Spotlight Series: Q&A with Harnish & Smital, Founders of Bombay Trade Co.

We spoke to husband and wife, Harnish & Smital who are on a mission to reduce textile waste from one of the world’s largest populations.

What is your ethnic and professional background?

Harnish and Smital are both of Indian descent. Both of their families immigrated to the US in the 80s. Harnish is a Healthcare management consultant by day and Smital is a People and Organizational Management consultant.

What is Bombay Trade Co, how did it come about and what are your main values as a business?

Bombay Trade Co is a platform to allow users to buy and sell, new and pre-loved, South Asian fashion. The idea came to be in 2019 during our wedding shopping experience. We had tons of outfits sitting in our closet that had all been worn once or twice and were just collecting dust. Smital had gone to India to purchase her wedding outfits, while Harnish purchased his from LA, Chicago, and NJ. The process of buying was so difficult and the process to upcycle our current wardrobe was non-existent. We value making the process easy for the buyer and seller and ultimately help us on our mission to reduce textile waste from one of the world’s largest populations.

How does the platform work?

A seller who is interested in listing their outfit would fill out a quick form on our website. We’ll reply via email with shipping instructions, and once you send us the item, we handle the rest! Once we receive the item, we get it professionally cleaned, photographed, and measured to list it on the site for resale. Once the item sells, we’ll send a check to the seller for their portion of the price.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

At first this started as a good way to sell clothes and purchase more in a simple and streamlined way, but as we dug deeper we learned more about textile waste.  We became so engulfed in the issue that the mission of our business changed from just offering a marketplace to buy and sell, to really trying to minimise the effects of textile waste and fast fashion. We added additional services to contribute to this mission such as responsible recycling clothing, donations, and small business solutions that partner with brick and mortar boutiques to expand their reach and sell more of their inventory to a wider audience.  

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for your sustainable business idea from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?

We certainly did and still do. Circular fashion is becoming more and more normalised in the world, but there is still a stigma in the South Asian community.

We constantly reiterate our value proposition as well as the macro impact textile waste has on the environment.

This is definitely an uphill battle as this “trend” is just about becoming normalised in everyday wear, we have a ways to go to normalise it for ethnic or fancy wear – but we’re up for the challenge!

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

We had always been pretty conscious in our purchasing behavior, but we started to make some changes around the house to be better about wasting unneeded items, recycling, donations, etc.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

I feel there is a stigma and lack of understanding in all communities around the climate crisis. We think the issue is two-fold: 1. it is not an immediate impact you see within minutes or hours so it’s much harder to believe through experience vs education; 2. The climate crisis is a byproduct of many other crises such as textile waste, air pollution, water pollution, light pollution, and others; because there is so much that feeds into it, it’s hard for the average consumer to connect all of those dots instantly to make an informed decision. 

We try to educate our consumers in the more micro sense; for example, close to 80 billion cubic meters of water was used by the textile industry in 2015 vs one of your t-shirts used enough drinking water for 1 person to drink for 2.5 years: the second fact is much more real, more micro, and more actionable and connects back to the same root.

Do you find such a lack of understanding makes having a sustainability-led business like yours more challenging? 

Yes, but the good thing about consumer behavior in 2021 is that people are willing to learn and make smart choices and not get tricked by sales lingo.

In your opinion, what’s the future of South Asian fashion? 

One of our brand partners said it best, “we come from a place that values its craftsmen and artisanship to the point where items are carefully produced over an extended period of time, then saved and shared for generations.” Fast fashion and this idea of “can’t wear the same thing twice” has completely thrown that value to the side.

South Asian fashion may never become majority secondhand, but what we hope to see is a larger emphasis on sustainable materials and more conscious production practices.

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? 

They are giving US the advice! This younger generation is so smart in their purchasing decisions. They don’t only look for a cheap price tag and a familiar “swoosh” but dig deeper to learn about the company, the founders, the mission, and the impact. They are doing it in numbers and in every corner of their life – we all need to learn from them.

What have been your greatest successes and learnings? 

Greatest learnings are definitely centered around how much we didn’t know about textile waste and what goes into production of garments.

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you? 

