Its interesting how we are learning about a space where alternatives are the norm and yet there is still this feeling that its all WRONG. Which begs the question of ‘what is wrong?’ Is thinking outside of the box wrong? Is innovation and originality wrong? Are we so stuck in our ways that doing anything different is inherently wrong? Is it wrong to not be satisfied with how apathetic we have all become to the world around us?
In a little over the last decade thousands of cotton farmers in India have become so desperately in debt they’ve committed suicide. The rising costs of farming, GMO crops and lawsuits brought about by the Monsanto corporation has driven them into crippling debt. In response to this tragedy a local fashion designer decided to change the way she did fashion in order to support her community. Uma, the founder of UPASANA spoke to us about the challenges of being a fashion designer that has decided to practice sustainable fashion. She tells us this “change doesn’t come easy. When you get hit and are crying helplessly that is when you find the change.” To her that moment was the loss of so many lives due to corporate greed and a general lack of consciousness. At first, this change, to her, meant 100% organic cotton. “I will give you organic whether you want it or not,” she states emphatically, “I will give you fashion, but I will make it my own way.” Her label states 100% organic cotton, her marketing and advertising all emphasize this point. This new practice has taught her the difficulty of effectuating change in a consciously unconscious society; a society that chooses not to see the damage caused by massive consumption and consumerism. The challenges of staying a float in a society that prefers not to think of their impact or simply does not have the luxury to think past their personal needs due to financial constraints.
When she is asked why she chose to use fashion as her medium for social change, she replies, “Because I didn’t know anything else. If I had known music I would have used music. If I were a writer I would’ve used writing…If I don’t think in a certain way, I will never act in a certain way” Over the years, however, she has found that organic does not necessarily mean sustainable. If organic means that you have to import your material then this is not necessarily sustainable. She is now planning to expand her label to include simply locally grown cottons and will not qualify her brand as 100% organic, though she does plan to continue supporting organic farmers.
When she promotes sustainable fashion and conscious consumerism she does not throw shame, guilt, and pity into the consumers face but is of the belief that “positive conversation has a far greater effect than negative conversation for a positive cause.”
Despite all the strength of conviction and character this woman has, one gets the sense she is very much disillusioned with the world and their reception of the new consciousness that is being awaked by people like her. She says to us over and over again “I did it all wrong,” she explains that she feels she jumped in blindly and had she known how difficult it would all be she would have done things differently. Instead of taking a leap of faith she might have taken baby steps in the right direction.
Auroville is a community of social entrepreneurs. We have been told several times that Auroville despite all its challenges is a place you can try, a place to experiment, a place to give up many preconceptions. Without a space like Auroville, Uma’s conception of sustainable fashion may have never come to be. In the greater sense of development, sustainability, social change and social entrepreneurship; we are coming to a place in the human collective experience where we are more open to alternatives while still remaining skeptical to change. “We are all looking for change, but change can be quite difficult,” sometimes it can feel like we’re doing it all WRONG.