With growing awareness about the ‘beautiful face but ugly heart’ of the fashion industry, seemingly all players – from big brands to small design houses – are making the effort to move towards a more ethical and sustainable fashion world.
And then there are brands like LataSita that promote zero waste and ethical fashion from the word go. Founded in 2012, this studio has always been a fierce supporter of some of the most important values in an ethical fashion industry – closed loop production, ethical working conditions and minimum wages, intensive waste management practices, recycling and donating.
Of course, behind every conscious brand is a person who believes that they can be the change they want to see in the world. Meghna Nayak – Founder of LataSita is no different! A journalist in her previous avataar, Meghna decided to become a part of the fashion world once she became aware of the ‘exploitative and cruel methods practiced in sweatshops as well as the staggering amount of pollution created by the industry.’ In her words, she realised that ‘writing about what people should do was less satisfying than actually doing it myself’ and decided to take the plunge as a designer to get firsthand experience of what it takes to set up and run an ethical business.
Based out of Kolkata in India, Meghna’s designs have a global appeal with LataSita exhibiting in Taiwan, Stockholm, England, Kenya, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India. She and her small team of 3 in-house tailors work their magic to create garments for their two lines: prêt and custom. For the custom collection, she runs a ‘Send Us Your Saree’ project wherein women are encouraged to bring their old sarees or six yards of memory which she then converts into modern and stylish garments best suited for the client. Ask her about online sales, and she says “I’m a huge believer of IRL – in real life. I like people to be able to touch, feel and try my pieces” and the truth is most of her pieces sell out at exhibitions or directly from her studio. However, the Covid19 lockdown phases ensured that you can access her garments from the safety of your home. (WhatsApp Meghna at+91 9830351333.)
One of the plus points about Meghna’s clothes is her source of fabric as she primarily works with rescued textiles- be it sarees, curtains, bedsheets, old clothes or even fabrics used in tents! In her early days, she created garments using her grandmother’s old sarees that were carefully tucked away in her mother’s wardrobe; she realised that not only is this an untapped source of gorgeous woven material, it also creates an emotional connection with the new clothes. As she puts it, ” In using the upcycled sarees, I found something that not only had a charming sense of newness and nostalgia, but the smallest carbon footprint and its ethical credentials intact.”
If garments could tell their story, let’s hear what these 5 fabulous creations have to say about them being eco friendly and stylish.
The Reversible Kimono Trench
This signature garment is made using heavy and ornate sarees as their fabric lends themselves to be designed into jackets. As the kimono is reversible, each has 2 contrasting sides for 2 very different looks and can be styled in at least 4 ways if not more. To ensure that it keeps one warm, the garment has anywhere between 2 to 8 inner layers painstakingly created by joining fabric scraps – tiny pieces of cloth that are collected and kept to be reused instead of being thrown away. Meghna says, “I actually paid movers and packers to shift over twenty big bundles of these scrap material cuttings when I shifted studio because I did not want to throw them away!” Well, they’ve been put to good use in creating this signature piece that definitely makes an impact!
The overlay is the perfect ‘cover up’ to convert the relaxed casual look into smart casuals. A light outerwear piece, this is made in several cuts using a different category of sarees – the thin handloom cotton sarees that are transparent as well as delicate. “I used to get a lot of these and I realised that I had to create a garment that didn’t have too many stress points. Plus I wanted to highlight the weave and motifs on this fabric, so I created the overlay – I call it my cheat outfit!” says Meghna. It is loved by women of all ages and across the world as it goes with almost any outfit and it has a slimming effect too!
The ‘Pujo Pandal’ Hoodie
For those unfamiliar with the term ‘pujo pandal’, it is a large tent-like structure created for a festival in honour of Goddess Durga. Here’s a sneak peak to get a sense of the grandeur of these structures that are erected annually in every lane in Kolkata, India.
The fabrics used to make these hoodies were sourced from one such ‘pujo pandal’ ensuring that they get a new lease of life instead of just being dumped. Keeping in mind that a hoodie needs to be warm, Meghna used the best pieces of pujo pandal fabric for the top 3 layers and the inner 5 layers were made using fabric from rescued curtains and bed sheets – creating 8 layers of natural insulation. “The best part of using this rescued fabric is the softness as it has been washed so many times; this is a softness that money can never buy – only time can.” adds Meghna
The Let’s Playsuit and Saree Pants
To make these, Meghna uses what she likes to call her ‘ugly saree series’ – mixed fabric sarees that were extremely popular in the 70s or 80s with printed designs. While no one would be caught dead wearing one today unless for an era themed party, these sarees do lend themselves to being converted into more modern outfits. Being a synthetic mixed material, it is strong and it falls well – nice flowy pants or playsuits for everyday wear.
The Bow Tie
The men need not feel left out – she has something special for them too! Ironically, the most ‘delicious parts’ of a saree are saved to create the bowties. They have an adjustable cloth band with a wooden button – no plastic, metal or elastic is used! (PS: The women love it too!)
Connect with LataSita
Are you a conscious fashionista who’d like to know more about LataSita and their work? You can see some of the work on their Instagram or Facebook Page. If you would like to get in touch to purchase from their latest pret collection, drop them a message on WhatsApp (+91 9830351333). Want to browse through their collection before you make up your mind? Sign up on their website to stay updated about their exhibitions, sales and new additions to the collections.
We at SG are headed off to explore their creations further as they make us and the environment happy!