Spotlight Series: Q&A with Founder of Chaya Candles, Zakera

We spoke to Zakera about her motivation to launch sustainable candle company, Chaya Candles.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

I’m a British-born Bangladeshi. I have a BA Hons in English and Philosophy. 

Since graduating, I have been working in the finance industry. In my spare time, I’ve always enjoyed making things and being creative – as a young girl my favourite show was Art Attack. I started Chaya Candles as I’d been learning and perfecting the craft of candle-making for many years and came to a point where I was ready to turn the hobby into a business.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable, ethical practice?

In recent years, I’ve consciously made changes within myself to be more sustainable, so it was very important to me that my business also reflected these values. I made lifestyle changes like recycling more, eating less meat, and even little things like swapping cling film for beeswax wraps, and getting books from the library.

It highlighted that making small changes is a start and easy to incorporate, so if I can inspire others to be more sustainable through my product, that is a win!

Although it was extremely challenging to ensure all the packaging is recyclable whilst keeping the costs reasonable, it’s very rewarding to see the final product and to have persevered with my vision.

What is Chaya Candles, how did it come about and what are your values as a business?

I wanted a business that captures my British and Bengali roots with a product that delivers the best of both worlds. 

Each part of the product brings aspects of the East to the West – from the distinctive look of the terracotta clay, which are inspired by the rural villages of Bangladesh, to the brand logo, colourful packaging, and fragrances. 

Bengali language is something I am so proud of, hence why I chose a simple Bengali word for the company name – Chāẏā, meaning ‘shadow’. The fragrance names keep to this theme: Jibon means ‘life’, Aador means ‘affection’, and so on. I feel this gives the product a unique touch, whilst also introducing people to a few Bengali words.

The core value of the business is sustainability. I make the candles with soy wax and cotton wicks to ensure a clean burn with no soot. The terracotta clay for the pots is made from 100% natural ingredients and doesn’t involve any harmful chemicals in manufacture – it is simply heated and moulded into desired shapes. Also, the high durability of this clay means that each pot can be repurposed into something else for the home or garden.

Another value is that every part of the candle is handmade. I collaborate with a ceramist who hand-throws each pot and lid. I then mix the fragrances and hand-pour each candle. The packaging is finished with a handmade wax seal. The entire process means every candle sold is truly one-of-a-kind.

Being of Bengali heritage, did you face any backlash from family, friends or society at large for your startup? If so, how did you overcome it?

I am super lucky to have the most supportive family and friends. I know they’re biased but my parents are my biggest fans. I grew up in a very liberal family with a lot of love and encouragement and my parents have always been my biggest inspiration.

They are so proud of Chaya and that I have done something with our heritage. 

My husband and the people close to me have had to endure a lot of candle chat over the years. Their cheerleading has been key in making it all possible and believing in myself to take the step. I particularly remember being in a restaurant with my friend Prema, contemplating the business name, and she interrupted the table next to us to get their opinion – we then ended up having a discussion with the group and felt certain that Chaya was the right name.

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

Although I tried to be more sustainable in my everyday life, starting the business and undertaking research has opened my eyes and I have actively changed many habits. 

I’ve learnt that small steps can make a huge difference. I didn’t think anything other than plastic bubble-wrap would work in keeping the pottery intact during delivery – that said, I quickly found a sustainable alternative – a recyclable and biodegradable protective paper wrap that works better than bubble-wrap. I continue learning in this area. I always say to my husband that he’s the most eco person I know – he has few things and reuses everything he can, so I try to follow his lead. For a recent trip I needed snow boots and waterproof clothing – I borrowed everything from friends – something I wouldn’t have thought about doing in the past.

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 don’t feel there is any stigma specific to South Asian communities, it is a wider issue that everyone needs to address. I feel there needs to be better education and for people to incorporate changes to lifestyles and not simply talk about it. 

What have been your greatest successes and learnings so far? 

If you want to do something – stop thinking about it and make a start.

I thought about setting up the business for many years but never took the step as I always questioned my abilities. 

I would get overwhelmed with the to-do-list and feel too far-off from being ready to sell. I started applying a notion of doing a daily ten-minute task towards the business – however big or small. This could be sending one email, purchasing an item or researching. I found this more productive, and before I knew it, everything was done and I was ready to launch.

What career advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? Why is it important for them and their future? 

I think as with any topic at the moment, there is a lot of noise and opinions out there which I imagine makes things all the more confusing for the younger generations. I think it’s important for them to do their own research and apply what they believe in. Big decisions to do with the future of our planet will be made in the next 30 years (net zero targets by 2050); thus will be the world that future generations will live in and so it’s important to start taking steps now.

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

I visited Iceland last year which was really eye-opening for me – to see renewable energy sources and to witness unspoiled natural beauty. The buildings are eco-friendly as almost all electricity and energy production comes from hydropower and geothermal power. 

