As consumers become more conscious of the impact of their purchases on the environment, sustainable fashion is gaining momentum.
Riding the green wave is Upcycleluxe, a fashion-tech platform, launched on October 13, 2020, that believes that ‘Green is the new Luxury’. It not only draws attention to homegrown, environment-friendly fashion brands but also lists each product’s sustainability quotient, by assessing its social, environmental and economic practices on its website.
Luxebook speaks to Founder and CEO of Upcycleluxe, Harshita Chandra, 30, from Uttar Pradesh. She is an engineer and a fashion technologist turned social entrepreneur.
How did you think of Upcycleluxe?
While pursuing a Master’s degree in fashion technology from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), Delhi, I interned at two of the country’s most renowned export houses. I was shocked by what I saw. A toxic work culture, long working hours, no fair-trade practices were followed, unethical consumption, huge heaps of cancelled shipment and an alarming amount of waste.
I remember inquiring about the huge heap of mock-ups/samples lying in the corner of the fabric warehouse. The supply chain supervisor told me, “Madam if you want to take out samples of tops, t-shirts, skirts, etc for yourself take it out. It’s free. This is all dump and has been lying here for ages. These are the leftover size sets/samples/mock-ups that are cancelled by the vendor.”
I was, both, shocked and curious about material waste throughout my internship.
In 2017, I founded a home-grown label that upcycled factory waste into bags and accessories. This was a pilot run that I did to understand the customer buying behaviour of sustainable fashion. Back then, sustainability wasn’t a term used for selling a product. The supply chains were undefined. Only a handful of them worked ethically.
I realised that if I wanted to change things for good, I must create a community of like-minded people. And so, I decided to bring together all sustainable brands to a single platform. And along with co-founders Kartikey Chandra and Shubham Jain, Upcycleluxe, an integrated, science-based solutions platform took shape. The site calculates the environmental impact of each product in terms of carbon emission, water and energy saving. My vision became even stronger when Upcycleluxe was selected for UN Women’s industry disruptor, WeEmpowerAsia Program which commenced on July 15th, 2020.
How do you approach sustainability?
Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world. 10 per cent of the annual global emissions are contributed by fashion waste. It is also the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. It is high time that we start buying responsibly.
According to us, a sustainable fashion brand is the one that ethically sources its materials and follows the triple bottom line i.e. People, Planet and Prosperity principle in manufacturing and designing clothes. The biodegradability quotient is what makes sustainable clothing a better choice even when disposing of them.
Why did you choose an online platform for your business?
Upcycleluxe was born during the Covid-19 pandemic. We as a brand want to spread awareness about global sustainability, and what better way than to go digital.
How do you assess the sustainability quotient of a brand?
We have a strict vetting process. We check a brand’s authenticity to avoid greenwashing—a tactic often used by certain brands to falsely advertise their products as sustainable using misleading information. We also check the certifications they follow. For instance, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) ensures that all textiles are made from at least 70 per cent certified organic natural fibres. B Corporation checks the social and environmental performance of a brand.
Our mission is to build a conscious community and provide knowledge, transparency, and a guilt-free shopping experience.
What were the challenges in setting up and launching Upcycleluxe?
It was a challenge to set up a market that showcases the environmental impact of its products. We introduced an impact index on our platform, which ranks brands’ sustainability quotient. We made brands re-think and re-evaluate their practices by making them focus on their supply chain instead of just focusing on their use of raw materials. And that’s never easy.
Why do you think your platform will appeal to Indian consumers?
Sustainable buying has picked up over time. The market too will slowly proliferate because sustainability is not only important but also necessary.
What are your plans for the future?
We wish to become an effective alternative to fast fashion and lifestyle products. We also wish to become the pioneers in sustainability.
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