Mindfulness and Mental Health

Mindfulness and Mental Health

Learning to Get Through Holiday Season Blues

A peculiar reality many of us experience at different periods in our life, this time of the year can make us feel paralysed and despondent. A feeling state that can arrive at its own accord or be occasioned by our complex life circumstances, it is one that requires more care and concern to traverse, than we may be able to foresee. We’re sharing with you here our thoughts on what we hope can soften the pervasive form of holiday blues and extend to you support through its experience. 

1.Listening to our mind and body

The experience of the holiday season can be different for all of us, such that we may or may not share comparable needs or emotions as someone else who may be going through it as well. When experiencing the difficulties that come with feeling low, we urge you to try to spend some time with yourself and ask two questions – ‘what’ am i feeling?, and ‘what’ do I feel I need or would like, in this moment? The former allows us to identify, understand and acknowledge our feelings, as well as to sit with ourselves in honesty about where we are at. We, at IKKIVI, like to engage in this process by journaling or writing in a notebook, as writing feels personalising and cathartic to us, and creates a semi visual lens to go back to. The latter is a step further in recognising what our feelings can tell, or are telling us about our needs, and thinking through and moving toward meeting them.

  • Do you feel that at this time, you need to slow down and rest?

  • Do you want to say no to doing certain things and yes to doing some others?

  • Do you feel called to move your body, or read about and explore a particular subject?

  • Do you feel you need to grieve, or that you are grieving?

  • Do you think you would like someone to help you understand and navigate through what you are experiencing?

  • Is there something you need to, or want to, express?

  • Do you feel you need to, or would like to, be alone or have someone be with you for some time?

We think that asking ourselves these questions can prompt us in taking steps in a way that regards our individual experience for what it is, and become a reflective and viable tool through such a period.

2.Letting Ourselves Be

We think it is as valuable to let ourselves take a breather, consciously let go of any perfectionistic ideals of performance we may hold, grieve, rest, go deeply into our pain, do nothing and let ourselves wholly feel as we are feeling, as it is to try to ‘do’ what we feel (or know) can bring us ease. And often in the midst of our experience, it is possible that we may be unable to identify or understand our feelings and needs with clarity, or even know what we want. Giving ourselves a break and leaving our experiences of pain undefined and unanalysed for some time can inspire us to slow down, let things fall apart (if they naturally are), positively surrender to the polarities of life, perceive the inexplicability and randomness of some events, be gentle with ourselves and watch life unfold in its own ways, without appending any mental meanings to them for the time.

3.Asking for help 

A lot of times we are met with a feeling of hesitance or embarrassment when it comes to asking for help. But as initially discomforting as it can be, we think it’s important to ask for help, if we need it or would like another’s support. While our pain or past experiences can mistake us into believing that we would be burdening others or be rejected by them upon sharing our feelings, most often, our loved ones and friends will wholeheartedly want to be there for us in whatever ways they can and provide us comfort. At the same time, prolonged feelings of loneliness or melancholy may be a sign of depression. Meeting with a mental health professional who is committed to our well being and experienced with the many manifestations of depression can offer us insights, constructive inputs and resources that can help us work through our difficult feelings in a safe way when we find ourselves feeling persistently low, anxious or troubled. Leaning on others and letting them take care of us in a time of pain can open our hearts to new ways of doing things and ask fresh questions about what may be right and healthy for us to take up, as well as to leave. Going for talk therapy and counselling may also be a good step for any of us when we may be trying to get a little bit of guidance in working through our lives. We are hoping for this to be normalised and something that anybody feels comfortable and safe to opt for.

4.Cultivating a lifestyle suited to our values

Advertising, media, cultural norms, social practices, and idealistic systems can instill in us a feeling that we need to live by particular and pre-decided merits to be seen as a worthy, prosperous and useful member of society. We invite you to reflect on the values that align with and feel authentic to who you are, genuinely re-think if the desires you hold are yours or someone else’s, mindfully consume and question media content, create new traditions and routines for yourself, work at a pace that is harmonious with your natural energy and build an environment that nurtures your unique talents and desires. In our podcast Daily Routines to Inspire an Intentional Lifestyle, with artist and creative director Rhea Gupte, we further reimagine with her what building our own identity can look like, and how we can let go of things that don’t feel fulfilling, if you would like to listen to it.

NOTE: You can find here some worldwide and Indian mental health helplines, if you or someone you know may need some support.


Mindful Gifting


Creating Meaningful Experiences with Each Other

We love gifts! We love giving them, receiving them, hoping for them and being surprised by what we’d give to someone and what they’d give us. Over the years we have been practicing how to be mindful with gift giving, and understanding what that means to us. For us, gifting is about expressing joy, gratitude, and sharing.  Being mindful with it is about paying attention and becoming aware of the ways in which we give to someone, why we give, and when. Buying presents for someone (including ourselves) can bring up a variety of feelings – some of them pleasurable and some conflicting. Gifting can feel stressful when trying to select the “right” gift from a plethora of available options, the bombardment of advertisements at every billboard, cultural expectations and personal standards along with the uncertainty of whether the recipient of our present will appreciate what we give them. We’re sharing with you here what we have learnt, and hope that it can help make your experiences of gift giving novel and fun.

1. Think About How you Feel when Buying a Present for Someone.

In the IKKIVI team, we realise we tend to feel excited and more connected with the person we’re buying a gift for, when we genuinely and intentionally want to give our loved one or acquaintance a gift — whether it’s a handmade item, our love and presence, or a gift from a shop. When buying a gift for someone, we ask ourselves seven questions: a) Do I actually want to give them something? b) What are the things I know about the person I am going to buy a present for? c) Will they be able to enjoy the gift I give them? d) Does the gift I give to them have the potential to bring us closer and cultivate a more meaningful relationship? e) What can I do if I feel unsure about what to give? f) How much money can I, or would I like to spend on buying something for them? g) How am I feeling, and what would make the process of looking for and buying a present easeful for me, or, keep stress at a minimum? Asking ourselves these questions puts us in a space where we (have to) become more deliberate about what we are doing, and reflect on how truthfully we are able to and want to engage in gift giving. We encourage you to ask yourself similar questions or use prompts when buying something, as this can reduce anxieties and make the experience rewarding for you as well.

2.Personalise the Present

There are many beautiful things we can buy for someone, and often we try that our gift is one that can translate into a shared experience, create memories and be enjoyed over time. We like giving handwritten notes, gratitude jars, mindful card and board games (for us to all play together), journals, going for picnics or boat rides, surprising our friends or family by bringing them a meal they love, simply spending time with them and extending our help with something they may be struggling with a little. We feel that gifts don’t have to be costly to express care or celebrate an occasion and like finding ways that can bring some newness to our relationships. What are some experiences you think would be creative and gentle for you and the recipient of your gift?

3.Introduce them to Something New 

Gift giving can be a mindful way of introducing someone to an aspect of conscious living – buying a present from an eco-conscious shop, giving a gift card, a book from a different discipline, a new recipe or anything they may have been wanting to try. At IKKIVI, we have various gift cards that you can give to a loved one for them to explore sustainable brands, designs and products. Through these cards, we hope to encourage the conscious consumption of beautifully and mindfully made products that create minimal negative impact on the environment and its people. What we love about giving (and receiving!) gift cards is that they allow us to stay on budget, almost always assure that the recipient of our gift will love what they buy, and lets them freely and thoughtfully get something they may need or be looking for.




The Efficacy and Liberation of a Not-To-Do List

Today’s ‘hustle culture’ is very good at making us forget that we are mere mortals – it is about constantly being on the go, always over-performing and pushing our boundaries. From the second we wake up in the morning, we have a manual of instructions ready, a to-do list that is supposed to make us more efficient and outline our day. But more often than not, the efficacy is lost when we set ourselves up for disappointment each day with unattainable, humanly impossible goals, and we end up losing the very thing we are trying to catch – time. Every month or year is concluded with the same wonder of not knowing where it went.

A solution to this vexing catch-22 might lie in a revolution, or rather, an anti-revolution – a not-to-do list, which is based on the principle of subtraction. By eliminating tasks, it serves as the antithesis of a to-do list, questioning and classifying what is really important. It takes away the restrictions imposed by our rut every day and gives us the freedom to savour, and even, save time.

A not-to-do list may comprise of all the barriers to living a more fulfilling life – not checking your social media or work emails first thing in the morning.  Not giving so much time to screens. Not being absent in conversations, or even while carrying out the most mundane tasks. Not consuming so much processed food or alcohol. Not producing environmental waste. Not leaving our dirty dishes for later. Not buying anything for the day. Not worrying so much. Not staying up late or losing sleep. Not forcing feelings or motivation.