Stories are difficult since some of the most impactful ones are very personal, but just as a general rule of thumb, we like to live our lives in the pursuit of doing good for others. It makes others feel good, and it makes us feel good – what more can you ask for!?

Find more about Bombay Trade Co.:

Website: https://bombaytrade.co/ on Instagram and Facebook

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Co-founder of Sustainable Style Speak, Lavanya Garg

We spoke with Lavanya, Co-founder of Sustainable Style Speak, India’s first community on a mission to drive meaningful change in the fashion industry.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

I grew up in India. To be more specific, in many parts of central India, including ones that would be considered rural and backward. This was due to the nature of my father’s job in government service. My formative years were spent in the capital city of Madhya Pradesh – Bhopal, and for my undergraduate degree in economics I was at Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) in Delhi. Post that I pursued graduate studies at Yale University (in USA) and moved back shortly to work on development issues in India. Since then, in the last five years, I have spent most of my time in Bengaluru and Delhi, working on worker wellbeing issues in the garment industry at the Good Business Lab (GBL).

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice and social impact? Is there a particular story you can share?

The values of public service were ingrained in me pretty early on. One, of course, by witnessing first hand the career trajectory of my father. Two, even through small actions my mother took to inculcate this. For example, I remember a birthday where my mother took me to an orphanage, to not just make me grateful for my circumstances, but also share my birthday cheer with people I wouldn’t interact with on an everyday basis. 

At LSR, I co-founded a student run NGO called Asmat, through which we organized volunteer programs for college students in rural Rajasthan. I remember this moment, when 15 of us, tucked in a sweaty, dusty Rajasthan Rail Roads bus were making our way towards the village. One could crib, and we did, about the physical discomfort. But on an emotional level, it was inspiring – to be a part of a movement, to feel that if you try, you can make a difference, even if small.

Can you tell me a bit about SUSS and how it all started? How successful has it been?

SUSS (Sustainable Style Speak) is a rapidly-growing community of students, entrepreneurs, professionals and conscious consumers on a mission to drive meaningful change in the fashion industry. We create learning experiences, provide actionable resources and curate the most relevant content to empower each of our members to shape the future of fashion. 

SUSS started back in 2018 as a Facebook group; as my co-founder Gauri and my effort at personal networking with people in the sustainable fashion space. We realised there was no platform that brings people in this space together. Gauri and I met through work (Gauri works at Shahi Exports, India’s largest apparel export house, and Shahi is GBL’s industry partner), but that was serendipity! We wondered why there wasn’t a more structured way of meeting similarly like minded people? 

From a Facebook group we have now grown to a learning community, having organized 13+ events (panel discussions, masterclasses, factory tours, clothes swaps), engaging over 700+ unique attendees. Our family has also grown – we are now a four women team, striving both through our day jobs and SUSS to move the needle on sustainable fashion in India.

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

Building two successful organizations from scratch (as co-founder at SUSS and Chief of Staff and first employee at Good Business Lab) has been my biggest success undoubtedly! It’s included – finding the right people to grow your team (GBL now has 47 full time employees), building the right culture, partnerships, and developing a deep understanding of gender issues on the ground through research projects in a sustained manner. It’s been a ride, with its challenges and learnings: 

At a personal level, finding the right mentors, support group at work is what can keep you going, nudge you in the right direction.

Expecting radical change to happen quickly is a grossly wrong expectation! Focusing on incremental change to keep yourself motivated and not burnout is more real. The systems that keep us away from gender equality or basic living standards for all are complex with many (vicious and virtuous) loops, and we all (whether we are in the system or outside) have a role to play. Choosing your role, sticking to it, while respecting other players in the system is also key.

At an organizational level, I cannot stress this enough but articulating your vision, mission, business model, even if it’s a side project is crucial for its long term survival. As they say, culture eats strategy for breakfast; culture is something you need to focus on from the beginning and work on everyday!

Picking your battle; none of us can fight a war everyday or work on all issues that exist in the world. Choosing what we want to fight for and conserving energy is important to keep going and not feeling overwhelmed.

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for working in a generally lower paid CSR role from family, friends or society at large?

No, I didn’t. But perhaps this is gendered; because there are generally more women (at least in India) working in development and sustainability and the pressure to earn a certain amount is more on men. Although, I would say that there are increasingly spaces in this industry as well that value your work and pay you competitively. 

