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'I Was A Sari' Is Creating A Social And Environmental Impact By Giving A New Life To Old Sarees

Saree, a garment found in almost every household is now being given a new lease of life, to reduce it from being discarded when it can no longer be used. 'I Was A Sari', a brand founded by Stefano Funari gives a makeover to old sarees and offers a line of upcycled fashion products by taking an eco-ethical approach. It is dedicated to sustainability and women empowerment. Recalling the idea behind the brand, Stefano Funari, Founder, I Was A Sari, said,

I was doing a project in the central belt and I found myself in a godown full of sarees, thousands of sarees. At that moment I got the idea that starting from that material we could start a project, we could start a brand.

Sourced from specialised traders and markets, the sarees go through a rigorous process. The quality is carefully checked before they are segregated by colour, size, and print. The brand also envisions which saree would work as what.

Explaining the upcycling process, Mr Funari said,

That is extremely important because the same saree can turn into a brilliant bag and into a terrible, boring pyjama or whatever. So, that's a very important step. Once that segregation is done, we continue the process of cutting the saree, maybe other processes involved like fusing, and then we go to the final stage which is normally the stitching part.

The selected sarees are then distributed to the production units in Mumbai. Once the production is done, the finished goods go through a second quality check before they are shipped. Talking about the importance of quality checks, Mr Funari said,

The sarees had a previous life. So compared to a traditional production, the quality check in our case is playing an extremely important role, and it's never enough. We do quality checks because there might always be a small stain or a small hole, so we need to be extremely careful. Also, over 95 per cent of our production is for export, and we really have to meet very high-quality standards.

Though 'I Was A Sari' is a brand making accessories with pre-loved sarees, there is more to what makes them a pro-sustainability brand: empowering female artisans from underprivileged backgrounds.

Whatever we do is about sustainability following a quite straightforward 3P approach- Planet, People and Profit. We respect the planet because we mostly work with upcycled material, sarees, and other materials as well. We respect the people because we work with artisans mostly coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and at the beginning of their relationship with us, we have very limited skills. We upskill them and we really turn them into professional artisans. And, last but not least profit, the profit. We are a social enterprise but we do create profit and therefore, we are able to make our business viable, said Mr Funari.

In 2021 alone, 'I Was A Sari' gave employment to more than 175 female artisans. The brand is creating a social impact by not only providing skill development to its artisans but also providing them with medical support. This exposure is helping women understand their potential and worth. Though it comes with its own challenges.

Explaining the growth of women at 'I Was A Sari', Mr Funari said,

When they (women) join our production, normally they were unable to maintain eye contact. Even a simple task like matching the colour of a thread with a given saree fabric is a big challenge for them. Over time we see that them becoming confident and we really observe a deep transformation. Of course, we also need to teach them on the technical side. We need to upskill them in order to perform better, cutting, stitching and all the other activities, and extremely important is also for us to let them understand the importance of quality and reliability.

Apart from the social impact, 'I Was A Sari' has also done its bit for the environment. The brand has managed to save the equivalent of 1,70,000 meters of virgin fabric. By upcycling pre-used sarees, they have not only increased the life of a saree but have managed to keep textile from the dump yards.

While signing off, Mr Funari gave a message on conscious and sustainable living. He said,

First, I think that we should buy less, the second I think that we should opt for better quality because better quality products are going to last more and last I think that it is very important that all of us start documenting ourselves more about the brands that we are buying and we select products that we know are respecting once again the people involved in the production and the planet.

While brands like I was a sari give a new life and a purpose to old clothes, there's still a long way to go. You too can have a sustainable wardrobe and it's not even that hard.

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