Prithvi Rao, founder, Exchange Room talks about the importance of sustainable fashion…
I was still working as Creative Head in a fashion retail corporate when we hosted our first swap by Exchange Room for some friends. What was a fun experiment and party soon became the need of the hour. Come 2020, everyone is talking about sustainable fashion.
Exchange Room is the first Curated Wardrobe Swap community in Bangalore started by my friends and I back in July 2014 to solve the regular problems which we face such as “a wardrobe full of stuff yet nothing to wear”, “I don’t fit into this anymore” or “wanting what that friend wore and not liking stuff in my own wardrobe anymore” etc. Being from the fashion retail industry, I also felt the need to give back in some way and do something about this burning question of “do we really need SO MUCH?” that I kept having. Soon we realised this concept was a huge success with girls like us.
Exchange Room is an eco-friendly initiative that believes in bridging the gap between fast fashion and slow fashion by introducing fellow women to swapping and shopping great quality pre-loved items.
So far we have taken part in or hosted close to 20+ events. Lately, we host a swap event almost every 1.5 to 2 months in Bangalore and in between that take part in pop-up sales across town. The impact of this is huge in the number of swapped goods as well as reducing the number of new garments purchased.
The two active co-founders are myself (Prithvi Rao) and SaiSangeet Paliwal. I am a design & trend consultant with 12+ years in the fashion retail industry and SaiSangeet Paliwal, my partner is the founder of the quirky lifestyle brand Soda. Our third partner remains a silent partner.
All was swell in the world and for us when suddenly BAM! The Covid pandemic started and by March it became very real for us. Everything was shut and social distancing was the new norm. This was not good news for almost everyone including us. We host events where people get together and have a great time shopping/swapping. This was not likely to happen any time soon for everyone’s safety. Everything was getting digitalised (we have plans for that as well).
That is when we realised that the goal of Exchange Room has always been to spread the joy of mindful consumption and the fun of reloving our wardrobes. Even before the current state of things, climate change, unfair wages, production wastage, overconsumption were still REAL issues in the fashion industry that has bothered us. What the pandemic has done though, is making everyone realise that “other’s problem is infact “our” problem too.
MY SUSTAINABLE CHOICE CAMPAIGN
In May 2020,we started a campaign in our online community called #mysustainablechoice Challenge… It called out to everyone in our community to come out and talk about how she has embraced sustainability in her wardrobe and her story. The 9 R’s of sustainability are Rethink, Reduce, Recycle, Refashion, Relove, Rewear, Repurpose, Restyle & Restore. The challenge was to choose a piece from their wardrobe that speaks of one of the R’s of sustainable fashion choices you have made… to style it, shoot it and post it. We shared all their stories about their love affair with fashion and sustainability. We also featured 10 women on our page who have truly embraced one or more of these choices and lauded them.
Here’s more on what these choices are and how one can make them.
The first step is to take a pause and be mindful of our daily choices.
Where do we buy our clothes from- is it made local, is it from a fast fashion brand?
Where does it come from? Who made my clothes or jewellery or bags?
Is the material of my dress environment friendly?
With these thoughts, we can dig deeper, ask questions and rethink our choices.
Can we RETHINK just 1 fashion choice today and how we can make it better?
For Rethink, we featured one of our regular swappers Aswana @the.quixotic.quaintrelle
She’s a proud repeater of decade old clothes, she’s an upcycler of sarees, she is one of the earliest sustainable fashion champions on the grid and a writer/story-teller extraordinaire!
Someone famously said that the most sustainable garment is the one that’s already hanging in your closet. Reducing our desire for those things that won’t really LAST and is a passing fad, is the next step. During the lockdown, many of us may have done a wardrobe audit- what to keep, what to swap, what to donate etc. If you haven’t yet, read further!
Here are a few simple tips on how we can relook and reduce fashion consumption –
- Visualise your wardrobe where every item speaks of your style. Where every item has been and will be worn. Where the clothes make you feel GOOD about yourself. THOSE are keepers!
- Start your own wardrobe audit and create your own piles of “Keep, Donate/give away, Swap/sell and off-season (winter wear for example).
- You could think Minimal or not. You could use any method you like after researching about it- maybe the Konmariway, the @project333 or try the 10×10 styling challenge. These are all ideas to come up with the wardrobe that you can LOVE.
- Visually reducing your items declutters the wardrobe, gives it breathing space.
- Psst! Reduce does not mean make a list of minimal things you don’t own and shop for it once you can.
Championing this thought, we featured one of our swappers Nayana Premnath @nayana_premnath. She’s an Eco-youtuber, zero-waste champion, a vegan and a Sustainability educator with very educational content on her page.
A Fashion forward wardrobe can be built largely from recycled clothing. Now what is “recycling” in terms of Fast fashion? We highlighted that “Primary” recycling means that the recyclable material/product is recovered and reused “without being changed in any way and usually for the very same purpose”
After your garment has lived a productive life for YOU, it inevitably comes time to say goodbye. Instead of sending it to landfill, why not give it a second life? You can Recycle it by giving it away, swap it, sell it— the possibilities are endless. You are simply extending the LIFECYCLE of your garment!