It was inspiring to see a country making the most of natural attributes. I incorporate this with my candles – I hope people will repurpose and reuse the materials so as to lessen our environmental impact. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I grew up on a street where neighbours were like family and everyone looked out for each other. My family were the only Bengalis but we were never seen to be different, and instead all aspects of culture were celebrated. From neighbours commenting on mum’s beautiful sari, to dad never taking off his flat cap.

My upbringing has also been a big inspiration for Chaya and celebrating both my worlds. 

Find Chaya Candles on Instagram and their Website

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Founders of StylHawk, Hetal & Dharmistha Patel

We spoke to Hetal and Dharmistha about their journey creating an online Marketplace App for users to buy and sell their new or pre-loved clothing and accessories.

What is your ethnic and professional background?

Founders: Hetal Patel and Dharmistha J. Patel are both Hindu (North Indian). Hetal Patel has her BBA in Business Management and currently works in the Hospitality Industry. Dharmistha J.Patel has a BBA with concentration in International Business and Finance.

What is Stylhawk? 

Stylhawk is an online Marketplace App for users to come together to buy and sell their brand new or pre-loved clothing and accessories. We want our consumers to feel and look their best without spending a fortune. We know most of our Indian luxury and unique pieces are only worn once or twice and come with a hefty price tag. Stylhawk provides a platform for sellers to recoup the majority of their initial investment and our buyers to be able to purchase those unique pieces at a fraction of the retail cost. This is a win-win situation for both buyers and sellers to think sensibly, sustainably and help protect the environment by keeping clothes in use longer. 

At Stylhawk, our business model is restorative and regenerative. We want clothing that is kept at its highest value during use to re-enter the economy after use, never ending up as waste. Stylhawk promotes circular and sustainable fashion, to avoid the harsh impact that the clothing industry has on the environment. We want our consumers to know that by buying smarter, they are in fact helping preserve nature and decrease waste.   

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable practice?

Based on the constraints that our previous generations have faced, we hindered challenges and unknowingly became sustainability advocates. Being resourceful through reusing, rewrapping, and hand-me-downs comes natural to us. I remember growing up in a household that had wrappers on TV remotes, plastic covers on dining tables, and covers on sofas and car seats to preserve the original condition in my home. Growing up in a traditional Indian home being a mom of 3 girls, it only makes sense to live sustainably for their futures. We attend many occasions where traditional clothing is worn and although we love dressing up in new fancy clothes every time, it didn’t make sense financially or environmentally.

Have you faced any backlash? 

Not knowing what to do with current clothing and not being able to afford a new one every time was same story heard from friends and family on a daily basis. This became the true motivation for creating this platform. It gives individuals the tools and motivation to do something about it.

As you become knowledgeable and learn how many resources are used to create a single piece of garment, you truly see what’s important and how much of an impact a single person’s choice can have. 

This is just the beginning; we have a long road ahead of us. We are thankful to have the support of friends and family on creating this platform but the only way we reach our goal and mission is to have our community join and become a part of this idea of secondhand clothing. Sustainable living is the new trend and as we are seeing a rise in awareness and users on our platform, we appreciate the like-minded people who are also appreciative of the concept of thrifting.

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

From repurposing old clothing, to up-cycling and handing down to younger siblings, to reusable water bottles and snack bags, we are practicing sustainability in different ways in our households. Passing on the same knowledge to our little people is one of the most important things we can do, so that they can become conscious consumers for the future generations. It is a way of life.

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, people are becoming more aware of climate change issues, but we think the lack of actions are mainly due to them just not knowing what they can do and what type of resources are available. 

With continual awareness that provides encouragement and knowledge, living more sustainably is relatively easy.

If they do not know where to start, hopefully a platform like ours, where it will be beneficial for themselves as well as the environment, will be able to grant them an entry way into a more sustainable lifestyle.

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

Breaking the stigma of thrifting has definitely been a barrier. We are evolving as individuals and the importance of sustainability plays a more integral part in our way of life. Stylhawk solely relies on like minded buyers and sellers that are pro-sustainability.  This also makes fashion affordable for all.

Infiltrating into our niche South Asian market hasn’t been easy but definitely rewarding as we strive to spread awareness of the many benefits of sustainability.

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

Fashion should be affordable, comfortable and versatile. We are so fortunate that South Asian fashion has such intricate detailed work, with all types of fabrics that make our fashion so unique and desirable by all. The craftsmanship and work put forth by garment workers deserves more. Pairing a choli blouse/crop top with an old sari or dhoti pants, or adding a trendy blazer and piece of jewelry to an existing outfit to revamp the entire look, that’s the future of fashion.

Your imagination is limitless, and innovation is the future of fashion.

When you allow yourself to be free of judgment and get creative by up-cycling and mixing and matching different patterns and pieces together, we won’t necessarily need to purchase new every time.

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

A key piece of advice we would give is to build self-awareness. Be more aware of your surroundings and the impacts it creates in your environment and what you leave behind. Be practical in your day to day living for a greener tomorrow, that is manageable and realistic and to lead by example.

What have been your greatest success and learnings?

