Vegan designer Purvi Doshi tells Sakshi Sharma that coupling her fashion with a cause adds purpose to her work
A gasp went through the audience and travelled across the room. On the ramp, models sashayed down covered from head to waist in plastic which they tore off as they reached the end of their walk. The message: portraying the cruelty behind confining creatures, meant to dwell in the majestic seas, to tanks. Designer Purvi Doshi who extends veganism beyond food, dedicated her spring summer collection, Marine Runaway which was showcased in February this year, to the PETA India campaign, ‘Fish in tanks, no thanks’.
Talking about the collection she says, “It was not easy for models as they were feeling suffocated. I wanted to portray that the fishes felt the same way when you put them into small glass bowls or aquariums,” she says.
Marine collections usually have blue or green as their core theme but Purvi wanted to go beyond the expected. “We wanted to create something different. Our whole collection has been made from off-white kora khadi (hand spun and hand woven), cotton kota and motifs, which showcase aquatic animals like octopus, seahorse and glofish. We decided to keep it colourless to depict the peaceful ocean and shells that lie beneath the water,” says she. Just to give the collection a distinctive fairytale touch, she says, scuba divers and mermaids were printed on the clothes. The flowing dresses with wavy cuts gave the collection an aquatic feel.
However, this is not a one off as the designer makes clothes from “cruelty-free sources,” and does not use animal products or those which harm the planet.
Her designs are an amalgamation of traditional and contemporary techniques. “Air-whipped asymmetrical silhouettes, crisp pleats, Parsi embroideries and artisanal tassels, which signify tales of a sustainable and ethical future, where no fishes are in tanks,” she says.
Since 2014, the designer has only used hand spun and hand woven kota, khadi and kala cotton, which is the purest breed of cotton grown in Kutch. “It is an organic rain-fed harvest which does not pollute the land and clothes made out of them have a beautiful feel. The ensembles are dyed with natural colours. But it is nerve-racking to bring in variations because the fabrics are limited,” she says. To tackle this, apart from using hand woven fabrics, Purvi uses embroidery. “We have been using our art and craft creatively. We have options to print, weave and colour them, which offers an unusual look. There are enough things for me to play with designs,” she adds.
In an age where technology has reshaped the work culture and all the operations have become mechanised, very few countries have retained hand embroideries and Doshi prefers preserving this art. “This in turn also helps in generating employment. The comfort that these clothes give compel the user to use it for a longer duration and aids in promoting sustainable fashion as well,” she says.
In this cut-throat competition, she doesn’t care about profit maximisation. “Our production cycle includes three to six months of preparation for a single piece, which is a lot. The number of designers that would agree to work in this manner are very few as it is not at all practical. But for me, the production time and cost doesn’t matter. I love the whole process of standing up for a cause.”
So the question that arises here is where does she draw inspiration from? She answers, “I am confident about what I am doing. Putting together fashion skills and a cause, adds purpose to my work.” Doshi feels she is fortunate to have a platform from where she can change the perspective of people. “Therefore, I have a greater urge to use it for a good cause,” adds she.
The designer also has a zero waste strategy in place. Giving an insight into it, she says, “The waste generated from our production process is segregated in bigger and smaller pieces. The bigger ones are used to make bags in which the garments are given to the customers. The small pieces are recycled into paper, which is used for making visiting cards, price tags, packaging covers, buttons, lamps, makeup remover wipes (reusable), dusters and also for creating upcycled fabric surfaces.” Not only does she manage her own waste, she also tries to organise it for other textile houses too so that it can be utilised on a larger level. She goes on to add, “We have started setting up units in slum areas, where women are trained to make dolls, puppets, earrings, yoga mats and much more. While it does not demand technical skills, it empowers them by providing financial independence.” Doshi is trying to restore heirloom traditions from the heart of the villages and weaving them into contemporary tales.
She is currently working on her eighth vow wedding collection, which tries to change the perspective of brides by nudging them to choose a muslin khadi lehenga over silk. Her collection sends a distinctive appeal, “We take seven vows with our partners on the wedding day but we should extend it to an eighth one, which will be a promise to our planet and to every other living being, that we will not harm you,” says she. The collection will hit the stores by the end of this year.
When asked about her sustainable plans in the long run, she apprises us of her modern techniques, “We are thinking of a plant-based fabric that grows quickly without the use of pesticides and fertilisers. That fabric will not impact the surroundings. We are also planning to integrate flexible solar cells into clothing to provide power to electronic devices.”
Doshi strongly feels that looking fabulous in an ensemble is not enough. One should feel great about wearing it too.