Conversations and visual narratives about ethical clothing
Ongoing personal project to encourage conversation and education about ethical and sustainable fashion, and what we can do to improve our thinking and actions in this direction.
Using a surreal visualisation of floating clothing to assert the beauty and superiority of the sustainable and ethical approach in fashion.
Photography, Digital Art, Creative Direction by Rhea Gupte
Milk Teeth Dresses
IN CONVERSATION WITH NEHA CELLY
I have been a fan of Milk Teeth since it’s very launch and have gone on to recommend
the brand to many of my friends who have children. What inspired your foray into kids-wear?
A void in the Indian market for a truly global kids-wear brand led to the inception of Milk Teeth. As a parent, I always found that Indian kids-wear brands lacked a certain taste and weren’t good enough for my daughter. The desire to see a kids-wear brand that was completely made in India, but with an international design sensibility, is what led me to start Milk teeth. Today, when I see Indian and International celebrities choosing Milk Teeth over a plethora of great brands, I feel humbled and motivated to offer much more to the people who’re longing for great aesthetics.
I feel Milk Teeth is one of the very few ethical brands in the kids-wear category. What drove you towards building a brand based on sustainability and ethics?
What we preach, is what we would teach our future generations. Setting a right example for my daughter as to how important it is to buy less of the ‘cheap’ clothing the market is flooded with and to go for the natural materials which are consciously made. It’s my love for the planet and the people that makes me go to the roots and make sure the product has least possible carbon footprint.
I’d love to know some of the processes and techniques which you use to facilitate a better cohabitation with our environment and the impact these practises makes on it.
First and foremost, we have only two collections a year, since we believe in ‘slow’ fashion. The point is to make less and to make it the best. This automatically creates a wait among our clients and helps us deliver better every season. We use 100% natural materials which make the garments safe and comfortable for kids. As much as possible, we get our accessories made from NGOs throughout India, so the people working there get full credit for the beautiful work they are doing.
All your collections have the most adorable patterns and styles. However, what intrigues me most are the vibrant colours. Could you speak to us about the dyeing techniques used to achieve these wonderful results.
Our prints and dying are all done at mills in Surat. A very special collection that we showcased at the India Story 2016, was the natural Indigo Khadi collection. This was hand-dyed by the artisans based out of Gujarat and was in collaboration with Arvind Mills.
Recently, Li Edelkoort, a trend forecaster, spoke about how garments are often cheaper than a sandwich, in her talk about the future of fashion. What are your thoughts about the rising trend of buying more at lesser cost in this industry? Both in general and particularly when it comes to kids-wear?
I think, buying more doesn’t just flood our homes with numerous options, but also has a terrible effect on the planet. It basically means, getting the products done at a dirt cheap production cost with inhuman working conditions as well as compromising on the quality of the product. For us, it is important to make sure that starting right from the fabric, a certain quality is maintained, our tailors and embroiderers get well paid and a product that is best in comfort and design is delivered to the customer.
Especially with kids-wear, what kind of fabrics do you put emphasis on using, in terms of being gentle, breathable and comfortable for babies. Has having a sustainable approach pushed you into making different decisions from what you would, had you not been aware?
We essentially use cotton and cotton blends like cotton modals. Having a sustainable approach has led us to create an awareness among our clients about how we wouldn’t go wrong with the material that we use and the quality that we offer. There are at times, we’re asked to create party-wear as our clients want more from us. Even for that, we try and use cotton or cotton silks to provide a festive feel to the collection.
Being an e-commerce, how much of a difference do you think a brand can make in every step of the way, from sourcing, production to packaging? Is there a level of mindfulness that seeps into each one of your actions where Milk Teeth is concerned and how do you think it affects the brand?
Being in E-com space, we automatically have a much lesser footprint on the planet since we do not have physical stores, and a lot of other frills that come with it. Yes, a lot of thought goes in how we can do our best to be good to the earth and to it’s people. Our garments, packaging, the little deeds all speak the same language.
What are some of the challenges you face? Do you believe that taking the ethical approach brings with it a different set of difficulties apart from what a newbie label would face anyway? What are some of these hurdles and what do you think could be done to improve the condition so that all new brands starting out willingly want to take this route?
One of the biggest challenge is, that the mass crowd in India isn’t still ready for the sustainable approach. They still would buy cheaper polyester clothes, which are made unethically. We too get many requests to change our ways, but to be standing here with a strong sensibility, even if that means loss of sales, is what is getting us through.
My previously interviewed designers, Shikha and Vinita from ILK would like to ask, “What is your opinion on forming a consortium for the fashion industry, for bigger issues like government norms and smaller issues like resource sharing?”
I think it’ll be a great idea. I know small groups that are practicing this, but if it comes as a centralised thing, then nothing like it.
I’d love for you to contribute a question which I may ask the next designer I interview.
‘What is the future of ethical/sustainable fashion, since we still see the mass not moving towards this?’