From over 900 entries, leading to eight finalists, ‘I was a Sari’ emerged as the winner of the first sustainability award in fashion – the Circular Design Challenge, launched in partnership with “Fashion For Earth” by R|Elan, UN Environment and Lakmé Fashion Week – and won a chance to showcase its creations at The Studio during Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2019. The collection re-emphasised ‘I was a Sari’s’ values in circularity and sustainability – showcasing 18 upcycled looks, handcrafted by women artisans using pre-loved saris and other waste materials.
‘I was a Sari’ the brainchild of Stefano Funari and Poornima Pande started in 2013 and reinvented the traditional concept of upcycling old saris and ensuring that a sustainable and ethical path could be taken that would finally turn old saris into stylised garments, accessories, footwear and bags.
The Studio was turned into a fun presentation space. At the entrance, artisans hand-embroidered different garments, moving forward was a display of saris’ bundles which had ‘I AM A SARI’ written on them depicting the raw material for the garments. Models were at the centre striking poses in the beautiful upcycled creations. The highlight was three models dressed as Vaghris, the Indian nomadic community that has been operating the informal old clothes recycling trade for centuries and surrounded by the utensils that they traditionally barter for old. At the exit was a display of embroidered products from the brand like footwear, bags, turbans and accessories.
Languid styles and exquisite prints blended with high-quality textures and surface ornamentation lent fresh appeal and gave new life to pre-loved saris that were now converted into chic designs.
The collection presented by the brand featured relaxed silhouettes, a rainbow of colours and prints as well as a seasonless fashion thrust that could make the garments ideal lounge or resort wear with mix and match options. India’s much-loved saris were transformed into stylish creations that would appeal to a wide spectrum of national and international buyers.
The men’s blue, printed, coordinate set of an anti-fit Cuban-collar shirt and pants, which had pops of teal and mustard was eye-catching. Vibrant colours of pink, purple and yellow stood out on the bell-sleeved V-neck top with a half pleated midi skirt. Turbans, footwear, hats, scarves, bags and jewellery by ‘I was a Sari’ styled on all the models gave a cohesive look to the presentation.
This collection came alive through a unique and special engagement with Gucci employees. Thanks to the Gucci Changemakers initiative, an internal volunteering program that empowers all 18,000 Gucci employees worldwide to dedicate up to four paid days off to volunteering activities in their local communities through NGOs or social enterprises of their choice, covering four main pillars – equality; support for refugees and the homeless; protection of the environment; and education – 24 employees from the Gucci design office contributed ideas, knowledge and insight during a week of immersion with ‘I was a Sari’ women artisans in the company’s Roman studio.
Saris, with their rich profusion of prints and colours, were transformed into men’s ready-to-wear pieces, women’s wear and accessories, aimed at a production process with zero waste, utilised the rich borders and pallus of the Sari and enhanced the designs with surface embellishments.
The ‘I was a Sari’ partnership with Gucci started last year and is a social enterprise that perfectly encapsulates Gucci’s drive towards social empowerment and its sincere promotion of the idea of the circular economy.
Gucci is committed to transferring knowledge to ‘I was Sari’ and helping it to use leftover materials in an up-cycling process to produce one-off handcrafted designs. By harnessing Gucci’s strategic expertise, creativity and reach, ‘I was a Sari’ breaks new ground in the socially-driven fashion sector. At a time when many are increasingly talking about the circular economy and sustainability in fashion, these ideas have become a reality through this unique partnership.