Our greatest success is building the courage to start our Minority-South Asian, Women led business. It’s one thing to dream it but making dreams into reality is another. After many hurdles we were able to launch in January 2021. We are still learning what consumers really want and are excited about what the future holds. Gathering all this feedback and learning throughout the process enables us to build on what we currently have and MAKE IT BETTER! Great things are coming soon for our Stylhawk users and we are excited!

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

Stylhawk is a partnership between two childhood friends Hetal Patel and Dharmistha Patel. We have been friends since we can remember. In the past few years with Covid-19, we have learned that life is not predictable. We have gone through personal battles and are thankful that we have managed to overcome them. We are both blessed with beautiful, healthy children and we want to create a better tomorrow for ourselves and our future generations.

This is what makes us women so unique, we’re resilient and we evolve over and over again and create our future. We gained a deeper appreciation for the work and the cause we stand for at Stylhawk. Breaking the stigma of thrifting is not an easy task, but we are very confident of what avenue we are providing to our users and always wanted to run a business with a meaningful purpose. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Currently there’s a generation that’s being caught in a whirlwind of fluster either with the trendy consumers wanting the newest styles with brand new outfits to every event and the conscious consumer, who’s trying to figure out the worth – economically and ethically – of something that will be worn only for a few hours. Tackling this one pervasive issue will solve the problem across the board.

It’s time. Time to change the narrative. Let’s do something now that our future generations will be thankful for later.

You can like us on Facebook, Instagram and follow the latest on  Our app is currently on IOS- App Store but will be available on Android soon. There is no listing fee or monthly maintenance fee for users. Contact us today if you have any further questions and concerns.

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Co-Founder of Impactful, Rima Patel

We spoke to Rima about her journey from corporate consultancy to establishing impact strategy agency – Impactful.

What is your ethnic and professional background?

I’m second generation gujarati, hindu, born in London. I started my career at PwC, in a client facing audit role. Looking back, I walked blindly into that role in many ways, not thinking particularly hard about what I wanted to do. I decided I wanted to be in a more people focused role and moved internally to the Learning and Development team, designing leadership training for the firm’s staff.

I left the corporate world after 4.5yrs and moved into startups, working for Escape the City and then Remote Year in community management and operational roles, which I loved and found suited how I like to work. But, in 2018 I found myself looking for a more purposeful career and really wanting to learn how to create effective positive change, so I joined the social innovation and entrepreneurship fellowship Year Here which is where I met my co-founders and we developed the idea for Impactful.

What is Impactful and how did it come about? 

We’re an impact strategy agency. We support businesses to come up with sustainable ideas to increase their positive social and environmental impact, through a process of systemic design. 

On Year Here, me and my soon to be co-founders worked on a consulting brief to support a commercial business to think about how they could put their purpose as a business on par with their profit. 

We immediately saw the potential of supporting businesses and realised that the impact and innovation skills we’d developed on Year Here were really valuable in taking businesses on that journey in an inclusive and ambitious way. 

What are your main values and aims as an organisation?

Our approach is based on four key ideas:

Life-centered design – using systems design frameworks and processes to create ideas which are good for people, planet and the business.

Holistic impact – looking at both social and environmental impact, as the two are inextricably interconnected.

Commercial alignment – developing strategies that work with business priorities, so that they are truly sustainable and not tokenistic.Bespoke strategies – partnering with organisations to develop strategies that fit their organisation, as there is no one-size-fits-all way to have more positive impact.

What inspired you to act as a catalyst for sustainable, ethical practice?

I love solving problems and trying to make things better. When I joined Year Here, I was looking for a way to channel that energy into a specific idea or venture and Impactful became such a brilliant vehicle for that. 

I really believe that business has huge potential to be a force for good in the world and to catalyse change – it feels like the potential is so huge. Both because many of our biggest challenges have been caused by business in the first place, but also because really ambitious, effective businesses are also great problem solving machines.

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash about this career choice from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it? 

I think in general my family aren’t too sure what I do. They are broadly supportive thankfully, but it’s really hard to engage and share the passion and excitement for what I’m working on as often, it takes a lot of careful explanation to help them understand. 

I also still get a lot of throwaway comments about going back into accounting and probing questions about how I’m doing financially, as I suppose in many ways they don’t consider what I’m doing to be sustainable and/or stable for my future. I think those kinds of comments can chip away at my confidence, making me doubt if what I’m doing is actually the right thing or actually pretty reckless! 

Overcoming that, I generally end up being conscious and careful around money, making sure I’m able to live independently, taking part time work, so that I don’t find myself in a tight spot. 

Mostly I just try to take the time to explain what I’m doing and why. I think my mum gets it now and is pretty excited for us, even proactively remembering and asking about projects we’re working on which feels like progress! 

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

I do what I can at home, recycling, composting, keeping meat down to a minimum. I don’t have a car and use public transport to get around. Though, I recognise that this is a privileged position to be in in many ways, as I can work from home and live in a big city with good infrastructure, which isn’t true for everyone. 