While living in a yoga ashram once, I came across a table in our dorm where one could leave any item and pick any item based on your need. Imbibing that thought, when I buy an item of clothing, I give away one item that I don’t need anymore. Giving away clothes keeps clothes in circulation by extending its life cycle — plus, it stops another person from the need to buy anything new.
For this choice, we featured Khushi Sharma @khushi.sharma10 who is a coder and a fashion blogger. She regularly attends our swap events and is often recycling her wardrobe with us.
We featured her in a pair of pants that she picked from blogger Diksha Sharma and restyled.
Refashion simply means to alter or to change something pre-existing to reuse it! We featured Tania George @tania_alien_george the designer and founder of the fun brand @boucle.in who had refashioned a bag of hers into something worth coveting.
Here are some tips on refashioning by Tania George:
1• Adapt the concept of wabisabi in anything you do. Literally any junk or unused item can be made to something new! You make something absolutely fabulous from something absolutely horrid. So don’t just look for only the pretty stuff. Explore!
2• Block print, bleach, paint or tie-dye to go creative with clothes.
3• You’ll be amazed how deconstruction and reconstruction can uplift the style of a garment.
4• Every little scrap you cut from the garment has potential to be reused elsewhere in other projects. Practice zero wastage!
“Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are.”- Joan Crawford
#RELOVE simply means LOVING something again and again.
Here’s a tip that works really well for us- The “stow-away wardrobe”- It’s to keep away the pieces in your wardrobe that you are done with for the moment but not ready to let go of just yet. This helps to maximise the space in your current wardrobe. The stow away could be a box/ wardrobe space in another room all-together. No, please don’t hoard! This is just a trick to help you “shop your own closet”! Once in a few months, visit it and you realise you still LOVE that dress and want to wear it again. After a year maybe, if you are not loving something, it’s time to part ways.
For Relove, we featured one of our swappers – Nikita @nikkijaywant She’s a sustainable fashionista and super Mom to two cutie-pies. She has made reliving her lifestyle choice.
“I probably won’t wear this dress again, because it’s already on my Instagram,” – you would have surely read this somewhere! It was originally a part of the #stopshop campaign @project_stopshop created by Elizabeth Illing, a fashion promotion graduate from UCA London, for her final project. She posted it as quotes which she gathered were consumers’ thoughts on fast fashion and buying behavior.
If you did love something enough to buy it, then why wear it just once?!
For Rewear, we featuredDiksha Sharma @diksha04 , super blogger & nomad who has supported us from the start. In her work, you’ll see she loved rewearing and takes restyling as a challenge.
To repurpose is to put something to use in another way. Maybe convert a t-shirt into a shopping bag, a torn top into scrunchies!
Here we featured Sonia Tommy @soniatommy who is a fashion designer and erstwhile Bollywood stylist in movies like #Chakde and Dhoom 3. She repurposed her clothes and her son’s clothes into super adorable clothes for her new-born as all stores were closed in the lockdown! Necessity is truly the mother of invention.
Restyling is wearing the same outfit differently… Converting a shirt into a blouse for a sari, wearing a shirt as is, layering it under a dress- they are just an example of how you can restyle just a single garment into creating multiple opportunities for it to be worn.
For this we featured Jessica Singh @nowstyleme, currently living in Vancouver and has been a swapper with us since 2014… She’s a personal stylist, dancer, fashion designer and most interestingly hosted her own swap a few months ago! We love how she restyles a dress and a dhoti sari in such a cool way.
Restoring something means repairing it or bring it back to a good enough condition to be used. Here we featured Karishma Sehgal from @thebaksaproject. She’s an upcycling artist and sustainable fashion blogger from Pune. While studying fashion communication, she learnt about the dirty side of fashion… That changed something in her and that’s how The Baksa Project came about. Apart from restoring and upcycling her own clothes, she also holds mending and upcycling workshops as a part of the project. In her blog, she tries to cover issues that young people (who want to make conscious fashion choices) struggle with due to lack of options and/or information.
Here are some pro tips from Karishma on Restoring:
1• You can try interesting patchwork and applique techniques to creatively conceal the tears on your garments. The Japanese Boro patchwork technique inspired by WabiSabi is extremely fun and easy to begin with. It works especially well on denims.
2• Embroidery is always a wonderful medium to add personal touches to your clothes – stains or not. There are several embroidery tutorials on YouTube to follow if you’re a beginner. It’s as enjoyable as it is meditative.
3• Some simple stitches you can begin with – stem stitch, blanket stitch, back stitch, lazy daisy and chain stitch.
We also had blogger AnupaSahu @anupa_anunomics do an IGTV video of her sustainable fashion choices. On her blog, she is seen rewearing, restyling, and reloving her closet time and again. Through the campaign, we hope we have encouraged many more people to take simple steps towards sustainable fashion consumption. We intend to continue spreading the word though our offline and hopefully our online presence too.
– By Prithvi Rao, founder, Exchange Room.