Zero Waste Week: How Your Kantha Sari Scarf Is Helping To Reduce The Worlds Problem Of Waste

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It's zero waste week and while people around the world are raising awareness of the impact of waste from fashion, I got to thinking about our sari scarves and necklaces.  Even if your not into saving the planet, chances are that if you're reading this, you've probably got one of our Kantha sari scarves hanging in your wardrobe. If so, you've inadvertently done a good deed! By buying one of our recycled sari scarves and necklaces, you've helped in reducing the worlds problem of clothing waste. 

Attitudes to recycled fashion have changed dramatically over the last fifty years. Thanks to the creative imaginations of social entrepreneurs and fashion designers, recycled fashion is now synonymous with luxury and quality. In fact, there's a whole industry set up to support it, with vintage shops, thrift stores and charity shops. Celebs such as Emma Watson are wearing recycled clothes on the red carpet and there's an army of organisations who make it there business to educate and raise awareness of the value of recycling. People are embracing preloved fashion. Unlike fast fashion, its not a trend that will disappear in a few weeks, thankfully it's here to stay.

So how does a preloved sari become a luxury sari scarf?  Well, I was fortunate enough to go to India and follow the same journey a sari takes to be transformed into a scarf. It's a journey that made me appreciate just how much work went into not only creating our scarves and necklaces, but just how much work went into stopping millions of saris ending up in landfill.

Transforming a simple sari into a Kantha sari scarf

 
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India has been recycling saris for generations. Saris are kept for decades, handed-down or repurposed to make Kantha quilts. There's an appreciation of sari's here and a culture of not wasting anything. In addition the age-old tradition of bartering saris in exchange for utensils is widespread. When a woman wants to recycle her saris, she calls for a "bhandiwali" in her area who will trade it for utensils such as pots and pans. Bhandiwalis, then travel to the bazaars in cities and towns to sell these saris on to traders. This is where the journey starts of sifting through hundreds of sari's to handpick the most beautiful, piece by piece, by colour and pattern.

The saris are then bought back to the headquarters of the social enterprise where they are cleaned and quality checked for markings and defects. Sections of the sari are cut to size and used for the sari scarves.

Excess material left over, is used to make our sari necklaces.

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The saris are then carefully paired together - a time consuming but very necessary process which adds to the uniqueness and quality of our Kantha sari scarves.

Pairing two layers of sari to make a reversible scarf

Pairing two layers of sari to make a reversible scarf

Getting the thread ready for the artisans to stitch with

Getting the thread ready for the artisans to stitch with

Next comes the matching of cotton thread,  which is used by the artisans to stitch with.

Kantha Artisans at work

Kantha Artisans at work

Once the saris are ready to be stitched, they are sent on a long journey to the rural outskirts of Kolkota in West Bengal. Here, a women's cooperative of Kantha artisans gets to work, sewing the length and breadth of each sari in the ancient art of Kantha.  These tiny running stitches create a luxurious texture, strength and beauty to each scarf. It takes about two weeks to stitch one scarf and when completed, the artisans embroider their name onto the corner of every scarf. Like signing a work of art, it's a mark of their gratitude and skill. Another round of quality checking at the cooperative ensures any issues can be sorted before the long journey back.

Quality checking

Quality checking

When the finished sari scarves arrive back in Delhi, they are again quality checked and finally ready to be sold.

I think it's amazing what beauty can be created from a preloved silk sari. Repurposing vintage material, reinventing and upcycling it into something totally different is for me, a beautiful story. 

If you take into consideration that around £30 billion worth of clothes are thrown away in the UK alone, and it takes two hundred gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans - would you look at the unused clothes in your wardrobe in a new way? Can you see the value of what's in your wardrobe and if so, why not get creative and reinvent what you think you don't want. Repurpose those old jeans, embellish that top or clothes swap with friends. Whatever you do, just don't throw away your clothes, because "away" is just another word for landfill.