What I’d love to do more of and have started recently, is connect more with the local community. I’ve loved exploring my neighbourhood’s green spaces, I joined my local litter picking society and am currently doing a course in horticulture at my local council’s adult learning centre. It’s been a great way to reconnect with nature, meet people in my local community and get my hands dirty with the small actions that create change, quite literally with the horticulture course!

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?

It’s interesting because I find that South Asian communities in many ways have a natural tendency to green practices. My mum doesn’t throw anything away (to a fault! See cupboard stuff with tupperware…), we were always conscious of not wasting food and looking after our possessions, fixing and making do rather than buying new things. 

I think perhaps they don’t recognise the modern language and way of talking about environmental challenges. The conversation isn’t by them or for them and so that lack of inclusion creates a lack of awareness. 

I think finding those positive stories of people in the community who are already doing great work (in many ways what you’re creating here) and championing them is one way to encourage action.

Something we also talk a lot about with businesses is making it less about telling people off for what they are/aren’t doing and more about making it easier and even more enjoyable to do the right thing. How do we make it really easy for people to change habits and create incentives where by living more sustainably is better for the individual and community, rewarding positive behaviour. I think that’s how you can create change that really sticks.

What have been your greatest successes and learnings? 

We published our Impactful Business Playbook earlier this year which I’m really proud of. It was a six month labour of love but we’re so happy with how it turned out and the feedback we’ve received has been really positive. 

That process taught us so much. In particular, it’s really hard but so, so important to make what we’re trying to do accessible and actionable. We felt strongly that the impact resources out there that we came across were super complex and a bit overwhelming, not giving people within businesses an easy way to start and to know what good looks like. So a big focus of our work is actually just education, demystifying and simplifying impact and what that looks like for a business.

What are the biggest challenges being faced in your industry when it comes to ESG? 

I think the biggest challenge is getting people to think of impact as essential/critical to success. We’re so used to traditional success metrics like revenue, growth, attention, that it’s so hard to remind ourselves that actually there are so many other equally important success metrics. 

People’s wellbeing and fulfillment and the sustainability and restoration of the natural environment are so fundamental to our survival and joy as people, but so often neglected. 

What’s exciting is that the business case is actually really clear. Investing in your impact is good for business. Just the other week I read from the CHRO of Unilever, Leena Nair (also a brilliant South Asian woman!): 

“Human capital is as important as financial capital. Our attrition rate in all the countries that we operate is half of that of the national average. And 76% of the graduates who apply to us say that they believe that Unilever is a force for good and stands for goodness in the world, and that has led to my recruitment costs in the last seven years falling by 90%. Putting human resources at the top table has real business benefits.”

Leena Nair

Has any one sector or company got it ‘right’ so far?

So many amazing businesses are making huge progress and not waiting for external pushes. Everyone from Bloom & Wild to Brewdog to the amazing ventures coming out of Year Here like Supply Change and Pivot

I do think that systemic/sector wide change is still yet to come. Momentum is building but we’ve not quite reached the tipping point, where it becomes mainstream and it makes more sense for a business to act now rather than get left behind.

What career advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? Why is it important for them and their future? 

Everything you do has an impact. Start where you are, with what you have. You can start at home or in your workplace or in your community. You don’t need permission to take action. 

We need people in every place and every industry, in every role advocating for more sustainable, regenerative practices. 

I’d also say find your people. If you care about the environment but people in your circles don’t as much, reach out to others and offer your support or ask for help. People in this space are generally super friendly and generous with their resources if they can be. 

We are the generation that has the power to reverse the most damaging effects of climate change.

In many ways we are creating the future that we ourselves will have to live in so there is both a personal and collective incentive to do your bit.

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

What’s recently had the most profound impact on me and how I think about what I do, is my little nephew being born. His arrival has renewed and refocused my energy and commitment to designing a better world for him. He is a living symbol of the future generations, reminding me to leave the world a better place than I found it. 

I imagine the world that I want him to grow up in. It gives me a long term perspective and a lens through which to prioritise what I do today. What am I doing now that will create a safe, regenerative, just, joyful world for him and all the people coming into this world today? 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Sometimes I find it hard to make the big concepts of sustainability practical and personal. My favourite quote that grounds me in what I can do is from Charles Eisenstein:

‘‘Don’t: “Save the planet”. Instead: “Find something you love, and take care of it.”

That to me sums up what, in my best moments, I strive to do. For myself, in my relationships and in my work. 

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful community. I’d love to connect with anyone in this space and organisations looking for support with their impact, please reach out at

Find Rima on LinkedIn and Twitter, Website

Spotlight Series: Q&A with Sustainability Lead, Sara Kassam

We spoke with Sara about her role at Victoria and Albert Museum and experience across sectors within sustainability.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

I guess I’m Indian but my parents were born in Tanzania and Zanzibar. I studied Geography at the University of Nottingham and then went on to a fast track scheme for local government. Since then I’ve worked on sustainability for local authorities, a university and an engineering institution. Whilst working I’ve gained a postgraduate diploma in Local Government management and a postgraduate certificate in Low Carbon Buildings. 

What does your role at the V&A entail? 

