Text by Rushmika Banerjee. Photographed by Uma Damle. Styling by Akanksha Pandey. Make-Up and Hair by Suraj Tiwari. Models: Tashi Pedy, Sumaya Hazarika, Both at Anima Creative Management
“One of my first memories of understanding how denim can be upcycled was in 2001, when I saw a picture of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake wearing matching all-denim outfits for the American Music Awards. The gown that Spears wore was fashioned from different denim patches stitched together, which inspired me to look into using denim scraps.
Denim is something we’ve always used as part of our collections for Doodlage, mainly because it sustains for so much longer. Since we’re a small brand working on premium products, at the moment, we have the liberty to work with various large or small-scale factories to pick up the fabric scrap. Since India is a production-based country, we have the availability of factory waste, especially around Delhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and areas around Uttar Pradesh. We’ve never really had a shortage of scrap availability. Fabric that is sourced from factories has previously been treated, so when denim goes to waste it has already used up a lot of resources like water and fertilisers. As a brand, we don’t put any other chemical washes on top of the scraps we obtain. We do, however, create a lot of patches and panels. Most of the fabric is stitched together before cutting patterns and if there are further defects in the fabric, they are patched or embroidered over to make sure that the product is of premium quality. In general, if you decompose cotton, it takes about 12 months, but denim is very robust. If maintained well, it has a life span of about 15-20 years. You can always fix and repair or add a little something extra to it, which is what I love about these thicker fabrics.
When I first started the label in 2012, we were working with post-consumer waste. Sturdy fabrics such as denim and tweed played a very important role in our collections as they have a strong tensile strength and can be opened up after ages. So even if it’s a 20-year-old men’s jacket, you can still create a new product out of it. As a potential market, however, we felt that the consumer is not ready to invest in upcycled products. So, we started working with post-production waste, while sticking to the same idea of upcycling.
As much as the brand has been appreciated by the media, fashion fraternity and customers over the years, we’ve been wanting to adjust the price point to meet what a mass consumer in India is ready to pay — if not readily, but at least have the possibility to save up for. In our latest collection we’ve been able to scale down our prices. Our pricing was initially between rupees 2,500 to 15,000. And sustainable pieces are generally priced slightly higher because the quantities are less. But now we’re trying to keep things under rupees 6,500 which has been a challenge. At the same time, we want more consumers to be able to switch to sustainable fashion choices. The next step for the brand would be to move back to post-consumer waste, coming full circle. As a circular fashion brand, it’s important for us to think about the end life of a fabric or a garment. We would love to explore all that can be done with old jeans and put that back into use, creating a product for which the consumer is willing to pay the right price.”
Read part 2 here.