Life in plastic is fantastic when recycled by Abraham & Thakore
Text by Avani Thakkar
Even if you aren’t familiar with the A-Z of designers, some names would probably pop up instinctively if you were asked about the makeover of the Indian fashion scene. David Abraham and Rakesh Thakore of Abraham & Thakore are perfect examples. The two graduates of the National Institute of Design (NID) teamed up in 1992 to create an eponymous label that continues to dominate the conversation around local textiles and crafts; their multidisciplinary approach to designing clothing for the urban Indian consumer has played a key role in shaping a modern aesthetic, forward-looking but deeply linked to our history. And the duo’s sustainable showcase that was unveiled on Day 3 – aka Sustainable Fashion Day (read our two cents on the subject here) – of the FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week has further reinforced this influence.
Showcasing a variety of looks incorporating the eco-friendly “GreenGold” fabric from R | Elan (a textile manufacturer owned by Reliance Industries) made from recycled PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate, a type of plastic), the designers got it right. mission but made it their own. Fittingly, their chosen star was actor and conservationist Dia Mirza, who was stunned in an eye-catching kaftan with abstract patterns.
While respecting the unanimous dress code of the pandemic, comfort reigns supreme, Abraham & Thakore’s dynamic collection responded to a range of conflicting sartorial “moods”. Want relaxed cuts without the loose silhouette? A range of casually elegant shift dresses, tunics, kimono-style outerwear and loose pants are at your service. Looking to dress trendy but still feel like you’re lounging in sweatpants? Take your pick from their candescent pantsuits that are expertly designed to flow over the body rather than snagging in the wrong places. Or channel classic but edgy glamor in one of their shimmering black and white sarees crafted with hand-cut sequins from old x-ray films.
“We looked at traditional upcycling and recycling textile solutions such as quilting, appliqué and kantha to provide us with a design language for this collection. We love styles made from leftover fabric and hand-sewn scraps, ”the couple said.
Hues of burgundy, olive green, rust orange, brown and dark purple saturated the fabrics, while pops of red and shiny sequins stood out against this background of fall colors. Stacked glass bracelets glistened on the mannequins’ wrists, and chunky platform sandals were paired with brightly colored socks – the perfectly fun finishes. While simple slicked back hair and kohl-smeared eye makeup allowed clothes and accessories to speak.
FDCI X Lakmé Fashion Week might only dedicate one day to celebrating sustainability in fashion, but Abraham & Thakore is one of the few brands that treat it like a business all year round. “Sustainability involves adopting practices that can help reduce human negative impact on the environment. It means using resources in a conscious way, ”say the founders, who also previously worked with Austrian group Lenzing to showcase the sustainable Lenzing Ecovero fabric in their Lakmé Fashion Week Winter / Festive 2019 showcase.
While the designers are optimistic about the recognizable progress of the Indian fashion industry over the past decades, they believe that much remains to be done to achieve a fully sustainable model, which requires the participation of industry members as well as consumers. “Many Indian fashion designers use low-impact handicrafts, which benefit the small-scale sector, but we believe that big mainstream brands can do more in this space,” they explain.
And so, as events showcasing eco-friendly style come and go, Abraham & Thakore’s principles of slow living and minimalism as well as their focus on preserving hand-woven fabrics remain steadfast, and we look forward to the next leg of their journey.
In a quick interview with Verve, following their show, the duo reiterates its commitment to the future of clean fashion….
What other sustainable fabrics and practices have you used over the decades? when did this awareness arise and why?
From the launch of our brand, we have believed in traditional craftsmanship, artisanal production and natural fibers. Our philosophy makes us aware of the relationships and interdependencies between all aspects of the fashion ecosystem. While we strongly advocate new ways of seeing and doing, we have always believed that we also have a lot to learn from traditional wisdom. From the beautiful kantha fabrics of West Bengal to the intricate quilts of Gujarat that provided us with study materials, the creative recycling of Indian fabrics to create new products has shaped our outlook towards design.
How do you practice sustainable development in your everyday life?
It is just not cool to disrespect and waste our resources. In our everyday life, we try to practice a frugal approach to consumption, whether it is related to our energy resources or to consumer products. Mindless consumption and irresponsible production must be controlled. We are small players, but we believe that each individual attempt to solve this problem is very important and can potentially affect change.
You mentioned that big consumer brands can do more in the sustainability space. Can you expand?
We believe they [mass brands] cannot continue to cut prices to stimulate consumption, as this affects the supply chain and exploits workers. Most of the clothing production is located in less developed economies to meet the needs of the developed world. It is not the problem of one country; it involves the entire fashion ecosystem. To continue to grow, the industry relentlessly promotes higher and higher levels of consumption. It is time for us to take a step back and reassess.
What do you think of the post-pandemic dressing, especially vis-à-vis Indian consumers?
During the pandemic, we all took a more relaxed attitude to clothing, with an emphasis on comfort. We also realized we needed less. At the same time, we are excited to be heading for normality and social interaction and getting dressed again. So, fashion is still important, but we hope that consumers are now more attentive to their purchases.
We would like to know more about techniques used in collections such as hand cut glitter using old x-ray films.
We were interested in bringing glamor and sparkle to the collection. It seemed appropriate to us after this very dark period that we went through. For example, we sourced PET sheet and material waste from kabadi dealers as well as old discarded x-rays from hospital waste dealers and cut them into flakes by hand. Another technique we used for some designs was to reuse any fabric scraps left over after cutting a garment and then use the scraps to apply them to other garments, allowing them to create another design.
What was it like working with the sustainable “Greengold” fabric?
R | Elan fabrics drape well and feel great; they are versatile and easily lend themselves to our designs. Fabrics made from the recycling of PET and all other materials are set to become a much more important part of the fashion ecosystem in the future.