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

– Reducing meat in my diet

– I went a year without buying any new clothes; now it’s become a habit and I only buy when I need; and try to buy better in terms of quality, sustainability ethos; or even borrow or swap. 

At an internal level I have worked relentlessly on my own emotional wellbeing and physical health by pursuing hobbies, doing therapy; something I firmly believe is required in our industry because how can you work for a better world if you don’t feel good about yourself, at peace? 

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate emergency among South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

I don’t feel well equipped to answer this one. At least among the folks I have interacted with there is decent awareness, but they don’t represent South Asians as a whole, tough to say.

Would you say feeling purpose from your job is vital for you?

YES! It is a non negotiable for me (among others) in terms of what I want out of paid work. I am also privileged enough to afford this. 

Being carbon conscious in a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference?

Being sustainable does not equal buying sustainable, in fact if anything buying our way out of this crisis is not the way to go. I feel it’s more of a mindset; it’s about everyday actions such as reducing meat or buying less, thinking about every purchase. Swapping with or borrowing from a friend instead of buying something new. Having a smaller wedding (as you are planning to do), traveling locally instead of internationally, carpooling. In fact, in many of these examples it’s about scaling back and that is affordable to all of us. It’s more about being comfortable with that, not drawing validation from materialistic objects or social desirability all the time.

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?

Most recently I read one of Ismat Chughtai (an Urdu novelist from South Asia)’s stories (Massoma), which got me looking at her life story. This may be recency bias kicking in, as there are many many stories that have inspired me. Chughtai was bold, unafraid to speak truth to power, at a time when society here was even more conservative. A fierce feminist, she talked openly about female sexuality and commodification at a time when, if anything, our society was more conservative. That takes courage!

Find out more here: https://www.aboutsuss.com

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Saika Waheed, Founder of The Tejori

We spoke with marketing expert and founder of online blog The Tejori, Saika about her ambition to normalise secondhand fashion in South Asian communities.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background? 

I am a Pakistani marketer and hold an MSc in corporate communications and BA in marketing management.

What is The Tejori? How did it come about and what are your main values as a business? 

Tejori is an online personal blog about all things related to South Asian fashion and sustainability. We intend to educate and encourage the Asian market on sustainable practices. Additionally, we intend to break down societal norms and boundaries around sustainable fashion, secondhand lifestyle and societal pressures we all face when it comes to fashion and moving trends. 

Behind the scenes we are also working on a project to introduce a platform where pre-owned items can be bought and sold in order to achieve our goal to normalise thrifting and wearing secondhand clothes among our communities, as well as promoting how easily everyone can take part in sustainable actions when it comes to ethnic fashion.

Originally, The Tejori was established in 2017 after I personally faced wardrobes and suitcases full of clothes only worn once, of which many I didn’t want to be seen in twice! It’s then the idea of thrifting, revamping or reselling came to me. 

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share? 

Coming from a family who have a passion for fashion and clothes and keeping up with Asian fashion trends, between us we have rooms and rooms full of clothing and we need a solution! 

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for your sustainable business idea from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it? 

A lot of people think no one will want to wear secondhand clothes and it’s not normalised to do so in our communities. Also, people don’t want to be seen buying secondhand clothes, as well as selling their old clothes because of an issue around anonymity! 

To address this the blog intends to make sustainable actions ‘cool’, highlighting the latest articles from relevant brands and celebrities who have taken on more sustainable approaches. We also want to highlight those who have applied sustainability to their business models – it’s all about changing the mindset and that’s what the blog intends to achieve.

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable? 

I try to make my clothing last longer by revamping them to change the style and only buying what I really need. If I do buy new, I always consider the quality so the outfits last longer.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues? 

Yes I do believe there is a lack of understanding as people don’t take it seriously. In the fashion market, consumers always want to be seen with the latest items and would do anything to make sure they are up to date with trends. 

Sustainable practices are at the end of their thinking and decision making process. Also a lot of people are unaware of the consequences to the environment and if they were educated on how easy it is to apply simple things to their daily lives to help the environment, I’m sure people would act! Educating our communities is key and someone needs to take responsibility for taking it forward.

