A few years ago, my 20 year-old, started “thrifting” – and by that I mean shopping only at thrift stores. It became a long-standing joke in the family, my husband and I thought his clothes were very quirky, definitely retro and at times grandfatherly 😊. What I called grandfatherly (especially this mustardy sweater-vest he would wear), he would call vintage. It’s not that it was my first exposure to thrifting, I had done some of it (not a whole lot I must say) at consignment stores, but never really for clothes.
As our jokes at the expense of his clothes (or lack of it actually 😊) gathered momentum, my zoomer sat me down and gave me a lecture on “textile centric waste” and how re-used & re-purposed clothes & fabrics are the only way forward. This was certainly a big moment of truth for me and materials sustainability has since then been a cause that I have vigorously supported.
EPA estimates that 17 million tons of fabric was generated in 2018. The rate of recycling for all textiles for 14.7%, approx 2.5 million tons recycled, 3.2 million tons combusted and a whopping 11.3 million tons landfilled. And all of this just US based data.
Cited from: www.epa.gov – Facts & figures about materials, waste and Recycling
As the importance of reusing and repurposing fabrics started to seep in, I remembered how my mom and many of her friends in middle-class Indian households, would exchange their old saris for new pots and pans. Every few months, a lady would walk in and take away old clothes in exchange for something new. My mom told me this was a unique way by which saris (which is a 5.5 meters of beautiful fabric) would get reused to create cushion covers, duvet covers, bags etc. instead of landing in landfills. This system was in place throughout 60s, 70s and up to mid-eighties. The “Bhandewalas” as they were called up north (roughly translated as pots-and-pans-people) have since disappeared it seems.
Since then, I have learnt of many such endeavors by not-for-profit companies to create beautiful merchandise repurposing old saris, mostly at incremental and organic levels.
Saris to Suits has also been working on promoting upscale, fashionable merchandise created using pre-loved saris. These saris are collected and transformed by women based in India – thus helping create not just material sustainability but also creating jobs for women artisans.
Each of these pieces is unique and crafted to perfection – no better way for a sari to get fashioned into luxurious hand-crafted merchandise. To quote Patti Tripathi, CEO of Saris to Suits – “With these stylish socially-conscious purchases, you enable female artisans thread livelihoods, as they create a fashion wear with upcycled seven yards of treasured sari that once draped and adorned its original owner. We at Saris to Suits ® thank you for empowering women and supporting our social enterprise collaboration that links East to West through fabrics and textiles.”
Visit the estore @ https://saristosuits.org/store/ – money you spend will work three-folds. One, organically help reduce the materials that hit the landfills. Two, help under-resourced women artisans in India stay employed. Three, help build awareness to break down the barriers that constrain the advancement of women and girls especially of color. Third dimension as the money that saris to suits raises from selling this merchandise will be used towards advancement of women’s empowerment, education, gender inclusivity, equality and social justice.
Pratibha Salwan is Industry Leader at ISG (Information Services Group) based in Atlanta. Founded by former network news anchor Patti Tripathi, US-based Saris to Suits ® focuses on building awareness to break down the barriers that constrain the advancement of women and girls. We aim to advance women’s empowerment, education, gender inclusivity, equality and social justice. www.SarisToSuits.org