When we make a decision, we in turn influence a huge shift in taste for the end consumer. If we don’t make and offer products with ethical values, then we shouldn't complain about the lack of demand. Our smallest of decisions can impact a complete life cycle of products.

Pooja Gupta, Door of Maai

Design and the Environment

Blogger Ila Kapoor of Peacocks in the Rain interviews designer Pooja Gupta from Door of Maai to learn more about the brand’s approach to incorporating ethical practices in their design process.

Ethical Design by Door of Maai

Pooja Gupta is a design graduate from NIFT and holds a Master’s degree from the University for the Creative Arts in Kent. Prior to launching Door of Maai in 2015, she worked with designer Anamika Khanna. The name Door Of Maai literally stems from the sacred place of ‘Dwaarkamai’ at the famous shrine in Shirdi, Maharashtra. The word ‘maai’ means mother in most Indian languages and seemed an apt representation of the core values of her brand, which aims to pursue ecological and environmental friendly practices by using organic and recycled materials.

Ila Kapoor is a management consultant by profession, an economist by education and craft lover by passion. Her blog Peacocks in the Rain is her platform where she curates the beauty of handmade arts and crafts in Indian fashion, decor and books.

Here is an excerpt from their conversation.

PITR : Please share the creative process behind your products.

DOM: There isn’t any one particular creative process. Usually it starts from which sustainable design practice can be incorporated into the design. If there is organic material available, then I start from there. If I have a good stock of industrial surplus production then the design kicks off by incorporating upcycled pieces. There isn’t one constant [factor] apart from two things: the product needs to fall into the quiet and minimal aesthetics of the brand, and that it should have an element of ethics built into it.

Ila : How does Door Of Maai works towards sustainable design?

Pooja: Door Of Maai is committed to practicing responsible design. We started this by using the GOTS certified organic cottons sourced directly from the mills in Kolkata. This was gradually extended to introducing a separate line called Upcycled Minimalism, which upcycled industrially produced excess fabrics to be incorporated into the designs. Our very first collection was made using the fabrics which we sourced from one of the Raymond’s outlets in Kolkata. Under production is our next mini-collection in which about 1.5 metres of fabric has been incorporated into 10 different pieces using the zero-waste design practice. This fabric was a reject piece because of a minor error in the design being printed in a mirrored pattern. It has been cut in a way that camouflages the original print to now look like an abstract piece of work.

Sustainability is a broad pursuit. I am not sure if it is possible to make a 100% sustainable garment. But what is possible is to pick one direction will add to the final pursuit. So, if one of my collections isn’t organic it will be in 100% khadi, in which the yarns are both handspun and handwoven. Recently, I have just sourced textiles which although are not handspun but are handwoven and organic. So, personally, I like to pick up one aspect of sustainability and responsible design and base my collections on that. This gives me enough elements to play around with.

Recently, I visited one of these really old women who does flat-bed knitting in the city. In a heart-to-heart conversation, she explained to me how she was having a really hard time in finding workers for her. The youngsters are not interested in doing hand knitting or crochet or frame embroideries as it does not fetch them good money. So tomorrow if I do a collection using her flat bed knits, it would be an act of supporting a dyeing craft and one craftsman thoroughly. I was recently reading the interview of a really famous and well established Indian designer who said that she had given clear instructions to her team to never stop working with any group of artisans. Once they are employed it’s a moral step to keep innovating on the designs using their skills. In this way you end up supporting a huge population of labor. This for me is responsible design.

A designer in my view is in a very powerful position. My MA thesis had also echoed these views. When we make a decision, we in turn influence a huge shift in taste for the end consumer. If we don’t make and offer products with ethical values, then we shouldn’t complain about the lack of demand. Our smallest of decisions can impact a complete life cycle of products. Today, if my business grows and I can order a steady supply of organic cotton, then I may in turn be responsible for avoiding at least one farmer suicide who could not stand the pressures against cheaply produced general cotton. If I as the designer decide not to use, a particular type of trimming then the product will be able to easily decompose in the most natural way possible. It’s a learning process all the way.

However, keeping everything above in mind, I do not believe in compromising the aesthetics of my clothes. Fashion is a visual language and although the process is as important in our practice, it cannot come at the cost of the aesthetics. I am trying to make the process complement and add to the conscience of the the buyer.

Ila: What is your personal favorite craft ?

Pooja: I love the fact that most of the Indian textiles and crafts can be traced back to historical times and across different eras. My favourite would be brocades in which the extra wefts in silver are inserted to give the rich aristocratic feel to the textiles. Apart from that I’m a huge fan of ahimsa-silk in which the cocoon is not destroyed to produce the silk. As an Indian, I’m proud of khadi having become synonymous with India.

Ila: What has been your most memorable moment ?

Pooja: The fact that I was sitting at home with my first collection and lookbook for three months just out of the fear and lack of confidence of getting started will always be memorable.

Ila: Where can we purchase your Door of Maai products ?

Pooja: They are available online at Bunosilo, 
nete.in, Once Upon a Trunk,
and in boutiques: Kalee (Jaipur), The Verandah (Bangalore), Avoire (Kolkata) and Vastra Gatha in Delhi.

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