The list could also complement our to-do list – analyzing the things that did not work in the past can be put under the not-to-do list. This could be an important exercise in learning how to say ‘no’. The list could be endless and could consist of anything that enriches and adds value to our life. It is the act of letting go and acknowledging our existence as a human, and of finding beauty in small and all things, by slowing down and being more heedful. We need to allow ourselves to be more conscious and feel more. Even the most mundane tasks of everyday life carry immense beauty – to let ourselves feel all the flavours and textures in the wafts of our food, to feel the sun on our face or to observe the earth we walk on. Living slowly is also an act of reconnecting – with our surroundings, peers and most importantly, ourselves. By listening closely to what our bodies demand, be it more rest or more food, we are able to nourish and thank the body that carries us through it all. Gratitude has a certain grace about it – it establishes a mutually respectful relationship. A restoration of this relationship might be an urgent call, given the nature of our currently exhausting lifestyles.

Why is it that we allow ourselves a vacation to put our hair down only once or twice a year, when our current fast-paced lifestyle desperately demands rejuvenation a lot more? Paying more attention makes the second last longer and transform into mending minutes. It is also important to understand that slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean stopping; it solely implies stepping back, reassessing things and finding our own pace. By harmonizing ourselves with the rhythm of the earth and the flow of time, we might just be able to discover a new way of healing and feeling, and a more satisfying lifestyle.


Slow Living in Big Cities

Slow Living in Big Cities

Conversations on the Paradoxes of a City

Our lives revolve around urban cityscapes in a myriad of ways – as spaces of imagination, interaction and conflict, with every movement we make. Shaping the structures and discourses of a large part of our contemporary life, cities have growingly become the proverbial thread that links us to – and often separates us from – ourselves. With all their eminence and bustle, cities present us with a seemingly contradictory question – can we really practice slow living in big cities? At IKKIVI, we spoke with a few artists to understand how they think of the city, their engagements and quarrels with its guises and whether it can become a meaningful conduit to live more consciously and slowly.


1.Your photography centres greatly on the ‘city’. Could you tell us a little about what the ‘city’ signifies for you, and how you would define it?

To me, the city is its light hum – the movement of vehicles, infuriating and consistent drilling noises from an ever-present construction site, rain befalling noisy roofs, three languages in one address. To me, the city is the sound and feeling of something in the works, of constant company and the people, stories and futures the audible movement of a city reminds us of. It moonlights as a fast paced life, but I feel so much is germinating – taking its time to come up. The city to me, primarily, is one that is constantly becoming. It is never quite complete and thus unsteady on borders – I find that very comforting, to think of a city that is yet to find out what becomes of it, much like most of its inhabitants.

 2. Your pictures have a particular nuance to them – as though you have intentionally photographed a scene mid movement. In what ways would you say your photography has a ‘slow’ character to it? 

It is photographing the city ‘becoming’ that is the fundamental essence of my documentation of it – most things I photograph seem incomplete. Which is why, almost as if by muscle memory, my frames seem to often have fragments of ‘another’ (person, object), or elements (people, spaces, contexts) in conversation with each other. It is like walking into a conversation mid-way,

you caught the last few words and it is photographing the articulation of what that moment would be, that is the feeling I document with. I like to photograph different portraits of what a slow city would look like – a cat lazily stretched into a snooze on a triple storeyed concrete landing canopied above with dusty, swaying trees, how sunlight makes different afternoons in different cities, how trees and plants consume the skeletons of concrete (old) buildings. I like to pause and indulge in collecting characters of the city that are forgotten on a hot, busy day in the city.

And while the city may be fast paced, it is an immersive experience in itself. It is precisely how consuming and demanding the city can be that prompts me to stop and find its various resting corners. Urban living is such a multi-dimensional phenomenon, but it is precisely that relentless integration of differences that makes me want to untangle it in my own language. It is a slow process, I’m only starting now. It makes me want to understand urban living beyond consumption, and as immersion – the latter being more purposeful in seeking, rather than aggressively consuming.


3. In what manner does your work interconnect with ‘slow living’? What was your intention behind starting ‘Slow Living LDN’? 

Slow Living LDN began as a personal project while living in London. I realised I wasn’t prioritising my well-being or other things that were important to me, aside from my career. I remember looking around at all the other tired-faced commuters and thinking, “I can’t be the only one who feels like this.” I started researching slow living for myself, but also wanted to share this way of living with others. Today, Slow Living LDN aims to inspire others to live more consciously, both for their own sense of well-being, and that of the planet.

4. What kind of growth or insights has the platform and your work inspired in your life, and in your vision of it?

Embracing slow living has helped me understand that always being ‘on’, busy or productive doesn’t equal success and it definitely doesn’t equal good health. Our lives are always in flux, and sometimes we’ll feel like we’re living in tune with our values and at other times, we’ll feel so far from that. So, I don’t believe in the concept of work-life balance, as it assumes work is not part of life, and that a perfect balance is attainable – it’s not.  I’ve also been reminded of the importance of nature for our well-being and how I find joy in living seasonally, and how this also helps me strive to live more sustainably, too.


5. Your art concentrates deeply on contemplative and slow living. Could you tell us a little about what these terms and ideas mean for you? 

I love the definition of contemplation that I heard once, “a long, loving look.” For me, contemplation means that I am spending quiet time going deep within myself, deep within the world and deep within my art which brings back up to the surface such beautiful gifts that emerge as poetry, as stitching, as insights, as healing. I used to live a very fast paced life, always rushing around doing many things at once which left me constantly exhausted. Slow living has been a return to the natural pace and rhythm of my body and the way that we as humans were designed, to be deeply connected to nature and the pace it follows.

6.  The pace of life in big cities often provide(s) quite a contrast to mindful, immersive practices such as with your art. What role and influence have city and urban living played in your draw toward these practices? 

I have lived in cities for most of my adult life. I love the vibrancy, diversity and energy of cities. There is so much life happening within them. When I was living in Brooklyn, New York and working in Midtown Manhattan, I found myself craving something I couldn’t put my finger on. One day I decided to try making cyanotypes (also known as sun prints) on the roof of my apartment building. I walked along the sidewalk and picked bits of grass and leaves and experimented with making prints of them with the sun. I found myself coming alive in a new way through that experience. I felt like I was returning to a relationship with nature that I was forgetting by being surrounded by concrete and tall buildings, by commuting long hours on the subway and by working in an office with no windows or natural light. This art practice made me feel like I could breathe again. The role of the city was essential in that awakening because it was through the experience of suffering and feeling a deep longing for something, that I found a great peace within the art practice of collaborating with the sun and with the plants right in the middle of the city. I think having the experiences of living in cities has helped me feel intimately how much my soul longs for the trees and the sky, to hear the birds and the sound of my own inner silence.


7. What comes to your mind when you think of ‘slow living’?  

I believe slow living is about being more thoughtful and mindful. It’s not about doing everything slowly but rather at the right pace. Sometimes you need a slow walk on the beach, other days the body craves a run through the woods. It’s about letting things take the time that it needs and enjoying the process, not just the final result. Slow living as a concept was born from the slow cooking culture in south of italy where I have my roots so that’s a natural state of mind I have. We all love a sugo that has simmered for hours and that’s something you can apply to many aspects of life.

And it might sound cliché but by not rushing through life you learn to savor it. I have practiced so much in being in the present that I now am a complete ”here and now person” it has made me realize how precious life is and that we never will experience this very moment again so I inhale life as much as I can

8. Do you think such conscious or slow living practices are sustainable in big cities? What do you think we as common folk can do to connect more deeply with this lifestyle within the cities that we live in? 

The city is full of things that go very well with a mindful and slow living lifestyle. Sitting at a cafe looking at people or reading a book, walking in parks, going to old bookstores or antique shops. And not to forget museums and art exhibitions. These are all favorites of mine and I wouldn’t wanna be without them. Slow living isn’t so much about where you live but more a question of mindset.


9. Do you think ‘slow living in big cities’ is a contradiction?

The idea that living a sustainable, slow, mindful life is only possible in a rural setting largely comes from Instagram and all the image-crafting that takes place there. I firmly believe that any one of us can choose to live a conscious, green life regardless of where we are based, city or country! Cities are not going anywhere, and they are an environment in which vast swathes of humanity exist. It may feel counterintuitive, but life in a city – even a big one – can be just as sustainable if you continue to make the right choices. You can do things such as grow a patch of wildflowers for bees if you have a garden or even a windowsill in the city. You can pack your lunch, bring your own cutlery, or your reusable cup, and refill your water bottle. You can grow herbs for your cooking instead of always buying them in plastic, even if, again, all you have is a windowsill. You can be mindful of how many times you wear an item of clothing before washing it. The hustle and bustle of a big city cannot be an excuse to hide from the work towards better choices.

10. Beginning with mindful, conscious practices or activities (can) sometimes feel overwhelming, as there is much that can be done. Where do you feel may be a good place to start, for those who would like to welcome these practices in different forms in their own life?