Do you find such a lack of understanding makes having a sustainability-led business like yours more challenging? 

Yes it is more challenging but not impossible. My outlook is, if every other industry is on the being more sustainable ‘bandwagon’, the South Asian fashion market is only going to get left behind if brands and designers aren’t aware to make changes. We need to continue to highlight the issues, which we try to do through our daily stories and news. 

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? 

It’s not hard to apply small changes to your daily life, everyone has to do their part to bring positive change. In terms of thrifting, it’s very cost effective – we believe being able to purchase quality-designer items second hand, will attract the younger, student market. 

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you? 

Once I was able to sell some of my lightly worn wedding wear to a friend who had a last minute wardrobe malfunction. This really highlighted that rather than just getting rid of my expensive clothes or storing them away in suitcases (which many South Asians do!) we can become more circular in practice by just selling them on. This is the foundation of what initiated the idea of Tejori in the first place!

Follow The Tejori on Instagram

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Isha Kaur, Founder of Made Sincere

We chatted to Isha, Outreach Support Worker for victims of modern slavery and Founder of ethical fashion brand, Made Sincere.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

My ethnic background is half Indian Sikh and Pakistani. I was born in Yorkshire, England and I still live here.

I have a BSc in Psychology, and I work full time as an Outreach Support Worker for Victims of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. I’m the owner of the sustainably ethical fashion and home decoration brand, Made Sincere. I showcase bespoke products that are sourced and inspired by the world and nature. 

What is Made Sincere? How did it come about and what are your main values as a business?

Made Sincere is a bespoke fashion and home decor brand, where items are designed and handcrafted by me using sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly measures and materials.  

The development of Made Sincere has been years in the making. Initially, it started from my enjoyment of creating things and a way to make an extra bit of money. For years I have been talked out of pursuing creative and design based careers by many people, for a multitude of reasons. However, I’m just naturally a very creative person and the majority of society’s jobs today don’t cater well to artistic creative traits, even more so after COVID-19. Amidst all of these variables, I felt that this would be a great way to release my inner creativity and showcase my work for all to purchase and enjoy. The main values of Made Sincere are environmental, animal and human welfare. 

With the fashion industry being infamous for environmental damage, animal cruelty and slavery, I wanted to create a brand which actually enforces and acts upon these grotesque issues from the very start. 

This is achieved by many ways at Made Sincere, such as upcycling old materials and sourcing products from independent businesses and farmers.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

Many reasons have led me down this path of sustainability. In England, people throw trash everywhere; there are not many places where you will not see trash and fly-tipped objects. Personally, I think it’s unappealing, lazy and it’s harmful to so many ecosystems. I wanted to make a change within myself and to inspire and educate others to combat pollution and fight for rights. 

A particular story which shifted up my gears in the world of sustainability was a couple of years back, when a dead whale washed up onto a shore literally filled with plastic waste. As disturbing as the image was, it will forever be engraved into my memory and it was at that point I truly understood the magnitude of plastic pollution, let alone the other types of pollution, which I was yet to discover as the years passed.

https://traveltourism.news/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/tourism-plastic-pollution.jpg

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for your sustainable business idea from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?

Luckily my mother has been very supportive of my business, she knows that I’m an activist and I impose recycling measures within the household, so I don’t think she was too surprised that I built my business upon sustainability. 

As for other family members, they are impressed that I have opened a small business, but they don’t think anything much of the sustainability aspect of my business. In efforts to make conversations about climate change with my family, some don’t believe that it is real and have other theories as to why the planet is changing. My friends have been amazingly supportive throughout my business ventures and what my business stands for, as they have similar outlooks on the situation as me.

For the larger society, especially in England, sustainability is still a bit niche, as many believe that climate change and pollution is not real. I overcome this by staying positive, to continue raising awareness on the matter, making the changes I can and appreciating the small sustainable changes made politically within society. 

A combination of these aspects regains small but driving faith that the world is heading in the right direction to become sustainable. I can understand the many reasons why people may not agree or change their ways, but with political acts being carried out such as plastic straw bans and carrier bag charges, we are slowly but surely making progress. 