Everything! I have a multi-site remit to embed sustainability expertise and implement systemic change in museum operations and behaviours. In one day I can be incorporating sustainability requirements into exhibition tenders, organising sustainability-themed learning and development webinars for staff and tracking down travel data to calculate Scope 3 emissions. 

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

At university I was elected as the Students’ Union Environmental & Social Justice Officer and one project I worked on was with the local authority and Local Agenda 21 Partnership. That inspired me to work in the public sector and help people to make positive changes.

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash about this career choice from family, friends or society at large? How did you overcome it? 

Not really, although my parents had expected me to become a doctor! 

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

So many things over the years! Most recently, we’ve been using our local refill shop as much as possible. I buy honey from a local beekeeper, we bake our own bread, subscribe to an Oddbox for fruit and veg, purchase renewable electricity for our home and I try to only buy ethically made or second-hand clothes.

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 there’s more of a disconnect amongst our communities rather than stigma around the climate crisis.

For example, countries in South Asia are experiencing the impacts of climate change severely and people are suffering – we know this from relatives, stories of floods and droughts and visits ‘back home’. But this isn’t necessarily being connected with behaviours here e.g. car use, home energy efficiency etc. 

What have been your greatest successes and learnings? 

The power of networks can never be emphasised enough, sustainability is a very collaborative field and learning from/being inspired by others has been one of the biggest motivators for me. Learning to be patient has also been a major lesson, being able to persuade others and waiting for the stars (budget, circumstances etc) to align!

You’ve worked in a really diverse range of sectors within sustainability, what has been a highlight for you? 

It’s hard to pin down to one highlight! I loved organising a solar car challenge for primary schools in Richmond upon Thames, organising a ‘green move out’ for students in halls of residence at the University of East London, producing a much more diverse annual conference for CIBSE and have launched the V&A’s first public Sustainability Plan.  

What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment? Why is it important for them and their future? 

If humans are to realign with nature and live in harmony, we need to be taking drastic action. It is everyone’s responsibility and time is limited so younger generations have no choice but to get involved if we want to have a habitable planet! 

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

I found the story of Daniel O’Connor, the founder of WarpIT inspiring. He saw a problem when he worked for a university (huge amounts of perfectly good items being thrown away) and created a solution to help people deal with it. His exchange platform now has over 1000 schools, 1000 charities and over half the University sector in the UK using the service, as well as Councils, the NHS and the private sector plus overseas users. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Everyone can make a change. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and those around you. And don’t aim too low, we need systemic change, not just fiddling around the edges.

Sara’s blog: 

Recent appointment:

Find Sara on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

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.:

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Spotlight Series: Q&A with Sustainable Goldsmith, Shivani Chorwadia

We spoke with Shivani about her shift to sustainable and accessible fine jewellery making.

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?

My family ethnicity is Gujarati Indian. My mum and her family were born and lived in Uganda until the early 1970’s when they were forced to flee to the UK under dictatorship. My dad and his family moved to the UK from Uganda shortly before. I graduated with a degree in Silversmithing, Jewellery and related objects and have been working as a Jewellery designer, maker and goldsmith for the last 13 years.

Can you tell me a bit about your jewellery business? How did it all start?

It started with my tutor during my year completing my Art foundation. I had always wanted to work within the fashion and textiles industry but my tutor could see where my skills lay and pointed me towards exploring jewellery. I immediately fell in love with working on and experimenting with small scale sculptural pieces.

I continued on to do a BA in Jewellery and Silversmithing, this is where I focussed on pushing myself creatively both in terms of design and making 3 dimensional forms in metal. I embraced the fact that as a student, there are no limitations on making pieces a certain way or a particular style – we were free to be as wildly creative as we wanted to be. The work I produced for my final show were more object than wearable jewellery; they were beautiful sculptural pieces in their own right and that idea has continued through the evolution of my work.

I started out working in silver, progressing into working exclusively in gold when I became a mother. My time to work was limited and making less but more involved pieces worked better, it also meant keeping a lean collection of one of a kind pieces and sourcing the best quality materials.

Seven years on and my business is opening into its next stage. With time, allowing myself the breathing space I have questioned and delved deep into aspects of heritage, culture (work, consumption, productivity), personal values, accessibility and identity. The results are in the work I am starting to build now after a recent relaunch.

What inspired you to become more sustainable and accessible? Is there a particular story you can share?

I think it started from a young age, seeing family, particularly the older generation share clothes, use and reuse everything, never being wasteful. The idea of excess, accumulated materials doesn’t sit well with me and never has. I remember even at the age of 10 or 11 having huge purges of ‘stuff’ in my bedroom and the sense of calm at seeing a clear space.  

Over the last 20 years we (as a global society) have seen the devastation to the environment and the human cost of excessive production and consumption – I continue to educate myself about the harm being caused and try to find solutions by actively pushing against these standards. I think we have to build new models from the ground up rather than amend existing ones, show that there is another way and that it can work with a shift in mindset and active resistance to the status quo.

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

One of my biggest successes has been to follow my own path and intuition, coming from a South Asian immigrant background and choosing to work as a creative has not been easy.