I think that one of the reasons that people who live in a fast-paced, urban setting often find it harder to engage with more slow, mindful practices in their beauty or self-care routine, is because being busy becomes your default state. It is easy to be always on the go, especially if you don’t see much nature in your day-to-day life. We need to make time to slow down and notice things around, but it’s not impossible! If it feels overwhelming, or like it is yet another chore, I would suggest starting small. Commit to one positive mindful change, whatever calls to you the most. It can be switching to a bamboo toothbrush or meditating for five minutes in the morning. It can be committing to using up to what you already have in your bathroom and not buying more products on a whim. Anything to get you in the right mindset! Commit to that change for one month. Next month, add another small change and keep building towards a better lifestyle.

The five wonderful women we interviewed here are Nilanjana Bhattacharjee, Emma Freeman, Tanya Kuznetsova, Lina Paciello and Beth Crane and all images in this article are by them.


Disrupting the Status Quo

Disrupting the Status Quo

Conversations on Tackling the Problem of Size Inclusivity in the Fashion Industry 

The fashion industry has long run an ill fated discourse of excluding a mass of its prospective audience from its consumption – people with larger and diverse body types. Gripped by and in many discriminative and cultural practices, the normative fashion system has affected scores of us, objectifying and reducing us to little more than our bodies. As we at IKKIVI work to create changes around the politics of dress and the body, we spoke with six women from all over the world who are challenging the fashion business in influential ways and trailblazing powerful conversations on the subject, showcasing the urgency to look into contemporary models and issues that impact us at grassroot levels.


It opens up a space to have these conversations. Tokenism needs to end, while the influence helps the brand gain clout by showing their audience the ‘inclusive’ tag- it means nothing if what is portrayed is not put into practice. If you notice, there is a certain type of plus-size that is celebrated, an inch more than that not so much. The audience is a lot more accepting now than it was in the past of people that do not look like what was once considered ‘conventional’. People that pay for these clothes want to see models who look like them. The change needs to start from the root level to the highest authorities. When people in power and in charge are stern about what they truly stand for, the ones that work for them have no option but to follow. Associating & collaborating with diverse size inclusive brands might help change perspective on how to interact better or remove the prejudice towards larger clients but there is so much more work to be done to cater to such a diverse set of audience. To stem size inclusivity into one bracket might be misleading because there is such a diverse range of bodies to cater to.

An area where I have seen progress for people of our sizes is to have tailored options. There are a lot of brands that have options on the rack and others that will do it specifically to cater to the individual’s style and body. A lot of brands still do not carry anything above an L size and it is inexplicable but I do think there is a shift between how insensitive people would be about mocking individuals of a larger size, it is unacceptable and people who might not even have the same concerns are a lot more sensitive about how to talk about it. The trolls are always going to be around, instead of being one of them, being an ally helps to make a difference.

I stayed quiet about the ‘fat tax’ for too long. I am certainly guilty of paying for it in the past as well. I would want a piece no matter what and then I would be charged extra for wanting it in my size. I think there is a form of shaming involved here; you are a bigger size, your clothes need extra fabric, hence more labour hours, etc. You would not charge someone less for a smaller size if that was truly the logic being stated. For most brands/design houses the markup is usually good enough to not charge you extra. Brands, designers and fashion houses must be called out by their consumers and audience when they show discrimination. I think that is the only way. When you cannot profit off of shaming people for the size of their bodies or how they look, it makes a huge impact & that might be just the start of the change needed for this problem to be solved.


I am 25 and I have only been fat for around 4 years. It’s funny to think that the experience I have in shopping as a plus size person is much better than it would have been in the past since it is so bad! I presume that the new advances in sizing are mostly to do with the fact that the majority of women in both the UK and US are what would be considered plus size, but it’s hard to stomach just how ill-equipped the fashion world is for the needs of this majority. It often feels like these advances have been just incredibly unwillingly made and it consistently shocks me how little businesses seem to care for the huge amount of profit they are missing out on but many businesses truly do not see fat people as their audience. I think social media has given us power to connect and act and attempt to fight for change, it also gives people regular access to contact businesses directly and repeatedly. Any advances we are having in this area are down to the tireless work of fat activists who have had to constantly educate and push and risk their own mental wellbeing for progress. Apart from being such a small proportion of businesses providing for any extended sizes, the ones that do, have a hard limit on how big they are willing to go. A lot of this is because willingness to listen is only extended to fat people that are considered ‘palatable’, ie: those with hourglass figures, thin faces, and, of course, less fat- essentially leaving fatter people out in the cold. People are remarkably good at forgetting the people who are less privileged than themselves, even those who think of themselves as radical. We need to not just be listening to fat people, but the fattest people, and within that group we need to prioritise those who sit at other intersections, i.e. race, disability, and gender and sexuality. Disabled activist group Sins Invalid say that disability justice cannot be enacted without ‘leadership of the most impacted’ and I truly believe that applies to all areas when trying to create a more equal world. While we are seeing fashion make progress, we are not yet seeing what I would call visions of true ‘fashion justice’ that include fat people and the fattest people.

I think the biggest direct impact my work has had is in helping individuals break out of the cycle of self hatred, people who are fat are taught to be their own bully, to push themselves into unhealthy mindsets and lifestyles, to think that they are undeserving of kind thoughts towards themselves. Over the years I have had many messages from people saying that the way I speak, learn openly, and present myself has given them more patience for themselves and their bodies and for that I am incredibly grateful and proud. When you spend a lot of your time exhausted and advocating for change with very little visible change it is wonderful to remember that to make even one person feel safer in themselves is an incredible impact. I don’t like to claim that my work has been the direct cause of bigger things like businesses extending their sizing but I do know a lot of fashion business owners follow me and I’d like to think that I’ve been a part of influencing some of these more widespread changes as well. I think seeing a fat girl be hot and stylish and confident without playing into the tropes of what fat women are expected to be in order to earn social desirability is an undervalued thing that truly does have a huge amount of power alongside other forms of activism.

In my opinion the two biggest drivers of modern anti-fat bias are racism and ableist classism. As I learned more about intersectional struggles and their history it became extremely clear that anti blackness plays a significant part in fatphobia, after this realisation I went on to read Sabrina Strings’ excellent book on exactly this theme called ‘Fearing the Black Body’ which is an incredibly useful, clear outline of how historical white ‘race science’ and the white religious and medical communities throughout colonial history have colluded to make fatness synonymous with both blackness and moral and physical inferiority, I think a difficult pill to swallow for the modern person is how much of our thinking is still based heavily around the made up, unresearched, and unproven ideas that evil rich, white, colonialist men had about who they deemed desirable. In a capitalist society we cannot get away from classism and the idea that those who are unable to make lots of money have no value, so many assumptions are made about the ‘health’ of fat people and implicitly, their ability to work and generate capital which of course produces a system in which fat people find it harder to obtain employment and earn lower on average. While many fat people are actually ‘healthy’, the problem doesn’t actually lie in whether or not they are, it’s in valuing people based on their potential for profit. In a society that sees fat people as worthless, moral failures, emphasis is placed on changing fat people into thin people rather than providing for them to have full and beautiful lives living in whatever bodies they have at the time. I believe this is a large part of the root of not making plus size fashion readily available. A lot of fat activists talk about the idea that a fat body is always considered temporary, so why provide nice things to someone who surely won’t look like this much longer? These are the attitudes we are up against. And the lack of investment in fat people having careers in fashion spaces is absolutely shocking. I have almost never come across fat people working in mainstream fashion and when they do it is often working on clothes that will never fit them. In fashion courses there is a distinct lack of fat students and absolutely no teaching in that area in the majority of schools. The lack of fat people in any part of the design process is so apparent in the way things are graded, fitted, styled, and fabricated and as a fat consumer I found that the only way I started getting clothes that properly fit me was by becoming an expert myself. I have had to learn a wild amount of information on construction and fit, knowing which measurements to look out for, learning to avoid any brand without a comprehensive sizing chart, learning to spot tell tale drag lines on models’ clothing in shoots that shows that the fit is not as good in real life, learning how to make my own adjustments to ill fitting clothes, and learning which types of pieces are not worth investing in without getting a chance to try them on. In shopping for my own needs and learning to make my own where shopping has failed me, I have learned enough to become a professional fit consultant and that should absolutely not have to be the case to be a consumer. In terms of shopping in person, I do not have options. There are 3 shops on my local high street that stock my size, all of which I would not want to visit due to style and ethical concerns. Because of this I only shop online and usually only with small businesses who I can give sizing feedback to which is often unpaid labour. I have seen a lot of smaller brands around me increase their sizing to my size and no bigger, which is disheartening because it lets me know that as soon as life throws body changes at me again I will be back where I started.


I’m constantly surprised by the type of people who feel impacted by me just living my life. It’s such a strange concept for even average sized girls, teens and even older accomplished women to see a girl my size celebrate her body and play with fashion. I’m amazed that it’s not just the plus-sized girls. It’s everyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in their body that finds some positivity on my page. It brings me so much joy to help people see themselves in a new light. And it also drives me to unapologetically express myself, be kinder to myself and share my insecurities with my beautiful community.

