Ethicus, a sustainable fashion brand, presented its high-quality, eco-friendly saree collection Crossroads at Indi Collage Gallery, Hauz Khas on April 05-06.
Vijaylakshmi Nachiar is the founder of the sustainable fashion brand Ethicus from the beautiful coastal region of Annamalais in Pollachi, Coimbatore down South. A pioneer of conscious fashion dedicated to reduce carbon footprint, every summer she brings her collection to the capital under the label Ethicus.
Ethicus Spring/Summer collection this year is inspired by the colours of the ‘Birds of the Anamalais & Coimbatore’ and the lines, angles & blocks of the iconic ‘Madras Checks‘ the timeless fashion fabric from South India, hence the name Crossroads. Along with the latest collection of fresh colourful sarees with unique weaves and textures, other products like stoles, scarves and dupattas were on display and sale. The beautiful hand-woven organic cotton sarees are priced upwards of Rs 6,000.
Ethicus also presented its beautiful traditional line of Ajrakh, Bandhani and Chikankari sarees. Some of their earlier themes too were on display. Mumbai Meri Jaan drawing its inspiration from chawls and the other icons of maximum city, Love as exemplified in Yash Chopra movies, Chettinad inspired Athangudi, The Ballad of Blossoms inter-playing the prose of Tamil script with Victorian flowers and gardens had masterpieces with their own stories transposed on the Pollachi cotton sarees.
Ethicus is a portmanteau of ‘Ethics and Us’. The ethical, sustainable fashion brand is aimed at reviving the rich local hand-weaving traditions of the area through product development and design intervention. A conversation with Vijaylaxmi gave us a peek into the farm to fashion story of the brand.
Ethicus was started by the husband-wife duo Mani Chinnaswamy and Vijayalakshmi Nachiar in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu. Both inherited a rich cotton growing and trading culture. Vijayalakshmi comes from family of cotton traders with roots in Kutch, Gujarat. She has an academic degree in textiles. Mani belongs to third generation of cotton ginning family owning the Appachi Cotton Mill in Pollachi. He chose to produce eco-logic cotton with native seeds and not the genetically-modified crop. Mani told us,
“The totally organic cotton, grown without any chemical fertilisers, is used in all Ethicus products.”
The textiles that Ethicus produces are hand-woven by traditional rural artisans. Each Ethicus saree, stoles, scarves and dupattas carry an artiste tag with information on where and how the cotton was grown along with the photo and name of the weaver and the time taken to weave the item.
Vijaylakshmi explains the farm to fashion concept,
“It’s all about forming a sustainable value chain and bringing in traceability to it. It’s also about ‘inclusive growth’ and giving an identity to the people involved in its manufacture. The main objective has been to grow the finest of organic cotton and produce textiles using the tradition of handloom weaving to make our heritage fashionable.”
The company works with 800 farmers, 50 weavers and a team of designers to create the theme-based sarees using organic certified dyes.
“The dyes we use are not natural but stick to the regulations of the Global Organic Textile Standard,” she tells us.
The designs are an amalgamation of contemporary and traditional. The weavers are equally involved in the design process to help ideate various techniques of weaving, bridging the relationship between the designer and the weavers. There were beautiful gond paintings transposed on the pallu of an Ethicus organic cotton saree. Every design follows a theme and tells a story.
While Vijaylakshmi was busy with a customer Mani on the sidelines showed us the lookbook of Mumbai and Athangudi collections. There was a rainbow saree reflecting the many hues of Bollywood, a black and yellow striped saree signifying the kali-peeli taxi, the blue tarpaulin roof covers in Dharavi translated into a hand woven sari of black and dark grey shades with striking blue border and pallu.
Vijayalakshmi joined in the conversation and said,
“When you wear the sari, you carry a slice of that region”. She showed us the Ajrakh work done on an indigo saree by Abdul Jabbar Khatri, a Kutchi artisan who painstakingly worked on the design while other artisans had refused to work on the complex design.
Ethicus roped in local artisans of Gujarat for Bandhini and Ajrakh. Vijaylakshmi told us the smaller the knots in Bandhini aka Tie n Dye the higher the price of the saree. Each saree is a masterpiece with intricate designs and symmetry painstakingly met with precision. The high quality of organic cotton with handcrafted designs both modern and traditional sets Ethicus sarees apart from other labels.
“It is our endeavour to work with artisans from across our country and bring the best of Indian craftsmanship to our clients,” says Vijayalakshmi.
Undoubtedly, saree is the most elegant Indian attire. The organic cotton sarees are a sheer delight to touch and feel. Ultra light and breezy, Ethicus organic cotton sarees are great for everyday wear. Product innovations at Ethicus have yielded fashionable cotton sarees that are low on maintenance with no starching & ironing needed. The beautiful cotton sarees with Ajrakh and Bandhini work were a result of cross-cultural collaboration with local artisans of Kutch region working on Pollachi cotton.
Vijaylakshmi and her husband Mani Chinnaswamy has brought the dying craft of hand weaving in villages of South India to the forefront to the discerning customer in cities.