Dressing up for our planet

weaves-of-maheshwar600x400Aathira
NSoJ Bureau
The fashion sector is largely associated with notions of glamour and physical appearance and thus perceived to be shallow. A recent film festival at the National Institute of Fashion Technology in Bengaluru, however, trod a different path to merge style with the ideas of social responsibility and environmental consciousness. “GreenStitched Film Festival” was organized by Roshni Rajendra’s blogging endeavour GreenStitched in collaboration with NIFT. As the name suggests, the festival followed the theme of sustainable fashion. Nine documentaries were screened at the venue, which touched upon issues ranging from the viability of conventional cotton farming to establishing fair trade practices for the benefit of the workers in the clothing industry.

Meghna Gupta’s documentary titled, “Unravel” explores the practice of the unused clothes in the West finding its way into Panipat in India, where the clothes are recycled into yarn. The director focuses on the innocence of the garment workers who have never encountered anyone from foreign shores who wears the clothes handled by them on a daily basis. The women are amazed at the small size of the outfits and are under the impression that they are worn by “poor helpless” people. The film depicts the reality of the lives of factory workers, unaware and unchanged in spite of a constantly evolving world.

The cotton fields of Madhya Pradesh is central to Alexandra Cousteau’s “For the Love of Fashion” where she advocates the necessity of cultivating organic cotton. While pesticide-aided cotton is still the preferred option worldwide, Cousteau meets a few Indian farmers who have taken to organic cultivation to communicate its benefits. For instance, homegrown fertilizers rich in cow dung and spices can easily replace industry-manufactured pesticides. The practice not only eases the expenses borne by farmers but is also kinder to the environment.

“The Next Black” focuses on innovation and makes an attempt to familiarize the idea of “less is more” in the context of sustainability. The film encourages people to keep fewer outfits in their possession and give away unused ones for recycling. It also touches upon novel experiments such as dyeing methods which do not involve water.

Keya Vaswani and Nidhi Kamath’s “Weaves of Maheshwar” led them to the small town of Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh. Through a narrative of a cross-section of young and old weavers and entrepreneurs, the duo paint a positive picture of the Maheshwari tradition of saree-weaving, a heritage that continues to thrive amidst stories of a decline in the handloom sector. The practice of hand weaving, begun by Indore’s ruler Ahilyabai Holkar, is now carried forward by youngsters who have migrated from neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

“I want this to be a travelling film festival which will take place in different cities,” said Roshni Rajendra, the brain behind GreenStitched. NIFT assisted her with the infrastructure and workforce needed to ensure a smooth run. While the first edition of the festival was organized entirely on personal savings, GreenStitched hopes to crowd source funds for subsequent versions of the festival.

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