After 15 Yrs With Brands in Europe, I Created a Sustainable Fashion Startup with Plant Dyes - The Better India

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In 2002, Sowmya, the a pupil astatine NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), was required to bash an internship arsenic portion of the programme. She knew she wanted to usage this clip to research her emotion for textiles and earthy fabrics. But what she didn’t cognize was that this internship would signifier the remainder of her beingness successful the years to come. 

The Bengaluru miss decided to bash her internship astatine a workplace successful Auroville — the experimental township successful Tamil Nadu that is simply a satellite successful itself, promoting pillars of ecology and spirituality. 

“Stumbling upon the municipality of Auroville was the champion happening that’s ever happened to me. I fell successful emotion with the task and was inspired by the city. There was an contiguous connection,” she recalls successful speech with The Better India

Sowmya’s 20-year-long travel successful the manner manufacture has culminated successful a sustainable manner marque Hibiscus Heroes, launched successful 2020. Today, the marque is changing the norms of manner and going a agelong mode to beryllium that benignant does not request to beryllium detrimental to the planet.

Hibiscus Heroes is simply a sustainable manner marque that uses plant-based dyesHibiscus Heroes is simply a sustainable manner marque that uses plant-based dyes, Picture credits: Sowmya

A fateful emotion matter with Auroville

Following her internship, Sowmya returned to Bengaluru for her last twelvemonth of graduation. But thing felt different. 

“The 4 months I’d spent successful Auroville overwhelmed maine owed to the mode successful which the municipality functioned. We’re speaking of a clip erstwhile sustainable practices were inactive revolutionary. But Auroville had already adopted these successful areas of healthcare, education, architecture and more. I resonated with these practices and it became wide to maine that this was a spot I could telephone ‘home’ someday,” she notes. 

With this thought successful mind, Sowmya returned to Auroville aft graduation and began helping retired successful the schools and farms successful the town, surviving a precise antithetic beingness than that successful the city. As destiny would person it she adjacent met her hubby here. Life seemed excessively bully to beryllium true. 

“But determination was a portion of maine that inactive felt the request to spell retired into the satellite and find my skillset arsenic a designer,” she says, adding that aft 3 years of this life, she moved with her hubby to Amsterdam wherever she spent much than a decennary moving with the globally acclaimed manner brand Tommy Hilfiger. 

Sowmya is the laminitis of Hibiscus Heroes, a sustainable manner brand,Sowmya is the laminitis of Hibiscus Heroes, a sustainable manner brand, Picture credits: Sowmya

But being astatine the highest of her firm vocation and travelling the satellite opened her eyes to however accelerated manner was damaging the planet.  

So successful 2013, erstwhile Sowmya got an accidental to enactment remotely, she returned to South India, wherever she present took a different attack to fashion.

“I began travelling to factories successful South India and Sri Lanka wherever our products were produced. Here, I got a deeper knowing of the accumulation processes and the benignant of h2o contamination manner was causing. Creatively I was inspired but socially I was successful a spot of a debate,” she says. 

In 2016, Sowmya knew she needed to bash things otherwise and quit her firm job. This time, she says she conscionable knew Auroville was wherever she belonged.

Fashion that’s bully for the planet

The products by Hibiscus Heroes are made from a scope of eco affable materialsThe products by Hibiscus Heroes are made from a scope of eco affable materials, Picture credits: Sowmya

Settling down successful Auroville successful 2017, Sowmya says she wasn’t successful a unreserved to make something, but archetypal wanted to immerse herself successful the process of sustainable manner and its intricacies.  

“The final push came 1 time successful the signifier of a travel that I was making done the ghats adjacent Erode successful South India. Passing the Kaveri stream had maine witnesser a shocking show — the standard astatine which the h2o was being abused was intense, and it would instrumentality a portion to recover,” she says. 

“It sent a chill down my spine. I wondered, if radical were wearing apparel since clip immemorial, however did they find a mode to beryllium successful sync with nature?” 

As Sowmya began speechmaking up and speaking to radical successful the sustainable manner space, she understood that earthy dyes and plant-based materials were the cardinal to sustainable fashion. 

“It became wide that if I wanted to make a marque of my ain determination were boxes that needed to beryllium ticked — my products needed to beryllium cleanable successful presumption of the earthy materials they utilized and the accumulation processes needed to beryllium eco-friendly.” 

Through the months that followed, she began to delve deeper into the areas of natural dyes and plant-based colours and with a storehouse of ideas Hibiscus Heroes — a plant-based vegan covering marque was acceptable to beryllium launched successful 2020. 

A assortment of plants are utilized for the colours of Hibiscus Heroes productsA assortment of plants are utilized for the colours, Picture credits: Sowmya

Elaborating connected the brand, Sowmya says, “While our apparel are made with handloom cotton, and this is sustainable, if everybody lone uses fabric it creates an imbalance successful nature. So I started exploring alternatives for silk and leather and soon arrived upon cellulose wood-based fabrics similar lyocell and modals,” she notes. 

But this posed a situation erstwhile it came to working with artisans, says Sowmya, arsenic the artisans successful Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Bengal were sceptical astir utilizing these caller fabrics, since the recipes would request to change. 

“But with each experiment, we got person to our extremity and got our colour palettes right,” she says. 

Through her association with artisans, Sowmya recounts however she uncovered truthful galore learnings. 

“They usage what is locally disposable astir them successful abundance and successful fact, a learning that has been passed down done generations is that they should usage chaotic plants that are rain-fed, alternatively of plants that are meant for food.” 

She adds that portion plant-based dyes are wonderful, they bring on a fewer challenges. 

The vegan eco-friendly sustainable manner marque sees emotion from each implicit IndiaThe vegan eco-friendly sustainable manner marque sees emotion from each implicit India, Picture credits: Sowmya

“When you work with earthy products, determination is ever a astonishment involved. Whatever you spot the archetypal clip astir does not needfully mean it volition beryllium the aforesaid the 2nd clip arsenic the pigment successful the leafage changes depending connected if the monsoon is precocious oregon early.” 

While earlier these things utilized to permission her flabbergasted, she present welcomes them and asks her customers to observe it too.

As portion of Hibiscus Heroes natural dyes, determination are wedelia works (green colour), annatto seeds (yellow colour), karungali works (grey colour), palash flowers (pink colour), clitoria flowers (blue colour) and madder roots (plum colour).  Today, Hibiscus Heroes is managed by a tiny squad of 5 and receives astir 175 orders each month.

So, arsenic Sowmya looks backmost connected the colourful travel she has had done the assorted phases of manner that the satellite has seen, she says she feels they are doing thing right.

Edited by Asha Prakash

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