What Does It Take to Make Sustainable Clothing?
What Does It Take to Make Sustainable Clothing?

What lies in the ethos of sustainable fashion brands, 11.11 / eleven eleven and Chamar Studio 

The number 11:11 holds fascinating significance in numerology, often considered an "angel number" conveying messages from spiritual guides. Some see it as a symbol of divine guidance and manifestation power, while others interpret it as a sign of synchronicity and spiritual influence. For Shani Himanshu and his brand, it represents not only creating eco-friendly clothes but also giving back to the community, while emphasising, "Craftsmanship lies at the heart of 11.11 / eleven eleven." 




They achieve this by working with artisans located across the country—maintaining their handmade vision by opting for smaller batches instead of favouring mass-production manufacturing practices. Himanshu, along with his team, which also consists of Co-founder and Creative Director Mia Morikawa, a graduate of Central Saint Martin’s University, whose alumni include designers like John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, emphasises the importance of heritage techniques such as hand spinning, handloom weaving, hand painting, miniature tie-dyeing, and quilting. The label also quite religiously uses only indigenous cotton and natural dyeing techniques, which compared to industrial dyeing, is a slower and weather-dependent process. During our brief chat, the label shared some insight into what it takes to make sustainable clothes today. 


What does sustainable clothing mean to you? 
Shani Himanshu: In today's time, it's imperative to design clothing that is 100 per cent biodegradable, minimizing our impact on the environment through significant steps. 

What are some of the biggest challenges of making sustainable clothes? 
SH: Building a complete value chain from ‘seed to stitch’ and creating systems that support circularity.  

Could you please tell us a bit about your process? 
SH: We work with indigenous practices, producing small batch slow-made clothing in collaboration with producer groups of artisans located all across India. Many of the rurally located artisans we collaborate with already work from home—their spinning wheel, loom, and kitchen activities happen in the same space—equipment might extend to the porch or a roof terrace. Family members often work as a team in charge of different operations. Many grow their food and coexist with animals. These craft communities located in remote areas have some of the smallest carbon footprints on the planet. 




What are your thoughts on the sentiment about eco-conscious clothes being expensive? 
SH: Our carbon footprint for a fabric produced for a shirt (handspun & handwoven) is 1/14th (7 per cent) of mass-produced garments. Carbon taxes induce a reduction in emissions; a carbon tax policy needs to be applied to clothing that is not manufactured responsibly, which has already been implemented in various European countries. We cannot walk away by not paying for the damage our business causes to the environment. On the other hand, consumers end up paying more for mass-produced garments when compared to the number of hours it takes to make small-batch clothing. 

Looking ahead, do you think slow and sustainable fashion will become more popular in India?  
SH: One shouldn’t perceive it as something that needs to be popular! Instead, it should be seen as the only way forward. 




After the 2015 governmental beef ban, many local Dalit and Muslim communities found themselves out of a job, with their primary source of income—making leather goods—becoming illegal overnight. This is when artist and activist Sudheer Rajbhar stepped up, searching for a material that could replace leather while maintaining the feel and sheen of the original leather. In 2017, he found a solution in a recycled rubber material made from waste, which has since become the heart of Chamar Studio. Since then, the studio’s focus hasn’t just been on providing livelihood to the ostracized community, but also being a flag-bearer of different realities of social injustice in India. It's a form of ethical sustainability, if you will. 


How would you define sustainable clothing?  
Sudheer Rajbhar: It means ethical practice, durable quality, and consuming less but better for the consumer. In India, we have a great example of sustainable clothing with the saree; it is inclusive in size, fitting everyone and every body type, and heirloom clothing that can pass down generations, does not follow any short trends, hence is forever iconic. I believe India has a great sense of sustainable practices at large and in clothing as well, so I prefer to inspire from our knowledge than to blindly follow concepts coming from elsewhere. 

What are some of the biggest challenges of making sustainable clothes? 
SR: From the moment we create something, the raw material has to be transformed, extracted, and waste created; there aren’t 100 per cent perfect sustainable clothes, meaning the biggest challenge in making sustainable clothes is about the choices we take on the aspects we individually want to embody as values by making that clothes, can be a social impact, farming of natural fibres impact, recycling plastic fibres, etc. 



Could you tell us about your process? 
SR: Our process is deeply rooted in the belief that design is a sensibilisation tool that can bring awareness to sensible topics: perpetuation of a craft, survival of artisans, caste, artificial material transformation, situation of a city, etc.  

What are your thoughts on the sentiment about sustainable clothes being expensive? 
SR: Sustainable clothes are expensive; not everyone can afford a sustainable piece of clothing. It isn’t yet accessible to all, which explains why the market is still dominated by low-quality mass-production garments. 

Is sustainable fashion picking up pace in India? 
SR: I hope for it. I believe more sensitisation campaigns in the media, and TV will help make the importance of sustainable fashion become part of people’s choice process when buying clothing in the future. 


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