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

I try to recycle all my recyclable waste and inspire the members of my household to do the same. Similar to energy and water conservation – I turn off all electrical items and lights which are left on, ensuring that I don’t let the water run as I wash my face, brush my teeth and do the dishes. Clothing wise, when I buy new garments, I ask myself ‘will I wear this item 30 times’ based off the #30wears and are the materials used sustainable. 

Having an ‘upcycling-eye’ has definitely become a part of my daily practice. This is because I can create new products to sell from old items from my house, but also experimenting with random objects when I am bored – which is more than ever due to COVID-19 lockdowns! If items cannot be upcycled into anything, I will ask myself ‘will someone benefit from this?’ If so, I donate the old item to charity. 

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

Yes I do feel as there is a lack of understanding on the climate crisis, but not much stigma. Personally I have not heard anything negative from any South Asians to suggest any stigma. I believe the blockers to be lack of knowledge, no willingness to investigate or change and demographics.

With regards to lack of knowledge, I don’t feel that there are many accessible resources and enough meaningful media coverage out there to stress the urgency of the matter; this is not just for South Asians but for everyone. 

As for willingness, it is a matter of ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it.’ If somebody does not have the interest to care or learn, you can’t force them to change. However, if you can stay true to yourself and your beliefs on the climate crisis, you could influence others around you. People often observe behaviour to learn, so if you stick to your sustainability-led routines, others may slowly but surely copy your behaviour. If this is the case, I would suggest praising others when you notice this behaviour change towards sustainability. Similarly, if others see how much the climate crisis means to you, your loved ones will soon follow your lead especially if you live in one household with your family members. 

Demographics come with large variability, such as age, location and gender. I feel that any combination of demographics can lead to different perspectives on climate change. This fundamentally boils down to what they have been educated to learn about climate change, if they’ve even been taught anything at all. 

Having open discussions, educating yourself, remaining understanding and respectful of others’ opinions, fighting for sustainability and staying calm, could be ways to solve these blockers I have mentioned. By following this combination, you will present yourself as educated, confident and graceful, which is important to gain others’ trust when fighting for a worthy cause such as climate change.     

Do you find the lack of understanding makes having a sustainability-led business like yours more challenging?

Yes, this does make it challenging. However, I do enjoy a challenge. From my perspective, sustainable and ethical produce is often pricier than non-sustainable or non-ethical produce. This is for the obvious reason that sustainable and ethical products are more expensive and time consuming to create. I think that this initially puts people off, especially when money is tight, which is also understandable, as privileges play a large part in consumer behaviour. 

Nonetheless, the world is shifting into a more eco-friendlier place, and with time, I know that the message will inspire and spread, which will eventually change behaviour. Using COVID-19 as an example, we are all aware of the safety measures to carry out to protect ourselves and loved ones from the virus, and how we have changed our behaviours to reduce the spread of the virus. We have all been provided with this knowledge through the media mainly. The media has the power to inform everyone about the adverse effects of our unsustainable habits and the repercussions of this behaviour, which can educate and change behaviours. This can facilitate sustainable businesses thriving in the future.

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?

My advice to younger generations on sustainability is to do your own research and find a way to be sustainable that speaks to you. There is no one way of being sustainable. See your sustainability as your form of expression, through your fashion, eating and waste. Don’t let the stigma of others on how you live your life sustainably affect you. At the end of the day, if you know you have made any active changes, it is probably a lot more than what somebody else is doing and that alone should fill you with pride for yourself. 

There is no planet B. This world does not belong to you; it belongs to every single living thing and you need to protect this planet for you, your future families and future generations.

Animals are becoming extinct, millions of people die from pollution poisoning and climate change yearly. 

The World Health Organisation states ‘air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year’, microplastics are now being found in unborn babies, and this is all a result of how neglectful we have been towards our planet. It’s within our hands to change it and if you’re inspired yourself, you will inspire others.

Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?

One life story which deeply impacted me was the picture in the news of the 3-year old boy that died after falling off a boat filled with refugees washing up on the shores of Turkey in 2015. Even still bringing tears in my eyes almost 6 years on, that poor toddler should be 9-years old boy today. This truly showed me the extent of the Syrian conflict and the way the politics dice with peoples’ lives mercilessly.

