By Fasia Hardy
Some people say fashion is a self-expression but Upasana says fashion is a call for action. Upasana is a clothing brand used to empower women, rebuild India and stop farmer suicide. How can one brand try to make so much change? Two words, sustainable fashion. Clothing can be a great communication tool to influence change. The act of making and buying sustainably can help build awareness, motivation, and knowledge. In addition to enabling people to take-action connecting to the cause by each conscience purchase or change in behavior. At Upasana they believe in using fashion to tie threads to the larger issues of sustainability.
I visited Upasana on a class trip to meet with the owner Uma Prajapati and to fully understand the fashion company and its concept for a change. The trip began with the tour of the store. The clothing and scarfs were inviting, beautiful and bright. Each piece with intricate design and a woven factor. The idea that they are made with organic cotton, natural dyes and women in the area immediately pulls on my pocket and heart. But the prices stopped me in my tracks. I wondered if sustainable fashion can really facilitate change if affordance is always an issue. Furthermore, the number of resources used to make these pieces. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources on the planet. It can take 2,700 liters to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt. Making clothes might be more of a problem than a help. I believe up cycling might be the better way to go. We must start from what’s to the earth now rather than make more waste.
After window shopping, the class moved to the next room to meet the passionate owner. She advocated for the fashion industry to shift away from maximum profit towards social responsibility. In addition to reinforcing the notion that everyone has the ability to make a change. The only difference is asking the hard question and acting upon them. She stated “, What is the good I can create while making clothes ..can I help the printers, can I help the weavers, can I help the women in the village. We are good at asking this question and it’s not the most comfortable thing to do but it pushes us to act… we did not do this once… we do this many times.” This is true as she is a business with octopus hands fighting in many revolutions. The most grabbing are Tsunamika, Small Steps, Yaranasi Weaver, and Paruthi. Tsunamka is a tsunami-related project providing livelihood to fisherwomen. Small Steps is a project where women in 14 villages are employed to make reusable bags. Varanasi Weavers are inactive to employ weaves from the communities of Varanasi in order to preserve this amazing skill. Finally, Paruthi is India’s local organic brand to support India’s organic farming community. Tsunamka seemed to be the owner’s proudest foundation. The project was formed by a gift system to be self-sustainable, “for them by them”, stated Uma. The women make a dolls discarded materials as a way release their emotions from such a traumatic experience. The dolls became more than craftwork to them but a symbol hope.
Although Upasana is making many strides ecologically and fundamentally stimulating in women’s rights to work and maternity leave, the question of progression still lies in the clothing. The women still depict the status of male hierarchy. Women cover themselves in bright saris as men wear modern clothing. This is seen through the streets in India but more notably in the shop. Why don’t the women wear or own a piece of clothing they made? If clothing is a communication tool for change the message is muted or a quiet revolution.