Garments made using quality materials go a long way in protecting us and our environment from harm. Timeless and mindful fashion is the way forward as a sustainable practice, unlike fast fashion that eventually ends up in landfills. At IKKIVI Zine, we had an inspiring conversation with our designer Khyati Pande, founder of Itr by Khyati Pande, about her journey of building a sustainable brand and the creative process of making timeless apparel, and the challenges faced in the process.
How did your journey of creating conscious fashion begin?
The creative seed was genetic. As an introvert, visuals have always been my first language of communication. From summer holidays spent witnessing my grandmother draped in crisp Jamdani sarees, hand embroidering and home stitching home linens to inheriting my mother’s collection of timeless handloom silks and Banarasi fabrics, textiles have always been my point of fascination. These led to me pursuing my graduation from NIFT Mumbai and my master’s from NID Ahmedabad.
What does your everyday production process look like, and how does the label master its timeless style?
My design process is very organic. The starting point is always the textiles. With every new collection, we try to add a weave, cluster, or hand skill to the brand design vocabulary. These are shaped into timeless silhouettes, finished with finer details that don’t superimpose the human effort that has gone into handcrafting that piece of textile. These textiles are the basic building blocks of every collection. As a made-to-order brand, the production capacity is increased based on the organically growing demand. It has been slow but sustainable and stable growth, which doesn’t lead to overproducing or piles of dead stock.
How do you find and translate the phrase ‘comfort in chaos’ in making mindful apparel?
Itr is not a trend or season-specific brand. The idea is to craft stories because stories are timeless and transeasonal as they bring a sense of comfort and ease, just like our clothing.
The three top areas of our minimal and handcrafted essentials lie in:
Comfort: It should bring effortless ease to the wearer, whether the setting is home or work.
Textiles: The silhouette is designed keeping in mind the nature and character of that piece of fabric. To be mindful of resources, embrace the simplicity that doesn’t overshadow the skill and effort in crafting that one piece.
Functionality and Utility: The garment should have the ability to adapt according to the occasion, space, or time zones.
Can you tell us about the artisans you work with and how they have helped shape your vision of sustainability for your brand?
Every year we try to add a new craft cluster on board. Working with artisans comes with its own set of challenges, which is why I visit the cluster in person to understand the resources and scope of their skill set better. We usually begin with a small pilot sampling which helps build a rapport with the artisans and an understanding of the timelines.
Today we are working with three different clusters. 80% of the textiles we use at Itr are woven on handlooms, hand block printed, and hand embroidered. So far, we have been working with extremely fine and lightweight Bengal khadi muslins, airy Katan silks from Benaras, coarser cotton from Karnataka, and block prints from Rajasthan.
Whether it’s the hands involved at every step in making the brand or the women who have consistently made us a part of their wardrobe, it also matured us to be more compassionate towards each individual. As we grow slowly and mindfully, I hope we support more craft communities and reach out to more wardrobes.
What are the challenges you face in the process?
Itr started in 2014 without any blueprint. With a small budget in a room on the roof of my home with a team of two. Today we have grown into a cosy studio with a small but ever-growing in-house team of 15.Coming from a nonbusiness background, whether it was restricted capital or human resource, the brand has organically bloomed and learned to be self-sustained within the limitations. The humble beginnings taught me to be mindful, to have an immense amount of patience and empathy, and to be compassionate not just to the people who help us build our basics but also towards the people who have constantly made us a part of their wardrobes.
The brand has purely grown through word of mouth and positive consumer experience. It perhaps helped the brand hold its foundation even in current times.
What does the future of the label look like, and what would you like the future of fashion to look like?
Time is the true luxury now. To slow down is the need of the hour in every aspect, not just fashion alone. It is a conscious choice to grow towards being a mindful brand. To be sustainable in any field of work can’t be achieved in a day, it needs to be an everyday practice.
While it is often perceived that slow or sustainable comes with a heavy price tag, the cost is always a crucial point in conscious fashion. It is, however, never disproportionate to the time and effort that has gone into making that garment.
As a designer, I also believe that it is important to make handwoven handcrafted luxury more accessible. To truly bring change, it needs to be relatable to more people.
What is your process to design a collection? How has it changed over the years, if so?
Being a small brand built from scratch, one has a lot of emotions invested in everything you make. Every collection I have done has taught me something new, either about the trade itself or life.
What advice would you give to a young brand starting out in the sustainability space? And what is something you wish you knew before embarking on this journey as a designer?
It requires never-ending patience and being honest to yourself and the people you work with.
There is no rule book or defined method for building a brand/business. We all have our own unique journeys.