We’re strongly encouraged from a young age, like most immigrant communities, to find work in a stable career that will provide a good income and command ‘respect’ from the wider family. Actively going against this has been both liberating and tough. 

Unlike many of my peers at university or those I have met through work, I didn’t grow up in a family that worked in the arts or had much interest in it outside of music. That privileged background just wasn’t there, on the flipside it meant that I had the freedom to make my own way. The striking learnings have been to avoid trying to fit into a box or anyone else’s expectation of what my work or I should be. Assimilating in this way can be more harmful than we realise, especially at a young age when we start our careers. 

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

At home we have gradually switched to buying natural products for our bodies and cleaning, soapnuts for all our laundry. We have consciously made decisions to support smaller local and more ethical companies whenever we can. One of the biggest changes for me has been learning how to make my own clothes. I understand now how much work goes into making our clothes, how materials and fabric production affect farmers and land on which they’re grown.

90% of my wardrobe is now made up of clothes that I have created myself.

My aim is for pieces to be loved and worn, mended, handed down, remade/upcycled if possible. We still have a way to go as a family but we’re mindful and making small changes as we move forward.

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 wouldn’t call it a stigma, more of a resistance to change/inconvenience. The lack of understanding I can see in older generations who may not engage with information about the environment in the same way that we or our parents might. I have noticed a shift as global awareness is raised, it’s impossible to ignore.  

An area that I think is a blocker and difficult to overcome within South Asian communities is a cultural one, that lies in proving your status through material wealth. This has increased rapidly with each new generation due to the influence of western capitalism and the growth of economic wealth amongst the ‘upper class’ both in South Asia and the diaspora.

As always the best way to move past these blockers particularly with our elders is to talk to them. They tend to be open and respect the knowledge that younger generations bring.

You mentioned accessibility being a large factor to open up your market to other buyers, can you tell us more about that?

It boils down to the fact that I want my work to be available to anyone that would like to own a piece. I have spent time over the last year looking at who I am making the work for and why. My current collection of one of a kind pieces made in gold are true luxury items, I am well aware that they are for a small and niche market.  

I am slowly building a collection of limited edition pieces that can be made to order. These pieces will be made in recycled gold to last a lifetime, they are designed to be repeatable and the price point will therefore be much more accessible. 

Accessibility will also come through how I show and talk about the work.

It’s important for me to represent our South Asian heritage and style within the images and words, something I never had growing up.

To be open about the experiences that we as a community live through while also holding space for and supporting other minorities.  

What processes are involved in being a more sustainable goldsmith? How do you cut down waste and reuse gold/silver?

I have slowly changed the way I run my business to be consciously sustainable both in the products I offer and how the studio is run. Every piece is now made using recycled silver/gold or Fairmined gold. Fairmined supports miners and their communities through providing safe working conditions, responsible use of chemicals, fair pay and social and educational development. 

I produce small amounts of stock as currently the majority of my work is made to commission. As I start to move towards limited edition lines, I will continue to make pieces to order so that I can avoid overproduction of stock and waste. All metal offcuts and dust from the workshop are collected and remelted. I offer a bespoke recycling service, clients may have pieces that they have at home and no longer wear. I extract the stones and rework the gold to create a new custom-made piece with their materials. 

In the workshop I minimise the use of harmful chemicals and water, I am making the transition to plastic free packaging and storage where possible.  

Buying materials from small businesses is a way to be more sustainable. I work with suppliers and manufacturers that I have known and built relationships with. Suppliers of specialist cut stones work directly with mines where they can be sure that they are avoiding harmful practices to extract raw materials.   

Can mining precious stones ever really be truly sustainable? Any thoughts on lab-grown stones?

The short answer is no. There is a finite amount of natural raw material on the planet and extracting these materials whether stones/mineral or metal has a human and environmental cost. I have done and continue to research the positives and negatives of natural vs. lab grown stones and it comes down to personal choice and the individual’s values.  

Natural stones can be mined in ways that minimise damage to the environment; though human exploitation and working conditions are of more concern to me. There are over 40 million small-scale artisanal miners around the world extracting stones and gold and the majority of them face extreme working conditions and lack of safety. If we moved to producing all of our gems in labs these communities face more instability and often fall into greater poverty. There are many reasons that this continues to happen but really, when it comes to stones, particularly diamonds companies stand to make huge profits with miners receiving little monetary gain. 

Lab-grown diamonds eliminate damage to the environment and human cost, so consumers can feel assured on this front. I looked into buying lab grown for my business, the more I researched I found that there is a huge amount of misleading information targeted towards the ‘ethical’ market. Lab grown diamonds use large amounts of energy to produce and where that energy is sourced is another factor to consider. You can read more here.

For now I choose to work with small suppliers that I trust who source directly from mines and know first-hand the conditions of extraction.

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

I would say get curious. Ask questions about where your products come from, how they are made, who is growing or making them. Hold companies accountable for their actions, write to your MP if you can. The best thing to do is choose one thing that matters to you and take action. It doesn’t matter how small the actions are, so many people feel overwhelmed, leading to inaction, but the small things do add up. Keep learning, keep challenging, and take care of yourself. Change starts with us!

