The pandemic has made designers Shivan Bhatiya and Narresh Kukreja introspective. The brains behind Shivan & Narresh, India’s premier luxury swimwear brand, thought it was time to create something that would help minimize the pollution their products could cause. The idea also made good business sense, given the conversation between their target audience, millennials and post-millennials, about the need for more environmentally conscious brands.
So they found a design solution, creating a line of swimwear with fabrics made from 90% recycled ocean waste polyester. âWe used hand knitting looms. These are machines that have several needles, which tie knots to form a knitting from a thread. It is a mechanical movement, similar to that of a hand loom, âexplains Kukreja. The touch is sharper and gives the jerseys a better fit, he says.
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It costs 20-30% more to make swimwear this way than using the usual virgin polyester and nylon, but they’ve absorbed the costs for now. The higher cost has “not been reflected in the prices for our consumers”, explains the designer. Their prices start from â¹10,000.
The Indian swimwear market is small compared to $ 18,000 million and above (approx. â¹1.3 trillion) international market, but it is growing. Oddly enough, the pandemic has turned out to be a godsend, with people traveling to the Maldives and Goa between closures, visiting farms, and going on vacations and weekend getaways. Recent surveys show that travel is always on the to-do list, and designers are reporting a steady stream of swimwear orders, with increasing demand for what are perceived to be environmentally friendly products.
The slow and steady rise of local fashion brands is helping the segment. Industry estimates put the Indian market at â¹150-200 crore, growing every year at 15-20%. No wonder swimwear brands in recent years have been looking for ways to stay relevant, whether in terms of design, silhouettes or fabrics.
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Designer Esha Lal, founder of EL Swimwear, has been trying to use environmentally friendly fabrics since she launched the brand in 2018. She sources the fabrics – produced using electricity derived from the methane gas and recycled water – from Carvico, Italy, for virtually no manufacturer in India produces special environmentally friendly fabrics, given limited demand and high investment costs.
She recently introduced seed paper labels for swimwear. âSeed paper, in addition to being biodegradable, is 100% wood-free and made from cotton waste, which makes it extremely environmentally friendly,â she adds.
Anjali Patel Mehta has also been trying to follow environmentally friendly practices with her label Verandah since 2015. Mehta recalls that ten years ago, the Indian fashion industry considered green practices “far from being cool “. Focusing on a product’s imprint has been mistaken for creating something handcrafted, like a Khadi garment – an attitude that changed after a consistent campaign and research into the dirt of the fashion industry. . âAdopting an eco-responsible approach was not considered a wise business decision. Sustainability was not on anyone’s radar.
Mehta uses Econyl, a reclaimed nylon made in Italy from synthetic waste such as fishing nets, post-consumer plastic waste and textile waste. Regenerated refers to a process that returns the material to its original state.
Aakriti Grover also became interested in this fabric shortly after launching her brand, Flirtious, in 2013. âWe made the switch very early (to regenerated nylon),â says Grover. “The pieces are softer and have great elasticity.” This nylon can add at least â¹1000 at the cost of each part. Lal thinks it’s a small price to pay if it helps the planet. Prices at EL Swimwear start at around â¹1200. “If you choose materials carefully, with consideration, you can reduce costs while making the product more affordable,” says Lal.
When Shivan & Narresh launched their Wilding 20s collection in October to mark 10 years in the industry, most of their vacation wear was sold on the catwalk. Kukreja attributes it to revenge on shopping: âIt made us realize how much of a hold travel has on the minds of consumers, even in today’s times. “
Happy with her performance over the past year, Verandah heads to Miami Swim Week in July, expecting global demand to pick up in 2022. âWe are launching overseas in Miami as the US markets straightened up. Now is the right time to be a swimwear brand.
Manish Mishra is a Delhi-based journalist.