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Fashion curator Gautam Vazirani on sustainability and his favourite labels

Gautam Vazirani is a man on a mission. As a curator and strategist at IMG Reliance, a collaboration between Reliance Industries and IMG to promote sports, entertainment, and fashion in India, he is spearheading several projects that focus on different aspects of sustainability and craft restoration in the country. In a world driven by fast fashion, Vazirani is striving to create a platform for labels engaged in ethical practices. He is also executing his understanding of international standards of sustainability in the domestic market.

That Vazirani understands the subject is putting it lightly. At Lakme Fashion Week, he is at the helm of ‘Sustainable Fashion Day’ that focuses on shows and panel discussions on ethical fashion. He was also instrumental in curating ‘Indian Pastoralists’, a showcase at London Fashion Week, 2017, which won the Best Country Award.

Lifestyle Asia India spoke with Vazirani about sustainability in the Indian context, the current fashionscape, and his favourite labels.

Gautam Vazirani sustainable fashion India
Vazirani with craftswomen
Where does the dialogue on sustainability stand-in Indian fashion today?

India is one of the few places in the world that has a large population of skilled men and women involved in three key areas that impact fashion: Agriculture of natural fibres, handloom and handicrafts, and apparel/garment manufacturing. Most of the time, we tend to just focus on high-fashion looks/glamour, and that labels this aspect of the industry as ‘fashion industry’. We don’t see the whole picture.   

The industry and consumers are yet to fully awaken to core realities that make fashion one of the most polluting industries on the planet. There aren’t strict regulations or policies to monitor the impact of fashion we create, both as producers and consumers. If every cheap T-shirt sold has a warning label indicating the thousands of litres of water it has consumed apart from chemicals while being produced, we will think twice before buying them indiscriminately.

How easy is to embrace sustainability?

Being sustainable is all about being viable. It means creating fashion that will endure trends and fads. Not being sustainable is being short-sighted. You could make quick gains, but your business doesn’t last. The concept of sustainability looks at viability for people, plant, and profits, be it materials, fibres, fabrics, or processes involved in making textiles or a garment (dyeing/printing techniques, embellishing, and stitching that minimise on creating toxic wastes).   

A shirt dress by Maku Textiles
A shirt dress by Maku Textiles
Anavila Misra's signature sarees
Anavila Misra's signature sarees
Being a fashion curator yourself, what do you see in a label to term it sustainable?

The story of a sustainable label is in its process. The more you believe in sustainability, the more painstaking and evolved your process will be. You will avoid shortcuts and ensure you do not create any loopholes. At times, a designer goes through great pains to find the right ingredients for the sustainable fashion they create. I try to find answers for questions like what kind of fabrics they use, how they print or dye them, how they treat their staff, what they do about waste.

Tell us about a few labels you admire who are taking the agenda of sustainability further?

Rajesh Pratap Singh, Anavila, Eka, Pèro, Naushad Ali, Doodlage, Karishma Shahani Khan, and Maku. They all practice strong values and principles of sustainability. Also joining the league are some younger labels such as I Was A Sari, Kurio and Bombay Hemp Company. I am very proud of the fact that for the first time, the August 2018 Gen-Next batch of Lakmè Fashion Week had all the five chosen designers being conscious of the materials they chose to work with. This is a great sign of change.

A model in an Akaaro by Gaurav Jai Gupta saree
A model in an Akaaro by Gaurav Jai Gupta saree
A piece from Rajesh Pratap Singh at Lakme Fashion Week
A piece from Rajesh Pratap Singh at Lakme Fashion Week
Which international label’s efforts in sustainability do you admire?

Eileen Fisher and Patagonia from the US are great examples of brands who truly believe in sustainability and are not afraid to take bold decisions. At the recent Copenhagen Fashion Summit, I had the opportunity to listen to Stella McCartney in conversation with Tim Blanks of the Business of Fashion. I was very impressed with her views and work towards sustainability, especially on the point of not using leather and fur. And London-based Bethany Williams – I find her extremely innovative in her techniques and ideas, especially in working with waste.

Fashion curator Gautam Vazirani on sustainability and his favourite labels

Anupam Dabral

Sr. Associate Editor

It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

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