I think it’s important to understand that curvy bodies are shaped differently and need a more detailed understanding when creating the perfect fit for them. It’s not just about scaling the size, but also adapting a silhouette to drape the body better. I think designers need to work with a fit model to adapt better designs that don’t simply “hide the fat” but celebrate the curves.

I really like what you’re doing at IKKIVI. It’s delightful to shop on a website without that looming fear of size rejection! I think it’s important to shoot on diverse body types to see how an outfit looks on different sizes. Curvy girls find it impossible to find quality basics that are so easy for straight sizes. It’s a good category to look into. T-shirts, shorts, shirts, LBD, pants, blazers… I think sizing is such a variable when it comes to Indian designers. A standard size chart would be ideal!


I started my blog because Australian plus-size women weren’t being catered to by Australian brands and I wanted to provide personal reviews for people who were unsure about whether to take a gamble on the few International brands who were doing plus sizes. After a while I started to receive emails and messages from women thanking me, and I realised that simply being a visibly fat person in the public sphere was giving others the confidence to stop hiding themselves, and to try styles they hadn’t thought would suit them because they’d just never seen other fat bodies wearing them. My mum once described my blog as a “place for people learning how to make friends with their bodies” which I love.

There’s still issues around the representation of broader inclusivity. We’re seeing plus-size women in advertising and the media, but they’re predominantly white, young, and able bodied. There’s also a strong bias towards ultra-femme styles, which often excludes people who are queer, non-binary, trans, or aren’t comfortable with their bodies being reduced to a conglomeration of boobs-waist-hips. Plus size fashion is still fairly homogeneous. It’s full skirts and dresses, floral prints and polka dots. The trends are often several seasons behind, and they outstay their welcome. There’s also the issue that many brands have been dragged kicking and screaming into size inclusivity and it shows: They don’t offer everything in extended sizes, they add unnecessary embellishment to the “plus size” versions of things, they don’t show plus size women in their social media or advertising, and even if they have bricks-and-mortar shops they almost always make their plus sizes ranges online only. It’s like plus size women are being told “we want your money, but we don’t want to have to actually see you in our shops”. In addition to that, in the past it’s been virtually impossible to find plus-size fashion that is made well, from premium quality materials, or even natural fibers like silk, cotton, and linen. Where the positive change is happening is with small, independent designers and labels. They’re the ones with inclusive size ranges, more interesting cuts and designs, and more quality materials. FINDING those brands is the hard part though, which is why over the past few years my focus has really narrowed in on promoting small, independent labels.

Simply adding centimeters to seams is a lazy way of increasing size ranges, and it results in poorly fitting clothing that fit in some places and not in others. The hems are too long, the sleeves are too baggy, the necklines are too wide. Bodies come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and for a good plus size fit you usually need to start with a new block. As a plus size woman I’m more likely to trust that a plus size designer will understand the needs of my body, but at the very least I would hope that any designer looking to expand their size range would enlist a plus-size fitting model to ensure that their sizes sat properly on a human body. IKKIVI’s custom-make option – where you provide your own measurements – is amazing, and increasingly I won’t buy online from a business that doesn’t offer the same unless I know from experience that I can trust their size chart.


The shift that we see in recent years is because of the awareness generated by various mental health platforms and vocal people in India. People who understand the nuances and the consequences of imposing a linear mindset onto something as subjective as dressing. It’s through their own lived experiences that people understand the drastic effects of aspiring for a particular body type. The idea of absolutism is redundant since the more we understand body types and style choices of people, the more we understand how personal fashion is. So the collective experiences of people in their personal struggles of fashion, style as well as expression has given activists and designers a much needed push to bring about this level of normalcy in the fraternity and the larger population. Something that still remains unsaid, or I would like to say less explored, is making this more widespread at the grassroot level or making size inclusivity more acceptable in highly competitive areas of work. Especially having an understanding of size inclusivity in the early years of fashion education and creative fields would be beneficial. Also having a deeper understanding of body types and a clear distinction between healthy living and the extreme levels of fitness to fit body types are some things that need more executive action amongst the general population.

What’s considered fashionable, trendy clothing for leaner people is rarely acceptable for fat people. Any fat person with even a bare interest in fashion knows this has always been the case. Thin women in tight clothes are probably empowered;  fat women in tight clothing are criticized for being overly sexual. The only development that I see is how people are becoming a little conscious and respectful towards individualistic choices.

Mid and plus sized clothes have always been very difficult  to find. The market has never been exactly what people think of when it comes to fashion, glamour, and trendy clothing. It barely allows women to look sexy and fun. With garments being mostly made in a way to disguise the form of the body, it’s very difficult for us to accentuate our beauty. I’ve had terrible experiences when it comes to shopping for myself. For what I found sexy and chic, I’d end up pushing myself extremely hard to get in it.


My body has changed a lot over the last 8 years as I have been in recovery for an eating disorder. So for most of my life, it has been less about whether I can find clothes that fit me and more about finding clothing that I feel good and confident in. With more size inclusion happening in recent years, it has allowed me and so many other people to find clothes that fit our personal style and make us feel cute and hot no matter what our size is. Giving people more options to choose from at larger sizes is so important in helping to build a sense of personal style, which helps to build confidence and improve mental health.

Fit is so key for true size inclusion – no one wants to wear a garment that isn’t designed with their body in mind. Poor fit could mean gaping buttons over a chest, not enough room in a pair of pants so the waistband doesn’t sit straight, or pant legs that are graded too widely. No one wants to feel like their size was an afterthought, and it is often in these small fit details where that happens.

I have loved seeing how small brands enthusiastically prioritize plus sizes in their lines. It is so refreshing and encouraging to watch the brands that have made an effort in terms of size offerings, fit testing, marketing, and imagery really prove to everyone else how it can be done and how it can also be very profitable to do so. Plus size folks make up half the consumers in the US, yet have such a small fraction of options, and it’s refreshing to see brands realize this. It is also really wonderful to see brands make clothing in larger sizes that are also fun, trendy, and brightly colored.

The six beautiful women we interviewed here are –  Sobia Ameen, Lyndsey DeMarco, Spardha Malik, Diya Basu, Lilli Hingee and Lydia Morrow.


Everything You Need to Know About Microplastics

Everything You Need to Know About Microplastics

An overview of the science, intersectional social justice implications, and actionable items we can all use.

Microplastics are the invisible yet utterly omnipresent physical manifestation of petro-colonialism in the 21st century. Let’s unpack what that means through an intersectional lens and explore how we can mitigate and minimize their impacts.

The Basics

The scientific definition of a microplastic is a plastic particle which measures ≤5mm in diameter (so, about ½ a cm). A key understanding at the outset is that microplastics are literally everywhere — they’ve been found at the tops of the Himalayas, the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in every sampled body of water, in soils, in the arctic (I was there for that one), and, naturally, in our bodies.

The following describes what the lifecycle of a single microplastic might look like. There are many different types of plastics (PET, LDPE, HDPE, etc.) and subcategories of microplastics (fibers make up the overwhelming majority) but let’s focus on what most people think of when they hear ‘microplastic.’ Firstly, crude oil is extracted from the earth (99% of microplastics are made from fossil fuels) 1 , this oil is transported to various refineries to undergo various chemical refinements, and finally it is molded into a piece of macroplastic (let’s say, a plastic detergent bottle). Because the US only recycles 15% of waste, that detergent bottle will either disintegrate into microplastics in landfill, and/or be carried out to the nearest body of water. In either case, the bottle will become brittle from sunlight and break down into infinite tiny pieces. Those pieces will circulate the various systems of the earth, infiltrate the marine food chain, move through our bodies (humans consume a credit card worth of plastic per week), and possibly over time sink to the bottom of the ocean. 2

Exploring the Intersectional Impacts of Microplastics

I believe that microplastics impact everybody and every industry, which sounds scary but also means that everybody and every industry has access to solving the problem. The onus is very much on industry and politicians, but I include the everyday consumer in this equation because this is one of the few areas of the climate crisis where individuals’ consumption and political decisions have a potentially significant impact.

‘Wait, you said ‘climate crisis’ but we’re talking about microplastics.’ Yes, the plastic issue is the climate issue. Fossil fuel companies plan to ramp up plastic production by 40% as use for energy and transportation declines in the coming decades. 3

And where does most fossil fuel extraction happen? BIPOC communities, many of which are currently fighting plastics plants in their own backyards. For example, Sharon Lavigne is fighting the Formosa Plastics Plant in Cancer Alley, LA, and Pueblo Action Alliance is protecting sacred sites, like Chaco Canyon, from fracking development.

Microplastics are colonizing our bodies, just like they colonize every corner of the earth.4 Many of these fossil fuel extraction sites decimate water supplies for local communities, forcing them to rely on bottled water. Unfortunately, bottled water contains 2x the concentration of microplastics as does tap.5 This furthers the physical burden of plastic pollution and microplastics on BIPOC and low-income communities.

