Coke cans and couture: designer Sonya Vajifdar’s latest collections

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For her latest collections, Organic Interlink and Real Royalty, Mumbai-based designer Sonya Vajifdar has used everything from Coke cans, X-ray paper to mobile phone wires

An Instagram search for #Sustainability will get you a figure with a mind-boggling number of zeros. The ‘ecofashion’ hashtag will get you many more.

To be environmentally conscious is fashionable, especially in the fashionindustry, and designer Sonya Vajifdar’s collections — Organic Interlink (November) and Real Royalty (December) — strike a balance between style and sustenance.

With a degree from Istituto Europeo de Design in Milan, Vajifdar was India’s first designer to launch a rainwear collection back in 2010. This time around, she has taken inspiration from eco-friendly and affordable luxury.

Apart from naturally-dyed fabrics and recycled plastic, she has transformed metal waste into striking embroidery and embellishments for her collections.

Excerpts from a chat:

What is the inspiration behind the collections?

I started practising Buddhism a while ago, which made me very aware of the environment. Today, fashion has become the second largest polluting industry in the world, after oil. Mass production and cheap labour have been utilised to a point where the planet is suffering. Organic Interlink was my initial attempt as a designer to put a stop to that. Each garment connects with the other; the handmade weave of organic fabrics that we have used symbolises the union of fashion and sustainability. One huge misconception is that such fashion is not fashionable and limited to the genre of yoga wear or lounge wear. I am trying to break away from this myth.

You’ve used some interesting materials in your collections.

Innovation is imperative in design and I feel that the more I can push myself as a designer, the more value I can create. From soda cans and X-ray paper to mobile phone wires, I have tried to recycle everything I could get my hands on to create this collection of tops and dresses. I have also used 3D flowers made with organic fabric.

How would you describe the outfits?

Organic Interlink has readymade outfits and a few that can be made-to-order. Woven fabrics are the highlights of the shirts whereas the A-line dresses are knee-length and embroidered. I have continued working with these materials in my latest collection, Real Royalty, which comprises heavier gowns and dresses. These are primarily cut-out gowns with drapes and trails on the skirts.

What are some of the challenges you have faced while working on a sustainable luxury collection?

Working with these unique materials was the biggest challenge. We had to open up Coke cans and punch holes in them to create sequins. We did the same with X-ray paper and even used mobile phone wires as threads in the embroidery to create 3D flowers and leaves. This required a lot of experiments, but to end up with a product where no one can tell that we have used recyclable products has been very rewarding.

As a young designer, how can you get the present generation to feel strongly about the cause?

Our brand has started a campaign called Know Your Source, where bloggers worldwide are doing their part to change the way people think about fashion. We work with influencers who have adopted a sustainable lifestyle, be it in fashion or otherwise, and share videos about where their clothes come from, who makes them, lifestyle changes, etc. The idea is to spread awareness among people and the ongoing campaign goes beyond just clothes to embrace people, brands and ideas that promote environment-friendly living.

A designer who inspires you?

Stella McCartney, without a doubt. Her beautiful collections have always been a source of inspiration for me. People Tree is another brand that I believe does amazing work in this space.