There are a number of good arguments on why one should wear garments made sustainably. There are also a number of reasons why one should eat healthy. But for most of us leading busy lives dunking down junk food thrice a week because we have no time to cook, we barely have time to think about how clothing impacts us at a deeper level. We just want to look good, feel confident and receive compliments. When you’re stuck in traffic for 2 hours after work, all you want when you get back home is a sugar rush. Who has the time to do it all? We’re barely just living.
Clothing has always mattered heavily to me. Because I was quite a shy and insecure person, clothing gave me confidence. What I wore and how I looked made me feel like I had things under control. The halo effect in reverse. Back in the dial-up era, I would pore over fashion magazines to check out all the beautiful designs from fashion weeks. I would get my mother to tailor dresses for me. I’d wear my father’s shirt with jeans when I read about the ‘boyfriend look’ and didn’t have a boyfriend. I loved how I could express myself through my clothes. One day I was femininity incarnate in my pastel hued, floral printed skater dress, the other, a rebel without a cause in the denims I painstakingly ripped thread by thread with a blade over the course of a long night. What? It had to look natural.
Of course, it had to be that I was called an airhead, a little dumb, a narcissist, etc, etc. I did not care… much. The way I dressed helped my mood. It helped me to escape from boring situations (because... people, am I right?). It helped me take fantasy trips via multiple avenues of imagination. It helped me to dream of what I could be. Without changing who the inner me was, I could have fun. The substance of me mattered, even if the outer me was looked down upon by those who only observed me in a superficial context. That’s when I realized that without substance, style is nothing. You could be the best-dressed person on top of every best-dressed list but if you weren’t your best inside, it would not matter.
In 2018, I moved back to my hometown- a humid, tropical city in Eastern India. Save for when I was in an air-conditioned room, I was at unease that entire summer. A sticky, irritating feeling clung to my body. Why? Because I found out that almost every piece of clothing I owned was largely based on polyester or other synthetics. I had never ever thought to check material compositions of the clothes I was buying. If it was pretty that was it. But in this muggy, oppressive weather my body needed natural fabrics to keep me, and my head, cool.
I started checking the labels of clothing that I purchased. In one of the first instances where I really got a shock, I picked up a “woollen” sweater at a store only to find that it was 95% nylon and just 5% wool! As climate change debates kept gaining ground I learned that synthetic based clothing is a major cause of greenhouse gases. Energy-intensive and dependent on coal burning, just the removal of coal from the mix could reduce carbon-emissions by around 70%! And did you know that more than 60% of the world’s textiles are made up of synthetics?! That there is ecological degradation at the cost of making clothes or individuals exploited in the process or communities suffered because of unethical resource extraction by manufacturing companies in their areas? So if that was the case, then it meant that what I felt was my substance was inherently tied to what I wear; that it very much mattered that the clothes I was putting on to my body had to have substance too.
I had always wanted to be my own boss and these personal journeys sparked the idea to start something- to make clothing in sustainable processes and systems. One thing led to another, and there I was, figuring out how the garment industry works. And because I knew nothing about it at all, I started learning right from the basics. The entire value chain: How long does it take to make a garment? How is fabric made? What composes a piece of fabric? How can one change the composition of fabrics to achieve different results? How is the yarn spun? Where are the fibres sourced from? What does organic mean? Is it important? How do I price a product? How much are garment workers paid? In what sort of environment do these workers have to operate? Some of the answers were enlightening, some were shocking and some I am still yet to fully understand.
It’s been a roller coaster ride since and there have been moments of disassociation but I work with great people- people who want to make a difference, people who taught me the ways of this industry, people who support me and keep my mental health in check.
Some friends were surprised that I started a business. They told me that they didn’t think I had it in me. Yet here is Arras, living and breathing. Sometimes stumbling, but always picking itself up. Just like all of us.
In short, it's always better to avoid these 3 things in life: refined sugar, fake friends and polyester clothing. You never know where it may take you. :)
Below: A peek from our soon-to-be-released women's wear this week. Stay tuned!