscious about their fashion choices. “Your attire reflects who you are as a person. Invest in a Banarasi or a handwoven saree for your special occasions and use it again and again instead of opting for an over-expensive and heavy lehenga that you would never use. Better still, if you own a classic and an antique piece of clothing, upcycle it by changing the border into a contemporary one.” 

For sarees that are damaged and are beyond the scope of upcycling, Asmita suggests turning them into a clothing accessory -- a fish, kite or a flower and sew it onto other garments. “I have done this for luxury clothing without making it look shabby or awkward. Another way of upcycling clothes is turning them into jackets, which is my favourite.” These jackets can be paired with jeans and skirts or even sarees to look chic and classy.

Sulagna Saha, a fashion design student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Hyderabad, was given an assignment on sustainable fashion. “Since we were in lockdown, I could not get all the products I needed to recycle clothing. So, I opted for upcycling instead. I took an old saree from my mom and upcycled it into a lehenga.”  

Prachi Kale, who studies knitwear at the NIFT, does not like her clothes being restrictive. “My design philosophy is all about creating multipurpose clothes. So, I upcycled a saree into something that can be worn as a skirt and a gown too.” Do not let those valuable silk degrade in your wardrobe. Upcycle and wear those fond memories. 

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The New Indian Express