Sustainable fashion is the kind of catch-all phrase that’s fashionable to employ, but also tricky – unless, that is, you’re willing and able to unpack all the layers for the shopper. Take a brand like No Nasties, which lays bare their entire process, right from sourcing certified organic cotton to using plastisol-free inks, on their website. They join hands with like-minded ethical brands, non-profits and movements, such as Once Upon A Doug, which helps women from cotton-farming communities, or Fashion Revolution,the social enterprise behind #WhoMadeMyClothes, which works for transparency in the clothing industry.
It’s also the claim at the heart of Toile, a Khar store which brings brands committed to “sustainable,” slow fashion under one roof. Said roof shelters a small, neatly appointed shop, its high and low racks lined up against textured white walls. Here, founders Farheen Rahman and Priti Jain bring together roughly 15 labels with a singular aesthetic: seemingly raw, loosely structured, layer-friendly pieces made for summer-all-year-long weather.
A quick check reveals that ‘gamcha’ fashion is and remains, truly, a thing. James Ferreira takes the modest towel fabric and constructs it into quirky-cool hoodies and dresses for his offshoot label Jaivik; he also employs it as a cape, to add interest to an otherwise basic black dress.
The label Kaveri uses jute blends to make layered dresses, with artful splashes of paint and abstract embroidery to match. It’s easy to love their indigo ombré layered dresses and jackets, just as it is Ninoshka’s reversible ikat jackets, which could neatly slip into your everyday wardrobe. As for Preeti Varma’s Runaway Bicycle, it was already sold out, save for one dress.
Our favourite of the lot is Amrich, by NID Ahmedabad graduates Amit Vijaya and Richard Pandav. The 10-year-old label has a certain flair with casting shibori dyes on A-line shirts and jackets in silk blends. You might however find a broader edit of their work at the other end of the city at Ensemble at Lions Gate. Amrich, true to its name, also happens to be one of the most expensive labels at Toile – which goes anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 – and fairly so.
While here, please skip Purvi Kabra and Mayank Anand & Shraddha Nigam’s gelusil pink pieces altogether. Similarly, Mati’s earthy dresses seem like they’ve enjoyed a long stay at FabIndia. Rahman’s own line, with sequinned and embroidered doodles and unflattering ruffles, sticks out like a sore thumb. Even Facebook fave Doodlage, which packs in some upcycled, patch-worked basics here, has a much more exciting and wider edit on Nete.in.
That’s plenty to be going on for starters -- but sustainable? We’re not sure. The sales staff can promptly tell you which celebrity was spotted in what, point you towards forgettable organic make-up, or pick out labels that are Fashion Week regulars, but they can only hazard a guess as to which fabrics were used, let alone dive into the process. (When this writer asked about Monica Jhaveri’s stiff, structured dresses for instance, she got a tentative “Organza? Organdy?” in response. A question about natural dyes prompted some hemming and hawing before producing an empty, politically correct answer.)
Sustainable fashion is eco-conscious, yes, but it is also about fair wages and humane working conditions. There appears to be an emphasis on handmade garments at Toile, but not enough clarity about the process – no brochures or labels to guide you, or earn your trust. While it has the right intentions, it lacks the kind of transparency that should back up lofty claims. Please cotton on soon.
Getting there: Toile, plot no 764, 5th Road, Khar (W), call 022 6511 0333. Kaveri’s indigo layered dress costs Rs 10,491 .
This story was contributed by Sonam Savlani a fashion and culture writer who has written for ELLE, Vogue and Grazia.
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