I am often asked this question – Why upcycling? Why denims? Who uses them? I can go and buy this for cheap from the store. Why go through this pain and effort to reuse.
What drives me/us?
I have worked in the I.T industry as a developer for 10 years. So why did I just move out of that comfort zone of good pay and perks to struggle in a world of uncertainty, of starting a venture which does not technically fall into the “business” perspective for most of them?
The story of Karaashilp begins even before it was conceptualized with any product in mind. During my daily corporate grind, I used to dream…yes dreams seen with open eyes are powerful!! I used to dream of having one full day to crochet, knit or indulge in any hand crafts that I would like to learn.How would life be without having to drag my feet everyday to a job and to do this from morning to evening!!
I always felt a disconnect with the virtual IT world and the reality outside. We sat in our air conditioned cubicles totally in a shell not knowing the struggles or the beauty of the rest of the world. Every second person and friend was in IT and I found it difficult to understand the other economics. In short, I was pampered and felt privileged to get that luxury. I am very grateful to that phase of my life as it gave me a higher diving board and a different perspective.
In 2011, I moved out from my corporate world, only to feel lost and that is when I took my dream and started exploring different hand crafts. I had no experience with sewing and had some hubby’s old denims and some clothes to give away kept in the loft from a long time. That is when I decided to explore sewing with those throwaway clothes. I have always been passionate about reusing, energy and water conservation since my childhood. All these magically came together during these experiments with denim. I read about denims and learnt that manufacturing these versatile and most-loved fabric, consumed so much of water, energy resources and the chemicals used, contributes to water, soil pollution. The textile industry is one of the top 3 water wasting industry and the second most carbon emitting industry.For more information, do read through this link: https://fashioninsiders.co/features/opinion/how-denim-manufacturing-impacts-the-environment/
Quoting from the above link:
” Incredibly, one pair of jeans, including its production and general wear uses up to 2,900 gallons of water.”
“The use of chemical dyes in the production of ‘distressed’ denim is intensive. The denim is subjected to several chemical washes. Added to that, there are serious health risks to the workers through exposure to the harmful chemicals that are used to spray the material in pursuit of an ‘acid wash’. Chemical run-offs from some of these manufacturers are also dumped into the water system, turning them indigo-blue such as the Pearl River in China.”
As I read and understood more, it was heart breaking to see how fast fashion was speedily ruining our resources, our health and not to mention once they are discarded and reach the land fills, they take months to decompose. How can I as an individual make a difference to this situation?
So what is Upcycling exactly?
We have heard about reusing, recycling, reducing usage. Upcycling is a philosophy and design principle to “recycle” the existing resource and extend its functionality to transform and upgrade its utility & value more than the original. For ex: Plastic when recycled, gets to a downgraded form and cannot be used as its previous value. Glass bottles, on the other hand, can be upcycled by flattening it or treating it to be converted to a platter or planter by changing its functionality but also increasing its value. This contributes to a circular economy – One company’s waste is another company’s resource.
After reading and understanding about denim and upcycling, it became natural for me to pick it up as a primary upcycling raw material. It is like a blank canvas where I can blend any color, any craft technique and it gives a different result every time. It is a sturdy and durable fabric and I can shape it anyway. It can withstand wear and tear. And even after it’s life of wearable is over, its after-life as a bag, play mat or any product is the most enjoyable and fulfilling one!!
Recently I heard this inspiring 2006 TED talk by Tony Robbins, #1 New York Times best selling author and life coach about – Why we do, What we do?. He mentions about the 6 needs which tilts people to do what they do – certainty, uncertainty, significance, connection and love, grow and contribute. While the first 4 are personal needs, the last two are spirit needs which makes us stand out. I could relate with this so much.
While going through the Karaashilp journey, while I wanted certainty, enjoyed the variety and uncertainty, had a significant and purposeful body of work, connected and felt loved by my customers and supported by family, its the last 2 needs, that kept me going. As Karaashilp grew to be a brand of value, I felt I managed to contribute to that 0.00001% change, however insignificant, to avoid unused denim going to landfills. Since 2011 till date, I have been able to transform around 10,000+ (we stopped counting after some time!!!) denim to functional products, served around 200+ customers nationally and internationally.
I believe in slow fashion as against to mass produced products, carefully and thoughtfully made products, consuming or buying only when required, trying to leave as low carbon footprint as possible. The smiles of my customers, joy of working with my hands, being part of a positive change ecosystem, need to leave a greener and cleaner earth to the coming generations and the people with whom I came to be associated is the big WHY I keep doing what I am doing.
What is your WHY? What is that has moved you and keeps you going?