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

I think that being so connected to a history of being uprooted, having grandparents and parents that moved to the UK with little in the way of possessions has subconsciously informed the way that I see materialism and excess. I try to be mindful about accumulating items by considering the intrinsic cost and value before I buy. This approach is crystallised in the way I think about production, it’s inevitably reflected within my work.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A few brilliant disruptors in the sustainability space and outside that I’m loving:

Find Shivani’s work:

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:

Spotlight Series: Tia Kansara, Director of Replenish Earth

We feature Tia, award-winning entrepreneur, moderator, lecturer, author and founder of the first ISO quality controlled sustainable lifestyle consultancy, Replenish Earth.

Replenish Earth

Replenish Earth (RE) is focused on ecosystem restoration and has a multidisciplinary approach to creating a positive impact on earth including and not limited to education, eco-therapy (physical and virtual), eco-products, eco-futurism. The vision is to work passionately every day on projects which cultivate a deeper connection with our planet, create beautiful and exquisite experiences to ultimately inspire people to save it. An ecosystem where everyone understands their responsibilities and the governing principles of the global commons. Where living in harmony with nature is an everyday routine and where everyone is excited to wake up to a new day because of the exciting world that people create together.


Replenish Earth runs on a kind business model whose core lies in replenishing the earth. It believes in taking preventive measures that are in the best interest of our environment. The environmental advisory firm takes pride in the eco-alignment of the services that it extends to its clients. Their innovation stems from the thought process of the Chief Executing Officer, Tia Kansara whose tryst with the environment started long ago in her childhood. Having realised the crucial role that the environment plays as the primary provider for all business needs, it became of utmost importance for her to re-integrate its role into our existing economic models. 

In today’s world where sustainability is used as a buzzword and enacted upon for the sake of formality, Replenish Earth is trying to build a foundation for a better future. It is provoking thoughtfulness in corporations and other such organisations, guiding them in the right direction, towards more aware business practices that care about giving back to their environmental sources. What makes this organization more special is that apart from its core business area of environmental consultancy, Replenish Earth aims to innovate the mindsets, lifestyles, and consumption patterns of each one of us in lieu of protecting our dear planet Earth.


“Replenish Earth is the philosophy of living in harmony with nature; it is a cause and a collective action to protect the global commons – the natural resources we all share.” People tend to live in their own realities which they believe are true to them. But people need to go beyond their truth to have empathy for each other. This will help us appreciate the fact that transformation is in the hands of the people and in their daily lives, where the smallest of actions have a big impact and thus help in replenishing the earth. 

“I feel Replenish Earth started in my childhood, with the litter busting we did at school, to keep Britain tidy, a campaign the government ran to encourage the clearing-up of our streets and common places that were littered. It started with my mother, born and raised in a village in India, who taught us to recycle before the word became known, using all items beyond their first use and reincarnating them into incredible forms. It started with my father switching the TV from cartoons to David Attenborough’s nature programs. A highpoint for me was when I realised, this has been a cause I’ve championed since I can remember.” These words by Tia Kansara, the CEO, highlight the initial inspiration for the company. 

Replenish Earth is based on a movement that is about giving back more than we take from planet earth. 

Replenish Earth follows ISO 14001 guidelines and champions B-Corps. The Replenish ecosystem is founded on the principles of the World Replenish Index, a marketplace that believes in including all aspects of waste into GDP to 100% compostable products to have better accountability on their environmental impact. Replenish Earth investigates the impact of waste disposal habits beyond national borders and positively reinforces behaviours and businesses that are aligned with this.

Overall impact

Replenish supports and facilitates environmental, social businesses and invests towards a green, circular economy. Net positive is naturally amongst their themes of Replenishment, as are Green Impact Investment and infrastructure that is in harmony with nature. The projects that are being handled by RE have created a huge positive impact on society, corporate, and the environment. RE has been involved in advising the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Bio Trade initiative for 3 years exploring how the largest and most prestigious fashion houses, like Prada, Burberry, Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna could lead the transformation of their industry and replenish the earth. 

‘Who does the sea belong to?’  -an exhibition that was created by RE in collaboration with NID, Mudita Pasari has had over a million students visiting and learning about ocean protection, and climate action. Thus, they pioneer citizen awareness on their responsibilities towards nature. The impact they are able to create is primarily due to how purpose-driven each employee at Replenish Earth is. As Mr. Bhavyajeet Singh Gehlot, mentions, “During my initial few weeks while talking with Tia, I realised how hollow the world has become towards our planet and how important a cause like Replenish Earth is. This realization fundamentally changed me as a person, and I now realise the importance of creating the Replenish Earth experience for the future.” 

Business benefit

Replenish Earth has advised more than 120 businesses and 90 governments on their strategies to transition away from fossil fuels, designing business models and products with a net positive impact on the environment. The company also organises Courses, Speaker Series, Art Installations & Exhibitions, Urban Development Projects, Research Retreats, and its own Replenish Festival about Event Management and Design in VR. 

