Although all brands advertise themselves so, it's hard to know which brands are actually sustainable. By focusing on artisanal labor, high-quality natural fabrics, local supply chains, reduction of energy and water consumption, elimination of chemical use, and minimal impact on forests and biodiversity, A Humming Way brings forward a truly sustainable product that recalls luxury with an edge
By: Niyoshi Shah
Posted on: May 18, 2020
What does it really mean for a fashion brand to be “sustainable”? Some companies tout their use of recycled and reclaimed fibre, or adaption of natural (non-petroleum based) raw materials, while others focus on zero waste and artisanal labour, or the reduction of energy and water consumption in the production process. While all of this may hold true, how can a brand be a 100% eco-friendly and yet create fresh, usable and trendy designs? And how many such brands exist in the global retail labyrinth?
A unique Indian brand that has successfully showcased sustainable ready-to-wear lines at the New York Fashion Week twice and the Alta Roma show in Italy – A Humming Way - holds true to these specific industry standards while creating unique, individualistic designs that people actually want to buy. The boutique brand was launched with a special inclination towards the indigenous fabric Khadi and Cotton handlooms. With prominent admirers globally and a persistently usable and chic product line, the brand has now grown to a scale where it is at the forefront of the eco-couture movement in India.
Sustainability was built in the brand ethos from the very beginning, even if it wasn’t always featured in their marketing propoganda. The Founder and Creative Director, Sweta Agarwal, spent years developing products, only bringing them to the market when they were happy with the sourcing of the materials and had lined up ethical manufacturing practices. Working on the versatility of indigenous fabrics was the key focus: “I wanted to use Khadi and handlooms to create glamourous outfits that are stylish and at par with international designs and yet sustainable and eco-friendly. I experimented with my first collection which was an instant hit at the Alta Roma runway show in Italy. Now I use Khadi for all kinds of silhouettes and designs.”
Launched in 2017, she was one of the first Indian designers who created Khadi-based garments for high profile soirees, glamourous events and the red carpet, revolutionizing the way the fabric has been perceived for generations. “My international clients love the whole idea of where the khadi comes from, it’s history and cultural relevance. They love the juxtapose it creates with sexy and glamourous designs, and is truly a unique amalgamation of style and sustainability.”
A Humming Way is driven by a holistic vision of luxury and is inspired by the old-world regalia of Rajasthan - a state epitomising ancient kings and royalties in India. The brand empowers craftsmen in the interior states of India by adopting a village in Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India) which was seeing an exodus of weavers due to lack of opportunities. This is where the brand stepped in by means of fair pay, yearly contracts and a step towards revival of age-old customs and traditions. Several families of artisans are employed by the label to release three collections every year. Apart from their liaisons in India, fabrics are sourced from weavers in Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand and Myanmar.
For Ms. Agarwal, transparency is the cornerstone of the business. The company releases vital information in regards to sourcing, production, manufacturing and the supply chain in its press releases, interviews and on social media. But she insists that the brand won’t start preaching to its fans. Eco-consciousness is a personal choice and she believes in subtly changing the perception of sustainable couture in India and globally - an endeavour she has been fairly successful at through all of her trade shows and runway presentations.
It is interesting to note that Indian fabrics were so superior in their longevity that they once dominated the European and American markets, and were eventually banned by the French and British governments to reduce competition for their own machine-made cloth. A Humming Way has resolutely evolved as a silent crusader of the “Khaddar” or Khadi fabric, and transformed its usage for straight-cut, unisex kurtas or its reputation as the poor man’s cloth into coveted, age-defying, chic and classic ensembles.
The brand creates multifaceted collections that are timeless and elegant with clean and modern cuts in mostly monotoned hues - ensuring relevance across the globe. The silhouettes include a range of sharp styles from fitted jackets, cigarette pants, long and short dresses, matching co-ords, to couture gowns and evening dresses in an array of formal styles. Ms. Agarwal uses innovative construction techniques of fabric sculpting, manipulation and reuses paraphernalia to create unique pieces that resemble wearable art. The designs meander at the brim of futuristic luxe, bold and ultra-modern.
While sustainability may not be the main driving force behind the growth of this brand, with the changing dynamic of the industry it is safe to assume that customers will start asking more questions about where products came from, engaging more with brands that match their thought process and represent their value system. Sustainability may now be an act of conscious living and less will be more for the times to come. Boutique brands like A Humming Way may just be the forerunners in fashion in the coming decade.