Microplastics also impact the bodies of folks of the global majority disproportionately by way of seafood. Those most impacted are the millions of communities globally who rely on seafood for a key protein source and deeply rooted cultural practice. Because microplastics are fully integrated into the food chain, folks have no choice but to continue consuming seafood which contains toxins within, and attached to, microplastics, and is stored in fatty tissues of fish.6

BIPOC and folks of the Global South also play a key, and often invisible, role in recycling and handling plastic. Many of these folks are trash pickers, and many of these countries have had developed nations’ plastic and textile waste forced upon them to deal with.

Minimizing Exposure and Solutions

Because the plastics problem is a climate problem, it is an intersectional justice problem. We must uplift and amplify BIPOC voices, which includes demanding fair voter rights legislation. Call your representatives and advocate for taxes, bans, Extended Producer Responsibility bills, and a carbon tax and dividend. Support grassroots organizations fighting to stop petrochemical plant development and pipeline construction. Support by volunteering, donating, or amplifying their essential work.

Individual actions do matter, especially when you communicate about what you’re doing with those around you. Many reusable alternatives are not financially accessible to low-income folks and BIPOC (another example of plastic’s intersectional issues). If it is accessible to you, simply eliminating disposables and reducing microfiber shedding by wearing natural fibers is a best case scenario on the personal level. However we must be critical of technical and chemical solutions: many recent innovations like the bioplastics realm are ‘less worse’ replacements for the problem and do not negate the issue. Bioplastics are not only counterproductive, they are bad for our health. Many bioplastics break down into methane, a greenhouse gas which is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In fact, researchers at Stanford have created a technology that converts methane gas into PHA, which is sold to plastic producers. The problem? PHA breaks back down into methane, and this cycle only furthers our plastics addiction and climate crisis. You have immense power, but going from one convenience product to a less toxic convenience product is a detour from the solution.

It is in reframing our understanding of plastics and microplastics as a climate and environmental justice issue that we can build a diverse community and demand change on the consumer, political, and community level. Our responsibility is not to save the earth by cutting down on plastic coffee cups (contrary to the corporate marketing that bombards us constantly), but to push our elected officials — who work for us — to turn the ship around. As mentioned above, communicating to your reps and companies you support that you demand EPR and a Carbon Tax (hello H.R. 2307!) is absolutely key. And any personal behavioral change you do adopt is still extremely helpful — keep it up.




Conversations on Steering Alternative Models of Design

As a movement committed to the balancing and re-designing of our ways of living, sustainability has come to bear marked significance in contemporary commercial ventures. From innovating with new materials to working through old goods and waste, sustainability and sustainable development objectives are transforming business practices across different industries. But prerequisite to each advancement in this sector are many untold challenges which underpin their inception and engineering. To understand the challenges that can encompass the establishment and operations of sustainable businesses, we had a conversation with Kriti Tula, Creative Director and Co-Owner of the ethical fashion label Doodlage. Speaking about her brand, she discusses with us the ways in which the state of the industry propelled her work, the degree of ad-lib changes and responsibilities in the field, the key(s) to ushering success in a sustainable business, and the value of observing the linear and fast fashion space to identify complexities and reconstruct the course of the fashion practices.

1. Could you tell us of your background and your relationship with fashion and design in your early years?

I am a trained apparel designer from Pearl Academy and studied Design Management at the  London College of Fashion. Very early on in my career I got more inclined towards alternate material and upcycling. My first internship was in a large export house and it was appalling to see heaps of fabric waste, rejections, fast moving garment production – there was no appreciation for the art of making clothes. I wasn’t sure if this is the kind of industry I want to be a part of. So I spent my time researching more about sustainable fashion and the need for it after I graduated.

2. How did you come to start Doodlage?

There were limited options in sustainable fashion in India during the time we started Doodlage. Most sustainable brands were working to convert  trash like juice cartons into wallets or brands like Anokhi or FabIndia working with natural fabrics, Indian-wear silhouettes and supporting numerous artisan clusters at scale. But none of them catered to the millenials and their changing style statement as they travelled more, who were born with access to computers and fluidly adapted social media. It was around this time that Doodlage was created and started looking at alternatives like upcycling large quantities of fabric wasted in factories into short desirable collections. Our aim was to start conversation around the need for sustainable fashion and explore alternatives to fast fashion.

3. What does sustainability mean for you?

Looking at things holistically keeping the end of its life in sight and how you can prolong the life span of what you make or buy.

4. What were the kind of challenges you experienced when setting up the business?

I had no idea where to start and since I started the brand quite early in my career I had limited vision of its potential. There was also no brand with a similar vision that we wanted to follow in the footsteps of. From figuring out our own raw material to training the artisans to upcycle and not waste resources were challenges unique to what we were doing. Other more common challenges were finding the right places to sell, managing funds etc.


5. Doodlage is one of the widely known brands in India to create recycled fashion and clothing. Could you share with us why it was/ has been of significance to you to establish this concept in the Indian market?

It resonates with who I am as a person and as I matured as a designer it became more clear that either I would work with a sustainable and ethical  brand or create one.


6. Could you tell us a little bit about your design and creation process? Where do the materials come from, and how are they designed to create the unique pieces you make?

We work our design process backwards. It starts with first collecting raw material and then creating designs around it. Each material and every lot comes with its own defects and have to be checked and handled at every level. We collect wastages in larger lots from bigger factories to be able to replicate styles but each piece might have details that vary.

7. What has your experience with marketing for an ethical business been like? Have there been any specific aspects of sustainability or messaging you have needed to focus on more to encourage people to buy sustainable wear?

We were not so aggressively communicating what we did when we started. The market was young and we were still working to build awareness for the need for sustainable fashion. A lot has changed since, people are a lot more – not enough, but a lot more aware than they were six years ago. We promote three key areas of our work – made from factory waste – mainly our upcycled collections; made from consumer waste – recycled garments; made to be zero waste – everything made from our waste. We focus on building conversation around working with material that is already created and the importance of creating better paying employment.


8. Did you face any challenges when putting together your messaging and communicating it to an existing audience or while building your audience. If so, how  did you navigate them?

Not so much. Our communication has mostly been received well by both old and new audiences. There are always some people who would come back to question what we do and why our products are expensive or is it sustainable to create etc. The best way is to communicate to the best of our capacity. We don’t claim to know it all, and most brands are just working hard to learn themselves and provide solutions through their products while creating better employment.

9. Is it costly to produce recycled designs over fresh pieces? If so, have you seen if that plays a role in the kind of production choices businesses tend to make?

Recycling and upcycling are labour intensive processes and when you work with fair wage vendors to create these pieces and fabrics, it all adds to the cost of production.


10. Do you think there is a certain (social) stigma in the Indian fashion industry to work with recycled waste, materials and fabric?

Certain segments of the society still look down upon hand-me-downs, repairing, recycling. But many millennials and generations after are quite open to the idea of doing what they can to support a more sustainable lifestyle.


11. There is often some skepticism in people’s minds toward sustainable fashion brands. In your experience, what are the things consumers are typically liable to feel wary about with sustainable and ethical fashion? And, what do you think conscious businesses can do to change this?

In my mind this skepticism is usually around green washing and sustainable brands being unaffordable. In both cases the only thing has worked for us is communication.

12. What have been some of the greatest challenges for Doodlage as a slow business since the Covid 19 pandemic?

Things have gotten slower, operations are more difficult, logistical delays, fashion is not a priority product so people end up spending less and several other challenges. We have spent this time testing many new things including trials for brand collaborations.


13. Despite the challenges that come with running an ethical business, what are some of the most rewarding and inspiring moments of being in this line of work for you?

Working with social enterprises to create happier places for artisans to work and knowing that you have been able to inspire more brands to work on sustainable fashion has inspired us to keep working.


14. Is there any word of guidance you would like to give to emerging sustainable brands and entrepreneurs?

Research more, don’t start a label too early, spend enough time working with the linear fashion and lifestyle industry to know more about the problem or circular fashion brands to understand better the solutions before you start.


With Mianzi

For Sustainable Development

Conversations with Mianzi on the Potentialities of Experimental Design

As a form of creativity and contemplation, design has become a central instrument in disentangling complex social and environmental crises of our age. In the last decade, it has come to play a particular progressive role in augmenting ethical and sustainable production practices. Industrially, artists and conscious businesses are ushering a social revolution with sustainable design through two key areas. One, at the foundational scale of designing, that concentrates on the innate possibilities and impact of a design and object at the level of its inception. The other, at the technical scale that centres on the practices, materials and modes of production of a design.


Innovating on both these aspects, Mianzi is a pioneer in designing superior sustainable home furnishings using a simple and natural material – bamboo. Questioning deleterious models of production and translating experimental materials into novel wares, they are heralding new ways of understanding design and products, and our relationships to them. At IKKIVI, we had a conversation with the co-founders of Mianzi, Shashank Gautaum and Ananta Varshney, on their journey into the venture, and the conceptual, material and social features that underlie their (sustainable) design initiative.


Could you tell us of your background and interests through your foundational years? How did you come to feel connected with art and design? Have you been pursuing them for a long time or has it been a more recent initiation?

