Label Purvi Doshi’s beautiful, nature friendly collections are a tribute to India’s hand-crafted traditions, celebrating India’s crafts and weaves by combining traditional techniques with contemporary designs. We spoke to founder and designer Purvi Doshi about the inspiration behind her eponymous fashion label.
What inspired you to launch your business?
Being born to a humble family, self-reliance and independence became integral parts of my personality. The designer in me was born at the age of 18 when I dumped the tailors who stitched my clothes and decided to stitch a garment for myself, which made me so happy and content when I wore it. Each time I walked the college corridors wearing the garment designed and stiched by me, I felt no less than a showstopper. With appreciation pouring from friends and well-wishers around, I decided to make more outfits, eventually making outfits for friends too. The journey with fabrics, threads, needles, designs and ideas finally reached its destination at Label Purvi Doshi.
What are your sustainable priorities for the brand?
At Label Purvi Doshi, we believe in ‘fashion with a conscience’ and we abide by this belief with our cruelty-free and ecologically-sustainable outfits. The crux of the brand lies in its handspun and handwoven organic fabric; natural colours, which are pollution free; and our hand embroideries, which generate employment for 300 craftsmen and craftswomen in India. This indirectly helps to revive the art and craft of the country, which we pledge to preserve through our garment designs. We don’t just adopt the art, we adopt the artisan’s community, giving them better sustainence of their arts. While all of the above drives the brand to create its identity, in the backend we recycle all the waste that is collected at the studio and upcycle it into tags, bags, cards and stationary. Our label works on a holistic approach towards sustainability, wherein we have been awarded by PETA INDIA as ‘compassion in fashion’ and also recognised by Innovate Green for our contribution towards reducing carbon footprint and harmful pollution.
How has your eco strategy developed as you have grown?
To be honest, five years back I used to work with silk and was completely ignorant about the cruelty towards silkworms for a metre of silk. When I realised the gruesome facts behind the production of silk, there came a major shift in the brand idealogy and then began the initial journey of sustainability. I was on the lookout for fabrics which were made from natural fibres to stop cruelty against animals, and then finally found the Indian organic fabric which is handspun and handwoven. The next step was reducing pollution and the task was to find fabric suppliers who were dealing in natural-dyed fabrics. This process took time and eventually the victory was in creating a change in the supply chain where the fabric suppliers started looking for natural dyed fabrics with conviction of joining hands with a brand trying to reduce pollution. It seemed like a big achievement then, as changing stringent mindsets and bringing a change in the surrounding helps to create a ripple effect. With two successes in my kitty, the next step was to become a zero waste brand and hence we started to recycle and upcyle waste into tags, bags, cards and other studio stationery.
How challenging has it been to maintain your eco principles?
The biggest challenge was to combat a commercially viable fabric like silk with a handspun and handwoven organic fabric. The point was to find the right flow and feel in a fabric that is design-friendly and wearable. Another challenge was finding natural dyed fabrics and the disadvantages that come along with these. While natural colours are good for the planet and humans, they can fade and bleed fast. Our production cycle also becomes a hurdle at times as the process is slow – a single garment takes 3-6 months to get ready with hand-embroidered work being done in the remote villages of India. Also, educating our clients and customers on the importance of each garment, which is made with a conscience effort in saving the planet, no cruelty towards animals and the revival of the art and craft. They don’t realise that their wardrobes act as a preservation space of the art each time they buy a Purvi Doshi outfit.
Do you feel pressure from your customers to be more eco?
I would never call it a pressure, but my patrons have always been very supportive of my work and they have only motivated me with their inputs and feedback. Like I said earlier we adopt the artisan’s community along with the art, so sometimes we experiment with our collections keeping the art intact with innovative designs. Also there have been requests on widening the colour pallette, which is something I am currently working on to strike the balance between keeping it sustainable and glamourous at the same time.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch a sustainable business?
‘Sustainability is a belief and not a trend’ – that’s something I would like to advocate through my work. If anyone is willing to launch a sustainable business then it should be ingrained with the strong belief of thinking outside the box without hurting the outlines of the box that nurtures our ideas. If your canvas has a strong foundation then every hurdle will be mundane.
Which other sustainable businesses have inspired you?
I can’t name anyone in particular, but when I discover brands that are working on sustainability or are switching towards sustainability, it is inspiring and motivating to be a constant in this particular ecosystem.
What have been the main prohibitors to your progress in building a sustainable business?
Maintaining consistency in our production cycle can be challenging as the garment includes hand embroideries, which can have minute variations as they are done by different artisans each time. The handmade fabric has its own limitations as sometimes it is thick, sometimes it is thin. The weave of the fabric is never even and since it is produced by hand, the yarn is sometimes broken and the fabric also has a few stains. The natural dyed shades are also very unlikely to be uniform as the shades of the natural dyes can be impacted by the weather and the quality of the plants, fruits and vegetable barks, etc. of the respective growing region. We are proud to say that all of our garments endure the warmth of human hands and each piece is unique and priceless.
What have been your biggest milestones and triumphs until now?
Five years ago when we conscienciously took a decision to stop silk and take the sustainable route for our brand, that was the first triumph for me. I was known for my colours and colourful designs but overnight everything changed and we started working with cruelty free fabrics, natural colours and designed collections that had a strong message attached to them. Our handspun and handwoven fabrics along with hand embroideries of the art and craft of India started garnering success at fashion shows and multi designer stores. I feel proud to have been the first Indian designer to have showcased a collection made out this handspun and handwoven fabric with a strong message of ‘co-existence’ at New York Fashion Week 2017. We are PETA-approved vegan brand and they have also awarded me with the ‘Compassion in Fashion’ award for our voice against cruelty in animals in the name of fashion. We have also generated employment for 300 plus craftswomen and craftsmen artisans of India. We have almost seemed to be a trendsetter in exploring the fabric to fight cruelty against animals in the same time making it a fashion statement. A renowned bollywood actress Nandita Das was wearing a Purvi Doshi outfit at the Cannes red carpet in 2016. Also, brides are now willing to explore this organic fabric instead of taking the silk route for their wedding outfits. Like mentioned earlier there has been a major shift in the supply chain too, wherein the suppliers are looking for natural colours and organic fabric vendors. So it has been triumphs all the way.