An earth-first approach to design

Can ‘green’ become the new black? Designer Neesha Amrish is positive it can, if we choose fabrics that protect us and the planet

February 22, 2017 03:41 pm | Updated November 11, 2017 12:30 pm IST

De signer Neesha Amrish’s WhatsApp forwards are a showcase of eco-wise power women draped in beautiful block-printed stoles and saris. Like her, they too care to be stewards of the environment, and travel that extra mile to prove that organic doesn’t necessarily mean sackcloth and shapeless designs.

From a quiet lane in Neelankarai, on the fringes of a bustling city, Amrish’s slow fashion is making rapid strides. The next lot of scarves is being packed to be shipped to London, where the Victoria and Albert Museum displays her collection at the in-house shop. Suitcases bursting with garments and stoles are waiting to be taken to Dubai, where she is exhibiting her new line at Numaish Luxury this weekend. And, another collection is being readied for the Amazon India Fashion Week next month.

“What can I say? Life’s rocking! I never thought it would be so good when I started out with a one-table fabric printing unit in the backyard of my house in T Nagar eight years ago,” says the designer. “It was liberating to wear my own creation of guilt-free clothing. It pushed me to invest all my savings into something I believed in. Today, my brand Aeshaane has gone global — you find my creations at established fashion houses in Paris, Tokyo and Istanbul, and in Germany, Greece, the US, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Mauritius.”

Indian aesthetic

Amrish’s fabrics have a whisper-soft homespun vibe, the palette is cheery and the blocks and patterns are striking. But, it is the combination of an earth-first approach to design and a quintessentially Indian aesthetic that has helped her reach a global audience. “Internationally, people want to do their bit for the environment. They get down to minute details and make informed choices. In India, usually, it is the design or silhouette that is the deciding factor. I’m trying hard to change that. I would love more young people to support the trend; sadly, they think organic is for older folks. Indianness and organic are interwoven in our textile traditions. The bond is already established — but we are not willing to back that.”

Tracing the market scene in India, the designer says, “It’s still a niche segment. We need to create an awareness about textiles that have limited or no impact on the environment. Even some of the customers who buy my creations are drawn more by the pattern and palette play rather than by the fact that it is non-toxic clothing. Consumers also think that eco-fashion is expensive. Yes, it is, but they don’t make you or the planet sick! It’s a small ratio of fashionistas that are making conscious choices and willing to invest in organic clothing. But, I’m positive the trend will change. Going green is a slow process. Only gradually do you get to appreciate the little imperfections of dexterous artisans who work with absolutely no fear of time!”

Though Amrish specialises in stoles, saris and fluid separates, she plans to diversify her line to include home linen.

“Duvets, coasters and table runners will roll out soon. I also want to focus on plus-size fashion that is neglected by mainstream designers.”

As someone who set out to substantiate the fact that eco-fashion is not just a feel-good marketing jargon, but also a sincere commitment to cut an earth-stomping human footprint, Amrish has taken a while to succeed. “Now, I don’t have to go to the rooftop and shout. Yoga became a global buzzword after the West took to the asanas, and in my case, a small brand like Aeshaane became successful only after endorsement from the West.”

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