S: Since a young age, I developed an interest in the engineering aspect of a simple design, when I used to accompany my granddad to his cycle repair shop.

While designing a building with a Zero Carbon Footprint, for a design competition in 2009, (which later got awarded by Indian Green Building Council), I realized the true potential of Bamboo. I then designed a bamboo bicycle and prototyped several bamboo-based furniture and accessories.

After my Bachelor’s in Architecture (from SPA Delhi & Masters in Industrial Designing from IDC, IIT Bombay), I established MIANZI with the desire to revolutionize the way bamboo is seen and used in today’s world.

A:  During my graduation as a Bachelor of Architecture,  I became more and more fascinated with product design and how sustainability can be more than what it is believed as. Being associated with “going without” sustainability is always belittled, so we came up with products that attain both competitive edge for similar wood or plastic-based products whilst reaping benefits for the environment.

With a drive to build green products, I co-founded Mianzi, to manufacture products that are not only sustainable or aesthetic but economically viable. I reckon that every raw material has a story with nuance and complexity, which, if translated right can bring the most unique products.


What does design(ing) mean for you? Is there something, in particular, you like to showcase through it?

We believe that designing in its essence is a polygamy of different elements to accomplish a particular purpose, in a sustainable eco-friendly approach, and with futuristic minimalism.


MIANZI is a unique home furnishing brand with bamboo as a base material for almost all its products. Could you tell us how you realised that the material would become valuable for experimental design?

Bamboo, as raw material, inspires and challenges us to bring forth products that go beyond the accepted parameters of product design and bring life to fresh ideas that previously seemed improbable with bamboo. 

That sense of exploration and giving back to the environment has always been a big influence and inspiration behind Mianzi.

MIANZI is one of the foremost brands in India to exclusively offer bamboo-based furniture and accessories. Could you share with us why it was/ has been important in your view to introduce this idea in the market?

India has a rich cultural and economical tradition of artistic craftsmanship with Bamboo as a raw material – a material that is sustainable, futuristic, and has a vibrant cultural heritage. Despite this, the Bamboo craftsmanship is dwindling and is almost extinct in several tribes.

With Mianzi, we sought to redefine and exhibit the contemporary, elegant, and chic front of traditional craftsmanship. We need to understand that sometimes the greater good can be achieved economically by sticking to your roots.


Could you tell us a little bit about your design and creation process? Where the materials are extracted from, and how they are molded together to construct the intricate details on the pieces?

While experimenting with bamboo, we have and are still in the process of discovering it’s different inherent properties. With a distinct fascination to observe probable design possibilities, we created our own methods by tweaking existing industrial machines and integrating the traditional hand-craftsmanship of adroit artisans. 

To make the process as realistic as possible, we developed a few industrial machines dedicated to the work of bamboo bending and molding. The machine is based on existing industrial technology; it is an assembly of different systems to create an efficient tool.


Are there any challenges encountered in marrying together ethical, artistic, and business practices through the design process?

Working with natural material is always challenging especially when we compare it with similar existing products in the market that are made out of wood or metal or plastic. These raw materials have been available commercially for a longer time and a lot of research has been already done, in terms of design and manufacturing. In comparison, Bamboo still needs to be explored more to discover its several properties and innovate. Further, finding a balance between aesthetic freshness, quality, and affordability is quite challenging.


Are there any specific intentions MIANZI holds to generate an impact for the wider Indian and design community – both its artisans/ workforce and consumers?

As we were discussing before, we want to expand Indian craftsmanship and give it its deserving centerstage by proactive collaboration with local craftsmen, bringing high-tech industrial advancements to them, and to substantially increase productivity and nurture their skills. We can introduce substantial growth in this industry on an artisanal and economic level, and at the environmental front.

What are your subsequent aspirations with, and for MIANZI?

With a deliberate and equal focus on expertise research on bamboo, we want to competitively revolutionize the way bamboo is seen and used by the masses, introducing it to the construction and mobility industry, discovering its resilient composition with a breakthrough through an economically viable and sustainable approach.


Is there anything you would hope for, or expect, clients, to discover and take from MIANZI?

In general, people consider sustainability as the latest trend rather than considering it as an imperative choice for our environment and future. Understanding the consumer demand we need to make a conscious effort to market products that are contemporary yet sustainable.

Mianzi with its fresh designs and functional approach expects that more and more people and designers understand that the purpose of sustainability is not to greenwash with yet another eco-friendly material, but rather to rethink industrial production and product conception in a realistic way.

During the last one and a half years, Mianzi has been recognized and awarded by esteemed design fraternities. The acknowledgment of their work from both practitioners in the field and their clients has lended them working opportunities with renowned architects and interior designers across the country, inspiring them to continue to experiment with bamboo and sustainable design.

If you would like to explore and shop their designs, you can visit their catalogue on our shop.


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MEET our Makers

Reformations in the Social Production of Fashion

The economic and foundational issues that have long permeated fashion have been the source of much division, discrimination and delinquency in the fashion system for over nearly two centuries. The industrial and technological progress that advanced (access to) our means of production – the material goods needed to create fashion, such as natural resources, tools and techniques – have often come at the large cost of neglecting the social relationships, people and environment involved in the production of these goods. Much of our mass market clothing and furnishings are made in conditions and countries where labor rights are minimal to nonexistent; and where artisans are almost always divorced from the creative processes of production. Some of the most pronounced problems in the fashion industry have continued to be those of poor wages, endless working hours, prohibition of workers’ unions, unsafe health and working conditions, and child or forced labor. The catastrophic collapse of the Rana Plaza Factory (24th April 2013) in Bangladesh that killed over 1130 garment workers manufacturing clothing for several major fashion brands revealed the vast complexities prevalent in the system, and has become a caveat for the fashion industry in the last few years to take measures towards the betterment of the working conditions of its people and within their factories.

The industry’s complex value chain and systemic inequalities compelled us to be(come) vitally involved in working to reform its structural practices and building awareness about sustainable and ethical fashion, and we began IKKIVI to encourage the conscious consumption of beautifully and mindfully made products that would create minimal negative impact on the environment and its people. Since our inception and the employment of specific (values and) means of production in 2015 – handcrafted, organic, fair, vegan designs, local or traditional technique and minimal wastage – we have seen that a conscious shift in one strand of the supply chain can ripple consequent shifts in its entire scheme and mode(s) of production, particularly at the level of everyday lived experiences and practices. With Fashion Revolution Week this week, a time where brands and producers are urged to give consumers an insight into their production processes – what goes on behind the scenes at their brand – we interviewed the makers and designers of our sustainable brands to understand their ethical fashion practices and the corresponding effects these have had (and are having) on their artisans, the environment and the market.

Fundamental to our designer’s experiences with their artisans in their studios has been the understanding of their shared need to engage with work meaningfully, such that artisans can exert a certain creative influence upon the garments or designs they work with. Our designer Neha, from Maati by Neha Kabra tells us, “our artisans love creating, but the most inspiring and enjoyable part for them (and for all of us) is when we are sampling and exchanging ideas. The actual process of designing can become a little monotonous, and ideating together breaks it and makes our artisans feel included in the project, which brings meaning to the everyday work”. Mahima, the designer of our label SUI iterates another aspect of this attribute with her own artisans. “Something we’ve noticed is that our artisans really love the kind of garments they make and are always interested to learn about new fabrics and embroideries; the printing we do and their complexity.” 

In tandem with this facet of meaningfulness that we see come forth is that of the connections and associations artisans are able to build with each other, with the designers and with their work. Our designer at Core, Sayesha, says, “we find it very valuable to work with a small team and group of artisans. In a big team, a lot of times you don’t even know who you are communicating with. Here, none of us or our artisans are restricted to only one job role in a very strict sense, which helps us discuss ideas and see what we’re all talking about. We [our artisans and design team] want to care about what we are doing, not only produce and deliver alone, and being able to work in a small team really allows us to do so.” At an analogous end, Kanchan, from our label Ahmev says, “our artisans want to work. It keeps them excited. They want a proper environment and space to work, as well as to be treated respectfully. And small (yet obvious) things such as paying their salary on time, asking them if they need anything, matter. It makes the relationship reciprocal – an actual give and take between two parties.” But the value of connections is not limited to the artisans alone. Our designers express that they receive much comfort from their partnership with their artisans too. “While we generally get to learn from each other, I have learnt a lot from them. They have given me the confidence to go ahead, to work and to not worry – particularly since the pandemic. To not glorify our problems or go very deep into them, but to acknowledge them and move ahead”, says Neha when discussing the kind of influence her artisans have had on her work. In parallel, Sayesha affirms that “If you treat them [the artisans] well, they really go above and beyond for you and your business. It becomes a win-win situation.” 

