On my blog I love promoting brands that I have discovered from all over the world, that are driven with a purpose and passion for creating sustainable handmade products. So when I discovered Almirah, a mother/daughter created business based in Delhi, India I wanted to learn more about their passion for patchwork, recycling and creating a line of kids clothing from ages 0-12.
Almirah – What inspired you to start Almirah?
Almirah was born on a slow summer afternoon, on our verandah in New Delhi over endless cups of Chai (tea) and conversations my mother and I had been having for years. There was, at the time, a massive change happening in India with a huge influx of foreign brands in the market and we felt a need to establish a balance between commercial, handmade and fashionable wear for children.
We wanted to create an Indian brand for Indians away from the mass-produced. They need to be an active participant in society is what made us choose design as a medium and create Almirah: a world of Indian design, fabrics and techniques.
One of my early inspirations was a quote by a fashion designer called Bibi Russell who says, “fashion is a culture… and creative people have a lot to give people”. Fashion and design has a political and social element as well that can be used to drive sustainability, slow fashion as an alternative to what exists in the market. India is laden with history in terms of its richness in textiles, culture and at Almirah we try to bring all of this (and a whole lot more) to the fore, through our products and work. We focus on the nostalgia of handmade, motifs and techniques that face the threat of getting left behind in an increasingly mass-produced and mechanised fashion industry.
2. Do you make everything on site? Are the items mass-produced, or are they created solely on-site, and kept in small batches? The video you provided it looks like everything is made on site, where do you get your materials from? Is everything locally sourced?
We work out of a design studio and manufacturing unit in New Delhi, and use our farm only to design and find inspiration. Having said that, the video is a feeler of the processes involved in making our clothes and give our customers a sneaky little peek into the efforts involved in creating our products.
All our articles are made in small batches and are locally sourced from India. We collect and source materials from our travels across the country to find new and innovative ways to create garments. Over the past five years, the Almirah family has collaborated with over 200 artisans, weavers, toy makers to manufacture everything from bedding, to clothes, toys, bags and even jewellery. To put things in some perspective, we haven’t ever had a sale – that’s how small-scale we are in terms of production and design.
We try to maintain the timelessness of our motifs and silhouettes which are very different from a model that focuses on mass production and invoking fast fashion values. We strongly believe in inculcating values of timelessness, Indian craft and sustainability even to our little customers and are focused on creating a revolution, one dress at a time, even if it is slow.
3. You use recycled materials? Where do get your materials from?
Recycling is at the core of our brand philosophy; in fact when our parent company Flying Geese Quilts started we were making patchwork quilts with leftover fabric. Some of our signature products like toys, bunting, limited edition of jewellery and accessories are recycled and even up-cycled to make sure we waste less and spread more goodness.
Our retail stores and studio also translate that philosophy which is evident in our furniture and interior design elements: old embroidery machines have been recycled into cash desks and sewing machine tables to work on. We have even made door handles from old machine parts, scissors, door frames and quilting bases as well as hangers which are made out of leftover fabric and scraps.
4. What does eco-friendly mean to you? How is your business model helping to shape the way others are doing business in and around your area in India? Is it difficult to instill these practices in India? Do any type of regulations make this practice difficult?
Through our fabric we have been championing green fashion since 2011. To us, eco-friendly means green fashion, fashion that doesn’t hurt the environment. Through our fabrics we are taking the world back to a time when India manufactured and wore handmade, sustainable and timeless clothes. Rome wasn’t built-in a day and we are aware of the fact that while the slow fashion revolution is picking up pace unhurriedly, we are confident that an eco-conscious outlook towards clothing will bring into its fold a lot more eco warriors like us.
While our business model is firmly rooted in retail (through our stores and online shop) we have worked hard to grow this model by collaborating with over 200 artisans from across the country to cover different fields such as dying, printing, shoe making, jewellery making and weaving. Over the years, we’ve seen many Indian artists and designers incorporate an eco conscious sensibility into their arts and crafts. Just like a domino effect, we will see many more over the next couple of years, join the fold and incorporate an eco-conscious sensibility into their collections.
It won’t be difficult instilling these practices into India’s best designers, because inherently we are a country proud of using natural fabric. Until synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon became popular, virtually all our clothes were made of natural materials like wool, cotton, silk and line (including the thread that we use is also cotton). Having said that, terms eco-friendly and sustainable fashion are still new to an India customer (primarily because of the lure of high street fashion) and they have to be educated about the benefits of using natural fabric. Natural fabric is comfortable, resistant, dewy on the skin and does not lack longevity. Through Almirah we trying to inculcate these very values, build awareness and bring them to the forefront.
While the Indian government has done a lot over the last decade from reforms in the textile industry, creating clusters in villages and promoting hand-woven fabric, what has been significant is the rise of a startup culture. It has given an impetus to young entrepreneurs to come together, encouraged independent labels to take the plunge and brought to the fore small-medium businesses like ours. However, with FDI (foreign direct investment) and investments in the retail space many more international brands will continue to make inroads into India and in such an environment businesses like ours will have to continue to be lean and innovate to stay ahead.
5. Will you be selling your products in stores in the US? Will you be able to purchase the items on site for shipment to the US? What is the price point in US dollars?
Almirah hit the American wardrobe 4 years ago and are today present across 20 states in the US. We sell to boutiques and this model has worked incredibly well for us. Having recently set up our website we will soon start shipping – globally, and not just to the US. Our price points vary from $20 to $150 and we sell an array of things to the US market – a mix of Indian and western clothes, bedding and accessories for children from 0-12 years of age.
To learn more about Almirah and their process of making handmade clothing check out their video below.
Please visit their website here for additional information, and to purchase products: https://www.thealmirah.com/about