Joining India’s slow fashion brigade, this young designer

By Priyadarshini Nandy

At 23, Bengaluru-based fashion designer Sayesha Sachdev, wants to – in the words of Steve Jobs – “put a ding in the universe.” And her universe is filled with plenty of challenges. But amid that chaos, she’s convinced that she can make a difference.

Her commitment is evident in her latest collection of striking-yet-understated clothes. But these are no ordinary clothes. Each garment is made from fabric that has been created from fibres derived from nature. There’s eucalyptus, rose petal, aloe vera, and banana to start with, and making fabric out of them is one mean task. “One does need to add another fibre to act as a binder, or else aloe vera fibre, for example, would simply disintegrate. For this collection I have used cotton as the binder,” she explains. 
“Fashion cannot only be about looking good. It has to make you comfortable and most importantly, happy. Nothing in my collection is toxic for the body (unless of course you’re inherently allergic to one of these ingredients) or the environment,” she says. In fact, she even throws in a challenge: “Take one of these garments and bury it. It will decompose normally over time without harming the environment,” says the graduate of Central Saint Martins, London.

Focusing mostly on solids (there’s orange, blue, brown and white for now) , Core by JSI (that’s Jyoti Sachdev Iyer, a name that’s no stranger to the fashion circles of Bengaluru, and Sayesha’s mother), a new store, reflects Sayesha’s minimalist approach to fashion. None of the clothes bear embellishments or embroidery. Instead, they are about linear cuts and innovatives styles. “The idea behind starting this brand/range of clothes was to give people slow fashion without it being anti-fit, or only in linen and cotton. And yet, I wanted to create something that people could wear every day. Most people are so consumed with fast fashion that they never think of what they’re putting on their bodies. What I want to do is give them something that is good – for them and the environment – something that will last them much longer, and at relatively affordable rates,” Sayesha says.

Most people are so consumed with fast fashion that they never think of what they’re putting on their bodies

Bengaluru-based fashion designer Sayesha Sachdev

Sayesha emphasises on the need to stay transparent and honest to oneself. And while that might sound idealistic, she does make a point. “It’s important to acknowledge the steps you take to call your brand a slow fashion brand. You could be 50 per cent eco-friendly, but you should always make that known. There are designers out there who are doing incredible work and have been such an inspiration, but what I like most about them is that they are honest about what they do and their buyers know what they’re paying for.”

One can hardly put the words ‘slow fashion’ and ‘affordable’ in the same sentence, simply because anything that is meant to be sustainable requires expensive resources and a longer time to make, and that results in an expensive product. But Sayesha disagrees. “A weaver who makes a garment by hand requires more time than a machine would. Now, what if we used technology but stuck to our core ethics of slow fashion? I can use non-chemical dyes and sustainable fabric but make them on a machine. That would increase my yield and save time. What if we used 3D printing? It would make clothes as per measurement, and there would be no wastage of fabric, and thus much less environmental contamination. And it would also help designers to price their products better. The stripes you see on our jackets and trousers are all eco prints, which means none of the dyes used are chemical dyes, but they’re machine-printed.”

It’s hard to be convinced by a 23-year-old, who’s still not got her teeth firmly into the business of fashion, which to put it mildly can be quite cutthroat. But then again, not many 23-year-olds can call themselves the co-founder and creative director of a clothing brand (even if she has a mother at the helm), and live up to the designation.

“I know this whole millennial tag gives our age group a certain reputation. And I won’t entirely disagree with it, but it’s also something I can’t always relate to. Our lives are so influenced by social media, and we are constantly being watched. We put so much out on the internet, and when it’s out there, it stays there. I think that’s also one of the reasons why we are so aggressive and such go-getters. But you need to be able to take responsibility for your actions. Do something with all that ‘go-getter’ attitude, without getting greedy. We need to be able to make a difference. And this is my way of making a difference.”