Clothes With A Conscience
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Paiwand Studio Upcycles Textile Waste To Make Fabrics For Apparel And Home Furnishing

When we think of fashion, we think of catwalks, models, designer clothing, the latest styles and renowned fashion designers. But did you know that the same fashion industry that produces such glamour, also produces an enormous amount of environmental degradation? So much so, that it is the second most polluting industry in the whole world. When a garment is made, the tailoring units produce an enormous amount of waste in the form of “Katran” or wasted textiles. But the design studio founded by Fashion Designer and Social Entrepreneur Ashita Singhal believes that each fragment of fabric waste has the potential of being repurposed into a beautiful garment and so “Katran” or waste at Paiwand Studio is all too precious.

Talking about using textile waste, Ashita Singhal, Founder, Paiwand Studio said,

Usually, all the design houses follow a process where they first design the garments, and then bring in the fabric – which they either have made, or get dyed. But our process starts from the scraps of fabric.

Started in 2018, Paiwand Studio is a unique upcycling textile studio that sees beauty in patches, scraps, bits, and fragments and believes in adding value by repurposing those forgotten pieces. There is a story behind its rather unique name. Sharing the same, Ashita said,

I heard this through my mother. Earlier, if there was any wear and tear or if there used to be a hole in any piece of clothing, people would put a paiband (meaning patch). And that's how the brand name was found. I wanted to give an ode to the lost culture, the lost era, and kind of bring back the essence of upcycling that used to happen in our households.

When Ashita started her journey, she was fascinated by the fashion industry and its different trends, but very soon she observed firsthand the amount of waste that the industry generates. Ashita recalled,

We had a class on pattern making and the amount of waste produced by 15 students in that one class was shocking. The minute we started cutting the garments the floor was filled with waste because we were mindlessly cutting and following how pattern making is done. It made me wonder that if this is the situation right now, what must be happening in the industry at large!

Horrified by the piles and masses of waste, Ashita started doing research. She decided to try and create a handspun yarn using only scrap for her graduation project. That upcycling project turned into the idea for a start-up, and that is how Noida-based Paiwand Studio came into being. Paiwand takes scrap from design studios, weaves it into the fabric and sells it back to them. But every business comes with a challenge and for Ashita, the journey wasn't an easy one. She said,

I think, in the past, the biggest challenge was to even get the waste. Though, I started with the thought that waste is readily available. Everybody would want to give their waste but when you ask a design house to give their waste, you have to build a sense of confidence with them that their designs are not going to leak out because their waste is basically their design directory. Secondly, making people aware of sustainability has been one of the biggest challenges. People have questions like, 'why are you doing?', 'why only waste fabric?'.

But today, Ashita is challenging the conventional norms of textile design, while focusing on the importance of craft and the need for sustainability.

Once the waste is collected from different design houses and export houses, the fabric is sorted by color and fibre, then washed, dried, ironed, and cut into narrow strips. The strips are then joined to achieve length as required for weaving and then wound around bobbins. On the loom, weavers insert the prepared textile waste bobbin as a weft to create the desired new textile. The strips are woven onto the loom taking into account the textile waste, the designer's brief, the color story and the final use.

Inspiration for working on the design comes to Ashita from life around her, city lights, nature, and the work of different artists.

Along with sustainability, Paiwand Studio believes in empowering Indian weavers and reviving handcraft techniques. It has collaborated with various artisans to repurpose textile waste into meaningful textiles. Ashita said,

Whatever skill set they (weavers) come with, we try to understand that as a design team and we replace their materials so, that they don't face many challenges in adapting to these techniques. That's how we started and even today as we are growing, we are trying to re-look at different Indian crafts. Also, we have a lot of local ladies who are working with us who live in the nearby area of the factory and come from different walks of life, and different backgrounds. They have become the backbone of Paiwand.

The brand aspires to continue reusing waste materials in new ways and aims to create awareness around the importance and urgency of reducing textile waste that pollutes the environment and oceans.

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