Being fashionable and fashion forward is nice, but being ethical and responsible at the same time is something else. The concept of ‘fashion through conservation’ we discovered when we caught up with Shriti Pratap, a 30-year-old fashion designer from Mumbai.
She goes by her own label ‘Shriti Pratap’ – where she curates her designs for casual gowns, kaftans, jumpsuits, tunics, jackets and swimwear. “I was selling through the multi-designer stores earlier. Now, I have gone completely independent from selling online to exhibiting at pop-ups at the moment. There are future plans to grow in this space where I can continue to deal with our clients/buyers directly,” mentions Shriti.
It is through her label that she supports ethical fashion, which excludes the use of any kind of silk, leather, fur or any other raw materials sourced from killing animals. Her label also extends unconditional support to other global fashion campaigns that believe in conservation and is actively involved in creating awareness and raising funds for the African Maasai artisans.
Here’s an inspirational account of this young designer who’s all set to make a difference in the world of fashion and conservation through her relentless hard work. Read more…
How did it all begin?
“I can’t pinpoint what in particular might have inspired me but I always had an idea of what I wanted to do. It wasn’t some hobby that I had just picked up along the way or something that I would replace it with over time,” recalls Shriti.
By the time she was in her early teens, Shriti had already made up her mind to be a designer. Maybe because she always had an artistic bent and an eye for detailing.
Shriti’s initial investments were more in terms of devoting a lot of time at every stage of the work. She adds, “It is a consuming job that is likely to take up your time, energy, money. However in my experience money does not guarantee growth, but time, patience and commitment can certainly do wonders. It allows individuals to structure a strategic plan where one can even pause to reassess and restructure.”
Your experience working with Elephantasia
“Ava J. Holmes, one of the Founders of Elephantasia got in touch with me having seen my previously designed work that was done for another conservational project to save the tigers in India. Their concept was very inspiring wherein they only use art as a medium to create awareness about the sensitive issue of elephant poaching and ivory trade across the globe, putting these creatures on the endangered species list,” explains Shriti.
Shriti firmly believes that they all derive some sort of inspiration from nature and fortunately for her, she’s had a few opportunities to actively support wildlife conservation earlier as well.
“I am thankful to Ava, for introducing me to ‘Elephantasia’, a global fundraising campaign with so much of transparency.
Elephant tusks are being ripped out of their heads, 96 heads each day. All of this for the pretty ivory trinkets around our wrist and some decor pieces in our homes. The facts and numbers are chilling. Ava and her close-knit team have been dedicatedly working on not just raising awareness, but funds as well to support the Wildlife conservation (Elephants). I absolutely appreciate and support her focus and commitment to this global issue of ivory trade.
Here the ensembles that I have designed for ‘Elephantasia’ would be auctioned/sold to raise funds that would be directed towards the Wildlife protection foundation.
Working closely with the Masaai tribals in Africa
Elephants have been an iconic part of the African culture and for years this community has been coexisting in harmony with the wildlife. They have immense respect for nature and they live very close to it. Maasai beadwork embodies the whole Maasai culture representing beauty, strength, warriorhood and their deep love and devotion for the livestock.
The Maasai women’s recent Demin Collection was inspired by the elephants and had motifs hand beaded by the women. Helping the tribe fetch their full potential in the world market would not just make them self-sufficient but also empower them as a community to let their voice and story be heard.
They are already an example to the world, like a silent revolution.
Efforts in raising funds for the Masaai tribal community
For Shriti, the idea is to raise some funds for the artisans. But that is a temporary goal and not a final solution. Recently the WildlifeDirect team came up with a denim beadwork collection and Shriti saw a possibility of becoming a part of their design process, building up a global product. “Here, I’d appreciate buyers both domestic and international coming forward to patronise their designs and popularise it globally,” adds Shriti.
Shriti’s association with Elephantasia and Wild LifeDirect
Elephantasia is a part of the global movement known as Fashion For Conservation, that is raising awareness and simultaneously support the endangered wildlife. It’s a unique platform running empowering global media campaigns across the globe. They are committed to making a difference and letting their voice be heard through collaborations and creative activities across continents.
WildLife Direct as the name suggests was launched as an online platform with the main objective to preserve the wildlife as an integral part of their heritage/culture. Soon the elephant poaching crisis led to the launch of their “hands off our elephants” campaigns and since then they have been instrumental in creating a lot of awareness about it.
Conservation projects taken up by Shriti
Shriti further adds, “WildLifeDirect is one such initiative that I have associated myself with after being introduced to them by Ava, Producer of Elephantasia, FFC. The response from all the corners has made it worthwhile. It has been an overwhelming and humbling journey. Interacting with individuals halfway across the globe has been more of a reassurance of the fact that we all are bound by a common thread. We all want to see and experience a more peaceful and compassionate world, where we feel empowered enough to initiate that. This reflects in the artistic expressions of the artists, designers, painters and photographers who have collaborated for Elephantasia from different corners of the world.”
Now, I am really looking forward to people coming forward, to extend their support to raise funds for the Maasai artisans.
Visions & aspirations
Shriti believes everything stems out from inquisitiveness and an attempt to be more aware. “Read up, ask questions, be curious, be silly, explore, make mistakes, unlearn everything, That’s how we can learn more and keep growing. Otherwise feel the stagnation”.
She adds, “I feels blessed to have got an opportunity to integrate social responsibility through fashion and art in my day-to-day business objectives. Some of it just happened very organically, like my first collection that was primarily based on handwoven khadi fabrics. Some I deliberately and aggressively worked upon to adopt them as a brand. A brand that would not just be product polluting the market, but also positively impacting in its own tiny ways. Reaching out to women who have been through breast cancer/ mastectomy was one such initiative that I took a lot of planning.”
“The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world after oil industry to be generating maximum wastes and did you know that the cotton production for just one t-shirt takes up water equivalent to a minimum of two-three years of your drinking water? And I haven’t even taken into account the water consumption and contamination caused by toxic dyes. Then there are options like cheap PVC and acrylic that are highly toxic in nature for you to choose over leather, if you are an avid supporter of ethical fashion. There are several challenging choices you may be subjected to as a responsible brand and a creative individual every day. But undertaking a social activity or cultivating some humanitarian service, as an imperative part of our business module is also no mission to mars. As clichéd as it may sound but little things make a difference. It’s also a humbling experience,” explains Shriti.
Shriti now sees herself exploring new creative ways working toward a more sustainable fashion in the coming years because, personally for her, she really values something that comes from nature and can go back to nature. “I do believe I have a global product and I see more growth in terms of innovation, design, quality than just scale,” adds Shriti.
Future plans with conservation projects
I will continue to support ethical, cruelty-free fashion for as long as I am in the business. In fact, there are a lot more initiatives like community support/development of the artisans, sustainable products etc. Currently, I am trying to raise some funds for an African community where these women handcraft beautiful beadwork.
The Maasai women/ bead workers have the intellectual capital but there is a huge dearth of financial capital. Shriti feels that together, she can collectively help them raise some funds for their basic embroidery tools supplies. They draw freehand without any tracing tools and bead without the embroidery rings.
She concludes by saying, “I love the spirit of these African native women who can’t read and write but have mastered their beading skill. It’s inspiring. I’d request the readers to read up about them and if they’d like to support, they could write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will connect them with the organisation so they can donate or support in other possible ways.”
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