Tia, the CEO says, “Our business model is an end-to-end replenishing the earth, as a forethought, not an afterthought”. This differentiates the brand and helps create a competitive advantage which opens up an entirely new market of organisations who are looking to adopt preventative sustainability. This ensures the longevity of Replenish Earth. 

Replenish Earth has worked with high-profile clients like Coca-Cola, Bloomberg, and the European Commission. CEO Tia recalls an experience at the Replenish Earth Smart Cities at CEPT University, where they were recognised for their contribution by the Prime Minister of Bhutan and invited to sit with Parliament. Replenish Earth has repeatedly been featured among lists of successful eco-businesses.

Social and Environmental benefit

Replenish Earth has looked into strategies to transition away from fossil fuels, designing business models and products with a positive impact on the environment for many companies. The overall impact has been very large. The company believes that “a solution that is touted without a consistent product and a reliable maintenance plan is one that will always be short-lived”. This is not just a country-specific issue. They believe that this is a global matter. 

It is important that companies think about switching to renewables so that they make changes in the infrastructure to make it viable for all users. An issue such as climate action requires a lot of conversation. A lot of people aren’t aware of the peril we are in and even if they do, do not see its urgency. Therefore, one of the biggest achievements of Replenish comes from the conversations they’ve initiated. They’ve spread awareness around these issues in very unique ways, online and offline. Talks such as “a day in the life of a piece of crap” have initiated conversations on exploring the psychology of waste and what it tells us about ourselves, and where we think it’s ok to hide our waste. 

A few other initiatives such as Space-Waste which is focused on urban cities, policies, and physical spaces. They came up with initiatives like Plastic Resource and Designer Products wherein people tried to change the output from waste resources through simple and practical methods individually or in communities. 

Replenish Earth is working and will continue to work passionately until each individual and each business is encouraged to emerge beyond shortsightedness and be fully responsible for their actions on the planet, and not hide behind increasingly tall landfills and other externalities that we are taught will look good as GDP.

Find out more here: 

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 Nishita, Freelance Communications Consultant

We chat to Communications and Public Relations Consultant Nishita about her experiences moving between public, private and third-party sectors within international law, politics and infrastructure

What is your ethnic, academic and professional background? 

I am an Australian Indian, born in Delhi and raised in Sydney.

I hold a Bachelors of Social Science and a Masters of Human Rights, Law & Policy and have over six years’ consultancy experience from the public, private and third-party sectors, primarily working in politics, international law and infrastructure.  

Since moving to London in July 2019, I have been a freelance PR/Comms Consultant. At present, I work for an infrastructure consultancy, Schofield Lothian as an Engagement Consultant. 

Can you tell me about your career in public relations, particularly your projects on social impact and ethical trading? What inspired you to take on this work?

As a Business and Human Rights Consultant, I worked on lobbying pharmaceutical companies in China to re-consider the supply chains and ethical trade. In my current role, I work within a strong Social Values rhetoric when developing consultation and engagement strategies for my clients. 

I was inspired to take on this role after many years of managing public relations as a Special Adviser to senior cabinet ministers in the New South Wales Government in Australia. 

Community participation and inclusion is key to everything we do irrespective of the sector. 

After leaving politics and moving to London, I was determined to make it a career path and feel rather blessed to combine my love for PR/Comms with sustainability in the infrastructure space. 

What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?

I would have to say my gig in Delhi straight after my masters. I was a Human Rights Adviser to the Secretary of Women of Child Development. I was not entirely sure what I had signed up for, however, I knew it was something I was incredibly passionate about. Being a NRI and working for the government was not a walk in the park to say the least. Despite the challenges at the time, it has shaped my resilience in driving collaborative PPP strategies in all the projects I have worked on. 

Being South Asian, did you face any backlash from family, friends or society at large for choosing to pursue a ‘niche’ career path? Has it been challenging? 

I was fortunate not to have any backlash. I grew up in a very liberal family and I was always supported and encouraged to follow my own path. 

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

I have been playing my part by limiting the use of plastic, being a vegetarian for over 10 years and buying most of my produce from local farmers markets. 

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?

It’s hard to answer this question, however I think perspective is key when thinking about what the community stands for. Education is always an effective method to decrease ‘the blockers’. 

Being carbon conscious in a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference? Do you think being sustainable is accessible to everyone?

Again, I think educating the community can go a long way. Sustainability and carbon conscious have become such buzz words these days that it has, in some ways, lost meaning. I strongly believe having a breakdown of what these terms mean in the context of day-to-day practices will help increase overall awareness and encourage the community to be active participants.  

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

Speak to people who have the role that you would like to see yourself in the near future, understand your strengths and develop the skills you need to work towards that position. Ask questions, reach out and establish the support system you need to get into the broad sector. 

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

My Grandfather was my inspiration, motivation and influenced my life in many ways. He was an electrical engineer and worked on major infrastructure projects across Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He did not go to university, however, he was a testament of hard work, resilience and determination.

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