In 2015, I had to decide on a degree to study; I knew I wanted to pursue a career in helping people, either through psychology or humanity-led. Not long after graduating university, my current job role was advertised, (Outreach Support Worker for Victims of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery), which I was hired for. My full-time job consists of supporting clients that are refugees and asylum seekers, who have babies and small children. I do love my job. I believe that this job opportunity was presented for me to support people that are in dire need of humanitarian support.

That child has inspired me to take a humanitarian career path. Although I know it’s not the most money-making career, I know that it is the most worthwhile career. This is far more valuable to me than money could ever buy. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Despite all the negativity in the world today, I just want to let you know that you can make the positive changes that you want to see in the world, no matter who you are or where you come from, change is only within you. In order to make your changes successful, you must remain persistent and consistent, which will eventually pay off.  

References

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Geena Rait, Founder of Garmi

We spoke to Geena who saves South Asian fabric cutoffs from going to landfill, transforming scraps into culturally rich and environmentally friendly handcrafted products.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

My ethnic background is Punjabi and my academic background is in materials science and also mechanical engineering. 

What is Garmi? How did it come about and what are your main values as a business?

Garmi creates quality handcrafted products made from 100% recycled South Asian fabrics. The fabric is saved from landfill and something beautiful is made at the same time. 

My idea for this business came about after realising just how much fabric waste is generated when sewing traditional South Asian clothing. This waste comes in the form of fabric offcuts which are often too small to turn into other garments and as such are usually thrown away. 

In the first national lockdown I started experimenting with these beautiful fabric offcuts to see what I could make and garmi was born. 

The core values behind my business are sustainability and culture. I am committed to only using waste or recycled fabrics to make products and I endeavour to have a completely zero waste business. 

In terms of culture, I wanted to create a brand that incorporated South Asian culture, through its vibrant fabrics into Western fashion. In this way, these fabrics and South Asian culture are easily integrated into everyday life. Additionally, these fabrics are able to reach and be appreciated by a much wider audience.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice? Is there a particular story you can share?

Since I was a teenager I have been interested in the environment, climate change and sustainability. Over the years this has manifested in changing aspects of the way I live and the products I buy. However, I always knew that I wanted to create a business one day that would actively solve an environmental or sustainability issue.  

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash for your sustainable business idea from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it?

I didn’t face any backlash for creating this sustainable business but I am used to family and friends not thinking much of this idea and dismissing it as a hobby. I have overcome this rhetoric by continuing to follow my passion and build my business. Hopefully one day all the naysayers will see that this idea has tackled a real problem – but I’m also content if they don’t! 

How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?

I have consistently made small changes in the way I live over the years to be more sustainable. For example, using soaps and shampoo bars instead of packaged toiletries, and reusable cotton pads to remove makeup instead of single use wipes. I became a vegetarian 10 years ago, partly for environmental reasons. I also avoid single use plastic unless absolutely necessary and try to be conscious of the amount of water I use every day.

Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?

I think generally there is some resistance from older generations to adopt sustainable practices and take climate change seriously. I think this stems from a belief that one person’s actions won’t make that much of a difference in comparison to large corporations. I also think that there is more resistance to sustainability if it involves practices that are more costly or time consuming than the norm.

I think these issues can be tackled by firstly educating the younger generation and empowering them. This will act as a catalyst for older people to change their routines and adopt new and more sustainable practices.

Additionally, as sustainable products and practices become cheaper and more commonplace, it won’t seem like such a drastic and unfamiliar change for those who have been reluctant to change their habits.  

Do you find such lack of understanding makes having a sustainability-led business like yours more challenging? 

I think a lack of understanding has impacted my business slightly, for example, I’ve often been told to go and buy fabric that I need, even though that goes against what this business and I stand for.

Thankfully, I think more and more people are starting to appreciate and actively seek out sustainable businesses to buy from.  

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? 

I would tell younger generations to incorporate sustainability into their life wherever they can. Large companies only change their habits and the products they sell when there is consumer demand. The more we all spend our money consciously in places that are sustainable, environmentally friendly and don’t use cheap labour the more we will see positive changes in the world.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

This year I hope to launch my website and expand my business so that I can receive fabric donations from all over the country and make a tangible impact on this fabric waste issue! If you would like to follow the journey and support please follow garmi on Instagram.