Sustainable India: 10 Indian Ethical Fashion Brands I Love
Back from my recent trip to India last month, I felt so inspired by the ethical fashion scene I’d experienced that I thought I’d write a blog post about it. I was amazed by just how many ethical brands had become part of the physical "high street" experience. Some, like FabIndia, have been around for decades celebrating artisanal textiles and leading the way for new creatives to follow.
With a rich textile history and an unrivalled craft heritage, it seems sustainable fashion is an emerging standard that a new generation of designers in India are aspiring to. Choosing to see beyond aesthetics, there’s a growing movement of forward thinking creatives who are now embracing sustainable practices that help both people and the planet. So here are the 10 Indian ethical fashion brands I love.
First up is Nicobar - a contemporary lifestyle brand that makes clothing, home decor and travel accessories. Inspired by the Indian Ocean and a relaxed island aesthetic, their philosophy of simplicity in timeless products designed to last and influenced by natural design and materials, is echoed in their beautiful stores. I visited their Chennai store - a beautifully laid out oasis of calm that sucks you right into a world of beautiful world bamboo dresses, organic cotton and tropically inspired eco-friendly homeware.
2) Good Earth
Next up is Good Earth - a much loved favourite of mine! During my many visits to India I’ve almost always popped into Good Earth to either treat myself to something gorgeous or just take in the atmosphere. Good Earth has been around for a while now and has gained a loyal cult following. Tucked away amidst the labyrinth of alleyways in Jodhpur city, I stumbled upon a Good Earth store. I’d describe them as a very visual and experiential brand. Walking into a store is seductive and experiential and where craft and luxury merge. Be prepared to be seriously tempted by their handblock printed bed linens and gorgeous range of sustainable and stylish clothing. I love that they work with traditional craftsman and push new designs thoughtfully.
Good Earth was the brainchild of founder Anita Lal. Inspired by her travels and with a passion for sustaining tradition and livelihoods, their Sustain collection made the brand forge relationships with artisan communities supporting age-old craft traditions.
FabIndia as the name suggests, is a celebration of the heritage textiles of India.. FabIndia has been around for about 50 years and works with craft based rural producers to create sustainable employment whilst preserving traditional crafts. They do a great range of clothing for men and women, homeware, beauty and food.
Okay, so that’s a picture of little old me wearing a FabIndia outfit. I ended up treating myself to a gorgeous cotton blue Kurta, red Churidar trousers (skinny trousers that are rolled at the ankle) and Ajrakh printed shawl. Just couldn't resist! Love the hand stitched detail on the sleeves. I find that the traditional salwar kameez (long dress like top and trousers) outfits that south asians wear can easily be adapted for an international audience. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from wearing the blue kurta as a dress on its own in the summer.
Next up is Anokhi. Based In the Pink City of Jaipur, Anokhi has been around for over 40 years and has stores all over India. Well known for its ongoing revival of traditional textile skills, Anokhi embraces artisanal textiles beautifully with its handblock printed dresses, tops, pretty designs and they do some cute fabric bags with matching scarves. (see top of picture). Their collections are always colourful and so beautifully laid out. This picture was taken in their lovely Khan Market store in Delhi. There were a lot of western women shopping here as their collections included tops, trousers, skirts and prairie dresses. I ended up buying two more outfits that would look great for the summer here in the UK.
5) Anita Dongre - GrassRoots
A high end luxury brand, Anita Dongre has a stunning collection of couture wedding dressings, premium clothing and accessories. Popular with the well heeled celebrity circles of Indian society, her Grassroot initiative, provides steady opportunities to skilled artisan communities by providing them sustained, gainful livelihood opportunities in their own villages. You may never be able to afford the clothing but there’s nothing wrong with day dreaming about wearing one of those gorgeous gowns!
6) No Nasties
If you’re looking to create a simple and stylish capsule wardrobe, No Nasties is a great place to start. They do a flattering range of sustainable clothing for men and women which is 100% organic and fair trade. Their about page is impressive with full explanations of how their clothes positively impact their workers, the consumer and the planet. To top it all off - every time a product is sold, they plant a tree!
7) Brown Boy
Now it wouldn’t be right to leave the boys out, so here’s a sustainable brand that’s not only vegan, but organic and fairtrade. Founder and CEO of Brown Boy Prateek Kayan, left his banking job in New York, returned to India and launched his own brand. Featuring a collection of handprinted, PETA approved t-shirts, vests, sweatshirts and yoga pants - the brand has a really cool feel to it and a great ethos to boot.
Doodlage is a sustainable clothing brand that makes circular fashion mainstream. They makes garments, accessories and home products made out of fabric scraps sourced from large manufacturing units in India. These fabrics otherwise add to landfills or go into incineration. From simple separates, dresses and jumpsuits for women to shirts for men. I love how they take what would have been thrown away into beautiful, easy to wear, stylish clothing.
Based in pretty Pondicherry, Auroville, Upsana create conscious sustainable fashion using design to solve social and environmental issues such as farmer suicides, garbage littering and unemployment. They work extensively with weaver and farming communities and have on-going projects that provide eco-friendly alternatives to waste. With extensive collections that include healing Ayurvedic textiles, organic dyes, handblock printing and traditional crafts - you’ll find an eclectic mix of easy to wear dresses with origami styles and off the runway luxury.
9) Chola the Label
If you’re into luxury high fashion with edgy, relaxed, layered silhouettes then you’ll love the deconstructed and uber-cool clothes of Chola the Label Founder Sohaya Misra, creates stunning clothes marrying an ethos of simplicity and soulful design. I love the ease with which the fabrics flow and the versatility of the separates that allow layering. The clothes are made of recycled fabrics created out of post consumer waste using free-cutting methods that employ minimal wastage.
10) Ka-Sha by Karishma Shahani-Khan
A graduate from the London College of Fashion, Karishma Shahani Khan founded Ka-Sha in 2012. Since then her designs have won her much respect and admiration for her work in sustainability and fashion. Her clothes are highly visual, tell a story and embrace sustainability all levels - from design to sourcing to production and distribution techniques. Their label Heart to Haat recycles and up-cycles materials to create functional products. They also ensure they provide their makers and co-creators with the right conditions to work and grow as individuals.
So that’s my run down of the 10 Indian Ethical Fashion Brands I personally love and have bought from. What do you think? Do let me know your thoughts by commenting below. Plus, if you know of any others that should be included, please get in touch!