At the same time, these connections have created a fluidity in the bounds of the professional relationships and support shared between the artisans and designers. Our Vintage collection co-curator and If You Slow designer Purnima tells us “We work so closely, that for us, it is a family like environment. We even named our master tailor’s son – Tahir.” A similar social dynamic is discernable at Core where, says Sayesha, “we all gather together in our tea breaks and discuss something new our artisans have learnt or any issues they are facing that we can help them resolve, both personally and professionally.” These revisions in the relations of production also show the potential impact ethical and conscious businesses can have on the lives of artisans in the long term. Detailing the story of one of her artisans at Core, Sayesha shares “our master tailor Guddu had initially come with nothing. He had a wife and three children, and worked with us as a finishing man. He upskilled with us, and from being someone with minimum skills to consulting for other brands, he probably now earns the most in our company.” Acknowledging this importance of offering accessibility and a developmental curve to karigars, designers Shashank and Ananta from Mianzi explain their methods of manufacturing. “We have put a lot of thought into designing our moulds. The way we design and think of manufacturing our products is such that anyone can do it with very basic training.” 

The protraction of such space and social relations between designers, artisans and team members has further led to the nurturance of a certain felt responsibility towards one another. Arshia, our brand Rias Jaipur’s designer states “We do as many things as we can together. That way our artisans get more experience and evolve in their craft, which helps them get more work elsewhere as well.” Elaborating on the same lines, Kanchan shares that “they learn new things with us at Ahmev. They have the skills they have practiced all their lives. But till the time they don’t experience new things and crafts – and we don’t give them the chance to – they won’t be able to do it. And we try doing things each other’s way. I give our master tailor space to work and explore, and he also gives me his ideas on how we can make or modify a design.” These commitments to growth and change come to extend beyond our artisans to include internal team members and practitioners. “Our Production Manager worked for a fast fashion corporation before joining us mid pandemic last year. And in the beginning, it was a little hard for her to integrate with our ethos seamlessly because of the fast fashion practices she was familiar with – such as using petroleum in place of natural cleaning agents (to clean any stains) and plastic for packaging. All of these seemed to be more practical and economical ways of running a business to her then. But being with us, she too is swiftly moving toward sustainable sensibilities – now telling us about which conscious materials we can experiment with and use. In turn, she has brought in much discipline and efficiency to our brand from her previous experience – something we very much appreciate.”, informs Sayesha when speaking about how everyone at Core has been learning to create and give more consciously.

But even as our makers have been engaged in earnest and purposeful modes of production, some systemic challenges remain recurrent in economic and empirical matters. Reflecting on the prime difficulties faced in the sustainable sector and inevitably by industry workers, Arshia notes that “we are small designers right now, the big players have the money. As entrepreneurial sustainable brands, we also need our businesses to float for we are not externally funded. Ultimately our artisans need more money to keep their tables running, and so sometimes they do work for fast corporations. They prefer working with small ethical designers like us and tell us that they don’t want to or like working with fast fashion enterprises, but that they also don’t have any other choices in front of them.” Thus as revisions at the grassroot level in sustainable spaces do elucidate promise and headway for garment workers, a systemic revolution at present stands equally contingent on the reformation of institutional and market values.

The object (garment or design), means of production and the work undergone to create it mediate the social relations of production between artisans and designers. We believe that to be involved in the making of a product, but not in its creative or social processes is bound to alienate one from their creation, as well as from themselves in the process. And this degree of involvement or affinity in the creative process rests on the essential social relations of production, governed often by a patron or the institution. For us, at IKKIVI, the nuances and care taken in the professional practices and everyday experiences of our makers by our brands form the genesis of an honest, progressive and powerful fashion revolution at the micro, and eventually, macro scale. This Fashion Revolution Week, we wanted to show with our labels and designers, that fashion and design, when practiced ethically and mindfully, hold the means to herald positive development in the lives of its creators (our artisans) and consumers – and to change the widely held belief that to make (mass) interests businesses need to exploit, dehumanise and coerce their makers or come at the cost of their integrity. 


What kind of socio-economic action we can take to propel these shifts further is what we now need to contemplate and examine together as a collective.


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Switching to a Menstrual Cup

Conversations On the Intersections Between Menstrual Health and the Indian Social Structure

In the last decade, collective conversations around menstruation have been diversifying, connecting dialectically with a range of related subjects. Along with women’s health, dialogues on cultural taboos, gender inequality, inequity, discriminatory social norms, poverty and climate change have become central themes from which to understand many aspects of menstruation. Menstrual products are one of the intermediary (re)sources through which activists and brands are educating us on the wide ranging impact of our choices and the alternatives that the market now offers to us. At IKKIVI, we partnered with ‘Hiccup’ to help share their message of making menstrual cups the norm for all menstruators. We spoke with Meenal Velani, Founder of the menstrual cup brand ‘Hiccup’, about why she started the enterprise, and about the scope of impact that our everyday choices can have on intersecting problems. Sharing with us her insights and experiences, she describes the importance of being mindful in selecting and working with menstrual products, and in learning to become more conscious both as brands and consumers.


Could you tell us of your background and interests through
your early years?

I come from a city called Jamshedpur. As a kid I loved Literature, hated Math and was a phenomenally curious being. Being brought up in a middle class joint family in a small town meant that I was always instilled with the values of not being wasteful and thinking community – first. My family is predominantly women – all of them strong, willful and fiercely independent which I gained from them in inheritance – something I am most proud of.

For my education, after schooling locally, I did my Undergraduate in Literature from Kolkata and moved to Delhi to get my Masters in Advertising. Since I was in school, I was working towards becoming a copywriter in an Ad agency. However, actually joining the workforce quickly disillusioned me about the real nature of advertising. I felt very conflicted working for organisations that were actively and negatively affecting the lives of people and the quality of the planet.

I still really enjoyed the work I did which is why I left my first job to start Oddity – a marketing agency that works exclusively with small and medium businesses that are actively working on making the world a little better. We work with businesses that are just starting out (eg: a sourdough bread brand, an organic cold pressed oil company, an EdTech firm) to help amplify their voice. This was more aligned to who I was as a person. Somewhere in this journey, my partner and I had a realisation about menstrual cups and decided to start Hiccup – a step that was made easier to take because of my background in advertising.

There’s a lot to be said for forces aligning in my favour, at least in this case. With my background and immense passion for the environment and my partners’ background in Gender Studies, it was like starting Hiccup was meant to be for us.

How did you come to the idea of starting a brand dedicated to selling menstrual cups? Could you tell us the influences and inspiration(s) that led to the inception of Hiccup?

We started Hiccup to provide awareness about the single most sustainable menstrual product and allow people to have access to high quality care. We encourage a market where all menstruators can decide for themselves which product they would like to use, for example, reusable cloth pads, period underwear – while not harming the environment.

When I personally started using a cup is when I realised how useful it was in the larger context – for the health of menstruators as well as for the environment. I belong to a city called Jamshedpur, that is in one of the poorest states – Jharkhand. We directly saw how inadequate Menstrual Health Management affected people in every aspect of their lives. Working in Delhi for the past 7 years also brought to light the problems surrounding waste management as we’ve all seen the mountain of trash and foamy Yamuna in the middle of the city. As someone who is also passionate about the environment and takes active steps to live a more mindful life (plastic free purchasing, no fast fashion clothes, reusable everything, composting) it was a joy to discover that simply using a menstrual cup can help us work towards the Sustainable Development Goals set by UNDP. We can achieve Climate action – SDG13, Good health and well-being – SDG 3, Gender inequality – SDG 5. All of this led to the birth of Hiccup.


Hiccup is one of the only few brands in India to exclusively offer menstrual cups. Could you share with us why it was/ has been important in your view to introduce these in the market? Were there any connections between your own experiences with menstruation and with launching Hiccup as well?

It took us almost a year of research into the Indian cup market to decide that we wanted to start Hiccup. There are a few menstrual cup brands in India that sell cups for really cheap that are low quality and made using hard polymers. This means that first time users have a bad experience and cannot completely shift to cups. I personally tried some of India’s most popular brands before realising that the current solutions on offer weren’t good enough. We had to be able to do better!

Since Day 1, we have been very clear on the fact that while menstrual cups are phenomenal for the health of menstruators, the environment was a big part of why we were doing this. There are some companies in India that sell cups but also sell single use sanitary napkins – which goes against the very ethos of Hiccup. We knew we only wanted to sell cups despite the fact that pads get picked up faster and have a repeating customer base because otherwise we wanted to stay true to who we were. We have also noticed menstrual cup companies distribute sanitary napkins to the underprivileged as a part of their CSR programs. This makes me so sad – it’s like going one step forward and five steps back.

At Hiccup, we stand against the concept of “poor solutions for poor people”. This is why while we do understand that not everyone can pay for a cup, our Buy 1 Donate 1 program allows us to create education around cups and donate them to those who can’t afford them. Systemic problems require long term solutions and not the band aid of solutions that are effective only in the short term. In the coming years, we see hiccup becoming a catalyst that brings together governmental organisations, NGOs, foundations and feminist researchers to provide all menstruators regardless of their social capital, with a
cup as an alternative.

