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June 17, 2024

India’s textile legacy has a big role to play in sustainable fashion, Injiri’s Chinar Farooqui

Pratishtha Rana

The fashion industry has long been due for a change – right from the way clothes are designed and produced to finally reaching the consumer through a smaller, transparent supply chain.
One such brand that focuses on sustainable materials and textile development is Injiri, founded by Chinar Farooqui, who hails from the craft-rich state of Rajasthan. The fashion house is known for its aesthetic, clean hand-woven silhouettes. Injiri means real India and also refers to real Madras checkered textiles that were exported to West Africa in the 18th century.
40-year old Farooqui rightly words the idea of sustainability, “It means to be a part of a cycle that ensures the survival of something – and for us, it is the use of Indian textile and craft techniques that we wish to be a part of and contribute to.” We dive deeper and talk to her about how her brand contributes to luxury and sustainability.
Read: Take a walk through nature-inspired collections of Rahul Mishra, Versace, Alexander McQueen, Georges Hobeika

Tell us a little about your brand and the inspiration behind it.
The beauty of Rajasthan, a place where I grew up, is steeped in history and it is home to several indigenous handicrafts. During my extensive travels, exploring traditional art and culture, I was exposed to everything handmade and artisanal. This led me to pursue a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the historic Maharaja SayajiRao University in Vadodara. Next, I pursued a post-graduation in Textile Design at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. During this time, my interest and knowledge for Indian textiles deepened.

During a documentation process (which was a part of my design programme) in Ladakh, I had my first in-depth encounter with people who create indigenous, traditional textiles. Then my work trips to Lucknow, Chanderi and Kutch sensitised me towards the story of the hands, lives and history behind this art. I founded Injiri in 2009 with a desire to form long-lasting liaisons with Indian textiles and further ongoing explorations in regional techniques.
How does Injiri approach sustainability?
To be sustainable means to be a part of a cycle that ensures the survival of something – and for us, it is the use of textile and craft techniques that we wish to be a part of and contribute to. India has been the land of the extraordinary handwoven fabric of multifarious styles, colours, textures and unique features. We continue to work closely with weavers and their craft processes from various parts of the country. We constantly engage in conversations with these keepers of intangible heritage. Design stories start with curating and studying the old pieces of textiles, which showcase the crafts in its purest forms.

Most crafts in India have unique codes that help identify the geographic region they belong to. From the selvedge being built to protect the fabric for generations of usage to motifs that reveal the identity of the soil it is born in. We try to focus on such details and build our design stories around them. We celebrate fabric from its inception as yarn right to the end product.
Read: These Indian designers are champions of the minimal fashion movement
How has the conversation around sustainability and luxury evolved in the last 5 years?
We can only speak from our perspective. Handcrafted textiles are a luxury because of the changes in the way the economy functions, especially over the last few decades. Earlier, almost everyone led a sustainable lifestyle and they preferred handcrafted, locally produced clothing. But now, the markets are flooded with cheap machine-made garments. So, handcrafted clothing has now become a luxury due to the time and expense involved in the technique.
Is there a correlation between minimal fashion and sustainability?
Our work is always layered with so many textile techniques and yet it looks simple to our buyers. I would say minimalism has very little to do with sustainability. It does not matter if the product is minimal or not – that’s a visual aspect. Sustainability is about the processes used, the people involved, the value chain, the philosophy behind the way of working, the larger meaning of a system one follows and so many other aspects, which are deeper and larger than visual aesthetics of minimalism.

What is your definition of eco-friendly fashion?
Eco-friendly fashion is a very difficult word. It is equivalent to looking for clean air in our cities. It can exist and it does, but it is super rare and far from the thick of things. Sorry to sound so strange but fashion itself is a pollutant. It is our desire to create more and more beautiful products, which we do not really need. We crave for beauty and we create it, but do we really need it?
Brands use chemical dyes to achieve beautiful colours that are not good for the soil and use so much water for washing while dyeing, which is not good for the environment. We ship fabrics from the weaver’s house to our workshops and then ship the order to our customers. We fly from one country to another to attend events and trade shows; all of it results in a huge amount of fuel getting used. In this whole scheme of things, we are misusing natural resources.
To sum it up, less use of colours and chemicals, less wastage and more sensitivity towards the use of natural dyes, natural materials can be a step towards being eco-friendly.
What does Injiri do to be more eco-friendly?
One of the fabrics we use is organic cotton from Gujarat, which we feel is environmentally friendly. It is grown, spun and woven in the same state. Its small distribution chain also adds to it being eco-friendly.
Where does Indian fashion stand when it comes to making zero-waste, conscious clothing and designs?
On a relative scale, we are quite ahead in conscious clothing and designs since we have a vast living tradition of textile crafts and handlooms. It is a privilege to be able to work in this country.
Keeping the current pandemic in mind, what does luxury mean to you?
Luxury to me means clean air, water and nature. In the current situation, to be able to meet and interact with people is a new kind of luxury.
Read: Will Indian consumers buy luxury products at hiked prices? 



Pratishtha Rana


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