Designs made with recycled sari fabrics. Models are from Dynasty models

Questions our designer was asked by the Peabody Essex Museum for the class that will be running in Jan/Feb 2014.

1. What got you into working with recycled clothing? 

My travels to India took me into the closets of my mother, mother in law and various aunts. They had hundreds of saris ( 5 yards of fabric that Indian women wear wrapped around them as a garment). The fabrics were exquisite. All cottons, silks and some with borders hand woven by craftsmen in real gold or silver. Hand dyed. Hand printed and often hand woven. Each was unique. Many were at least 40- 50 years old. They all wanted me to take the saris away and do something with them. They were not wearing them anymore or they were too old and needed to be cut out to save them. I started designing cocktail and summer dresses for my clients who wanted one of a kind pieces. Soon I was designing bridesmaids and wedding dresses for women in the Boston area. The fusion of eastern fabrics and western silhouettes appealed to a lot of my clients. Some started coming to me with saris that their parents had given them. That's how the idea has grown.

2. How do designs turn out more original and interesting, would you say, because of the use of recycled clothing?

Recycling or Up-cycling clothing and fabrics are great way to make something old, new again. It has been done for centuries, in most cultures. But the idea is now enjoying the attention of designers and consumers as it is also something that makes an article of clothing unique. You will never find it in a mall. It is also environmentally friendly. Instead of throwing out old clothes and fabrics and buying new things, we are re-imagining a beautiful piece of fabric, a trim or an accessory in another form. For example, an old trim from a dress can be made into a new pillow cover to accent a sofa. There has been a renewed interest in items that are hand made, or locally made or designed, in recent years.

3. Where is the best place for people to find good clothing to work with?

Thift shops, hand me downs from friends or family and your own closet (items that you have loved but are old fashioned or don't fit right any more). Fabric shops that are giving away small pieces of fabrics and trims for a very nominal price as they don't have stock in them. 

4. What can participants expect to learn in these classes with you? 

My strength lies in fashion design, illustration and creating something new from something old! We will start with some items that the participant will bring to class, either an old dress or fabric. We will think about how to recreate something else- either a garment or an accessory with it. We will sketch out the idea. We will then take a pair of scissors and some pins and create something new. The participant does not need to know how to use a sewing machine. They can hand sew items and then sew them later at home on a machine. 

5. What has it been like to work with MIT students who turn trash into wearable fashion?

I have been invited by the MIT students to be a judge for a show called "Trashion" that they host every year. I enjoy being part of the student community as it keeps me in touch with the amazing creativity that these students bring to the table. There were cocktail dresses made from soda cans, wedding dresses from shower curtains and some other beautiful creations! I have also seen presentations by some students at MIT that are working with wearable technology. Fashion is an ever-changing and trend-setting field. Learning to create a sustainable business has been a very exciting journey for me.

6. Do you think this DIY approach is becoming more popular? It's popularity tends to cycle over the decades. Why do you think that is?
People want things that are unique and hand made today. We are steeped in technology and mass produced product in everyday work and home life.  I think we crave different things, that set us apart in terms of our clothing and decor. Luxurious fabrics and trims have made a come back. Things made in small lots e.g. pottery or couture clothing. Making something unique has always satisfied us on many levels. We save the environment from more things we would normally throw out, we use our creative skills and make something new. We make it here in our homes or studios. It's all part of the hand made experience.

Here are 3 photos of my designs made with recycled sari fabrics. Models are from Dynasty models.

Models are from Dynasty models

Sorboni Banerjee from Fox 25 news- she is the news anchor. I designed her entire wedding party. The dress she is wearing is made from a hand woven silk scarf from Bengal, India.

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