How did you come to select the name ‘Hiccup’ for the brand? Does it signify something in particular?

Before we came up with the name we knew the word “cup“ had to be part of the brand since most of our users are being introduced to the product category itself. We didn’t want to add another layer and make it more confusing. We spent a few weeks dismissing a lot of names before Hiccup came to me while watching an animated film that has a character by the same name (How to Train Your Dragon).

I loved the name immediately because it worked on so many levels! There is so much stigma around periods that they are almost considered an abnormality – a hiccup in daily life and we wanted to take back the word and make it mean something positive. Plus, it sounded so fun and we didn’t want a brand that takes itself too seriously.


Could you tell us a little bit about your design and creation process of the cups? What materials are used, and how the cups are made?

Sure! So, menstrual cups that are available in the market are typically made with two materials – either TPE or silicone. Hiccup is made with medical grade silicone at an FDA approved manufacturing unit. Silicone is an inert, non-reactive material which essentially translates to it being completely safe for long term internal use. In fact, using menstrual cups is safest when it comes to risk of infections, disease etc.

Our cups are made of soft silicone that is easy to insert and remove, making it great for first time users. We’ve also made sure to add a stem at the bottom that makes a cup easier to locate for removal. We spent over a year figuring out the perfect firmness, size and colours for our cups since we knew that a majority of our customers would be first time users and we wanted them to have as seamless an experience as possible!


Are there any challenges you encountered in starting the brand, given the cultural stigma toward menstruation? Or even, since the start of the business? If so, what have your experiences been with it thus far and how do you/ have you respond(ed) to them?

To be very honest, starting Hiccup was the least challenging part of the journey. When I used my first cup, years before there was so much information around them in India, I knew I was a menstrual cup evangelist. Starting Hiccup to fill this gap seemed like the most natural, almost necessary thing to do.

Once we started up however, there were definitely operational challenges. From trying to figure out which tax bracket menstrual cups fall into (there is absolutely no clarity on that even today) to explaining what the product was to delivery partners comes to mind. Our team aims to be very patient and transparent in all conversations but we have often faced awkward silences when it comes to collaborators who are not from this field. On the contrary, the conversations on our social media and DM’s have been a revelation to us. The questions usually come from a place of curiosity rather than hate. This is in part due to the safe space we create in all our interactions. The stigma definitely persists but we do not expect to undo intergenerational ignorance and conditioning. We try our hardest, remain patient and strong in our convictions.

Since the incoming of Hiccup, what kind of responses have come forth from consumers? What kind of appreciation and apprehensions have you seen them carry toward menstrual cups?

In India, a majority of the people who reach out to us are first time cup users. A few questions we get very often are how using cups will affect their virginity (it won’t), will it hurt (it doesn’t) and why they should buy a Hiccup and not some other/ cheaper cup. Since it is a comparatively higher upfront payment, a lot of people tend to pick the cheapest option available. Since there is a difference in quality, they end up having not the best experience and then we’re faced with the challenge of getting them to try another cup.

On the flip side, those who use the cup and get used to it, absolutely rave about it! We get messages every day from users about how it has changed their lives or the different conversations they had because they use a cup. That is absolutely gratifying. We also get a ton of appreciation for being an open, inclusive, honest brand that spends time on education about the climate crisis, gender, sex positivity and of course, menstruation.


We notice that educating consumers and the public is a significant part of your work through your social media channels. Could you share with us why you think that is vital, and what kind of dialogue you have seen unfold(ing) – about menstruation, womens’ bodies, health – through it on social media?

Making menstrual cups mainstream is a goal we cannot accomplish in isolation. Asking someone to move from a pad to hiccup isn’t as simple as asking them to shift loyalties to a new brand but rather, is a lifestyle shift. When it comes to menstrual cups, the personal is political. Using a cup means unlearning everything we’ve been taught about how to interact with our bodies. It means feeling empathetic and proactive about the future of the planet. It means recognising the inequality in menstrual care, it’s correlation with poverty and trying to find equalizers. It is a big ask to make. We acknowledge that and don’t take it lightly. So when someone trusts us enough to make that shift, we owe it to them to arm them with as much knowledge as possible.

The Hiccup social media channels are therefore spaces of inclusive advocacy that promote education and awareness around menstrual health management, body neutrality, sex positivity, gender and climate change. We do this because using a cup genuinely lies on the intersection of these issues and there is an abysmal lack of education or awareness surrounding these topics. We aim to fill this gap and increase accessibility to this information as much as possible.

Making a transition from conventional utilities – such as sanitary napkins and tampons – can feel intimidating and invasive (as the cup needs to be inserted inside). Could you offer some guidance on what someone who would like to try it could do to make the experience easier?

I completely understand that using a menstrual cup for the first time can be really intimidating. Even tampons are barely used in our country and there is such a taboo around insertion!

My first suggestion to first time users would be to get familiar with your body. A lot of us, even if we are sexually active may not be familiar with our anatomy. When you’re not on your period, use your fingers to find your cervix. Insert a finger and move it slowly to familiarise yourself with the area. When you’re comfortable, insert multiple fingers. You’ll see that the vaginal walls are flexible and inserting a cup will seem less daunting now.

My second suggestion would be to use a cup for the first time on a lighter flow day of your period (ideally the third or fourth day). This way you get the natural lubrication of your period without the worry of potential leaks. You could even use a pad along with the cup the first few times if you’re really worried. That way you’ll be more confident to wear it by itself.

Lastly, choose the right cup. A soft cup will make both insertion and removal easy. If your cup has a stem, you’ll be reassured that the cup will be easy to locate. (Hiccup is a soft cup with a stem).

Finally, trust that the cup cannot get lost – it is anatomically impossible for it to vanish. Converting to a cup isn’t a one time thing. It is a slow gradual process so be patient with yourself. It will take 2-3 cycles to get used to it but I promise that once you are comfortable with it, you won’t change back!

Are there any specific intentions Hiccup holds to generate an impact for the wider Indian public and consumers?

Our goal with starting hiccup is to make menstrual cups mainstream. When we talk about period products or simply when we teach young menstruators in schools about what their options are – we want the thought of menstrual cups as an option to come as easily as pads. Along with this, we want menstrual cups to be easily accessible. Anyone, across the country – whether they stay in the capital city or in a small village, should they choose to use a menstrual cup, should have access to it.

This is something we cannot do alone. To create a deeper and more meaningful impact, we aim to work with the State, private corporations and foundations to do intensive research on the Indian menstrual space factoring in the well-being of both menstruators and the environment. This will help us keep researching and developing better and more effective period care solutions.


What are your subsequent aspirations with, and for Hiccup as a brand and as an enterprise carrying a collective voice to show menstruation as a healthy and normal process of our bodies?

Our aspirations for Hiccup as a brand that is Activist not just in words but in nature, goes beyond normalising conversation around menstruation for us. That I think is what we want to tackle as our first step. Not only do we want people to be comfortable talking (and listening) about periods, we want to be able to extend that normalisation towards uterine diseases, mental health, sex education, body neutrality, the gender and sexuality spectrums; among a hoard of other things.

We do this the best way we know how – we talk about it normally without making a big deal about it. We amplify the voices of those who have lived experiences, we try to be as open and inclusive a space as possible and creative vetted and responsible education around it. Currently we do this through our social media but our plans extend to working with NGOs to make this information available for those who are underprivileged and working with Governments to make accessibility easier.

Is there anything you would hope for, or expect, clients to discover and take from Hiccup?

So many things! First and foremost, we want menstruators to feel free and comfortable during their periods. Cups are outwardly invisible – letting you do all things you would on any other day. You can do headstands, swim, even scuba dive on your periods with a cup. I think that’s a special kind of liberating. There is also a different kind of comfort knowing that there aren’t any chemicals touching your body or that there won’t be any rashes after a few hours of having your period.

But something most people don’t talk about that becomes a crucial part of the menstrual cup experience is self awareness about the body. Using pads or tampons gives us a very misleading view of how and how much we bleed. Using a cup showed me that it is way less than we are led to believe by the stark, sterile white of other period products. Not just that but the simple act of inserting something safely and non-sexually into the body is intimate in a way most of us might be unfamiliar with. I expect (and hope) cup users get more comfortable with their body and have a more mindful understanding of their periods – the colour, the texture etc.

Lastly, it is an amazing feeling to not have to dispose of something every few hours!


Could you describe how your experience of working on this venture since 2019 has been?

The experience of founding and running Hiccup has been challenging but also very rewarding. Convincing people to consider menstrual cups as an option isn’t easy. We battle stigma, myths and disapproval every single day. However, when someone uses the cup and comes back to us with how much they enjoyed using it – it is a victory for us. When people DM us asking us personal questions – it is a victory for us. When mothers buy a cup for their child – it is a victory for us. When we get orders from small cities we have never even heard of – it is a victory for us. We know that somewhere, someone is taking control of their own body and being climate positive which makes it all worthwhile. We understand that we are a far cry away from making cups mainstream, but we’re in it for the long haul.


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