Unfair To Compare Ethical Product Price With Others Not Compliant With Principles - Saachi Bahl
Designer, Entrepreneur and advocate of sustainability, Saachi Bahl recently hosted her third Conscious Effort Show at the Imperial Hotel in New Delhi last week.
Saachi Bahl studied at The British School New Delhi and subsequently pursued a degree in History from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is an entrepreneur, designer and an advocate of sustainability in fashion. Her entrepreneurial venture, Saahra, is one of India’s first platforms for sustainable, fair-trade and cruelty free luxury fashion and lifestyle.
The flagship store of Saahra is situated at The Suryaa, New Delhi and she hosts an annual show, Conscious Effort, a design show bringing together leading change-makers from the fashion industry and people from different walks of life to educate, engage and empower people in the space of sustainability and circular fashion. Its recent edition was last week.
Her first book on culture and identity through fashion, published by Juggernaut India is set to release in 2019.
In a conversation with BW Wellbeingworld she spoke about myriad topics, from the concept of her store to luxury, sustainability and cruelty-free fashion. amongst others
What's the feedback been from industry and clients since the inception of Saahra?
Since it’s inception in 2017, the feedback from the industry and clients has been resoundingly positive. Designers that are working closely on minimising their environmental and social impact, have found a partner in us that recognises their design process and offers them, a unique platform that gives them due credit and value for being mindful at every step of the way. Our big win has been offering clients a contemporary curation of high-quality, well-finished and stylish products, breaking the popular ‘sustainable can’t be stylish’ myth. Clients have welcomed Saahra’s guilt-free shopping experience.
How does Saahra promote the idea of sustainability?
Our approach to sustainability is holistic. We collaborate with design houses that have integrated the social responsibility of crafting ethical and sustainably crafted pieces as an intrinsic part of their brand culture. In essence, these are ‘slow-fashion’ labels that opt for handloom and natural organic fabrics, are artisanal, use azo-free or botanical dyes, focusing on craft revivalism, empowerment of artisans, zero-waste, principles of fair-trade, strive for technological innovations in search for better alternatives and practice slow-batch production, to minimise their carbon footprint. Apart from the multi-designer flagship store at The Surya Hotel, in New Delhi, to create awareness, we host an annual design show called #ConsciousEffort, where we encourage conscious premium and luxury labels to exhibit their products. At this event, we bring international leading change-makers of the industry to give talks and host workshops, sharing their views on various aspects of circular fashion. We’re also launching ‘Saahra Sustainnovate’, a platform where innovations in the space of sustainability, can find buyers looking to improve their supply chains, pitch to industry-specific potential investors or crowdfund for their idea.
What are the unethical norms in the luxury space that you’re striving to wipe out & what’re the ethical alternatives that your platform promotes?
In the luxury space, we’re striving to offer alternatives to animal-based products, encourage waste-management by recycling or upcycling and increase the transparency of supply chains by striving to work with certified brands. For example, we work with 11.11/Eleven Eleven, where, each product has a unique code that can trace each hand that’s worked on the garment. We’re bringing an accessories brand, ‘Made-from-Malai’ to Delhi, which has created an innovative biomaterial that mimics leather and is made from coconut waste. Our in-house label, ‘Saahra Sustain’ uses GOTS certified ‘ahimsa’ or ‘peace’ silk and decomposable corozo nut buttons sourced from Ecuador. We do not stock any animal-based material like leather or fur, and even our beauty and wellness section consists of brands that are PETA certified, organic and against animal testing or cruelty.
How’re you ensuring the quality of luxury brands that are being acknowledged on your platform?
As far as possible, we try and work with only certified brands. However, in our attempt to incubate young talent who aren’t certified, we curate based on a detailed understanding of the design processes, the vision behind and nuances that define their brand philosophy, supply chains and product from scratch to finish.
Why is there such a premium on ethical products? Shouldn’t they be more accessible to make a true impact?
Ethical manufacturing means raw materials have been fairly sourced, employees have been provided clean and safe working conditions along with fair wages. It must be taken into account that a manufacturer has walked an extra mile to ensure it’s product is as durable as it’s cheaper counterpart. Hence, I think this ‘premium’ is a matter of relativity and it’s unfair to compare the price of an ethical product with another that’s not working on the same principles. In terms of accessibility, I think with more awareness trickling down, there are wider options. Luxury isn’t a bad thing nor is charging a premium wrong. In order to keep the balance, the onus is equally on consumers. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “There is enough in this world for everybody’s needs but not for everybody’s greed.”
How do you see fashion as a tool to build extrinsic identity and how does it help in promoting your cause?
I’ve addressed fashion and identity in detail in my upcoming book, being published by Juggernaut India this year. Fashion is a visual expression. A garment is much deeper than just a piece of cloth – attires have a narrative, emblematic of a history and cultures, serving as an external representation of who you are, where you come from and your beliefs. I think with more people opting for sustainable, eco-friendly and humane alternatives that are durable and cater to various taste or style preferences, we can widen the circle of conscious consumers, which can meaningfully contribute to the cause.
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