By Jagmeeta Thind Joy
Launching one’s own label for a fresh out of college fashion designer is never easy. And back in 2013, Seerat Virdi knew this only too well. Having graduated from Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi, the Ludhiana-based designer decided to get some experience before branching out on her own. “I worked as a luxury buyer with Exclusively.com to get an idea how the business of fashion runs,” says Virdi. It was in late 2016 that she returned home and set up her label – Meisu Design House. “Back then, I was designing a lot of Indo-Western and traditional Indian clothes catering to the local market and some buyers in Mumbai and Delhi,” shares Virdi. Cut to 2018 and it’s a whole new story, one that starts from scrap.
“There was a lot of buzz about sustainability across the globe and I was curious to find out more. I saw a few documentaries and was appalled to see this cruel side of the fashion industry,” says Virdi who decided to take a U-turn and start all over again. “In contrast to today’s fast-paced fashion industry, I decided to create clothes that are made using not just recycled textile but are biodegradable too. I wanted to create awareness among consumers about sustainability and share information on synthetic textiles that take hundreds of years to decompose. Fashion is one of the largest sources of environmental pollution,” says the 27-year-old designer.
But accessing waste material from factories in Ludhiana – the hub of the textile and hosiery industry in Punjab – was not easy. Catering to the market was even tougher. “Everyone assumed recycled clothing to be dowdy. I wanted to change that and yet make my label as ethical as possible,” says the designer. And her hard work paid off. Her first sustainable fashion collection helped her bag a spot in a three-month long fashion incubation program by IMG Reliance and Lakme Fashion Week. “Since I was working to make my designs sustainable, a friend suggested I try for the annual Redress Design Award as well,” informs Virdi who became the first Indian finalist at the prestigious awards held in Hong Kong in September this year.
Formerly known as the EcoChic Design Award, Redress Design Award is the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition. The competition aims to educate emerging fashion designers around the world about sustainable design theories and techniques in order to drive growth towards a circular fashion system. “The awards were perfectly timed as I was learning all I could about sustainability and ethical fashion. I met a lot of influencers from across the world working in this field in Hong Kong and came back with a renewed passion about sustainability,” says Virdi.
Her collection showcased at Redress was multifaceted, and even included removable parts that could be interchanged, like sleeves. “Applying the design techniques of zero-waste and up-cycling, I used silk organza and repurposed trims and threads to make contemporary outfits,” says Virdi who is now working on a new collection that is a modern take on Phulkari.
“I have collaborated with Virsa Heritage, an organisation that supports Phulkari making in Punjab,” informs Virdi who is working on zero-waste pattern cutting and is looking to make her own textile too that would be biodegradable. “Unfortunately, the term sustainable is used loosely in Indian fashion. It is indeed tough to make large collections that are fully biodegradable but I don’t want to be a huge brand. I want to make 30 to 40 eco-friendly clothes in a year where the wearer understands that they are not adding to yet another landfill or polluting the earth,” sums up the designer.