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I Was a Sari wins Circular Design Challenge

By Simone Preuss


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I Was a Sari, Stefano Funari’s label that turns saris (and other discarded materials) into lifestyle clothing, has won the ‘Circular Design Challenge Award 2019’, India’s first award for sustainable fashion. It was presented to the winners at a gala event held at Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) Summer Resort 2019 in Mumbai that drew to a close on Sunday. I Was A Sari will receive a cash prize of 2 million rupees (almost 28,000 US dollars) and an opportunity to present their collection at the upcoming Lakmé Fashion Week Winter Festive 2019 in August.

“Well done I Was a Sari, for displaying superb scalable fusion of circularity, sustainability and the latest trends in fashion. I am pleasantly surprised to see the collections of all shortlisted participants as the creativity quotient has transformed the circularity and sustainability outlines into workable fashion,” said Gunjan Sharma, CMO Polyester Business Reliance Industries Ltd., when presenting the award and the cheque to the winners.

I was a Sari is an eco-ethical lifestyle fashion brand that engages an underprivileged community of women in Mumbai to make products from upcycled, pre-loved saris and other materials and to reinvent them into unique pieces. The winning collection comprised of recycled plastic tarpaulin, which was turned into a raincoat, bag and umbrella, a 3D-appliquéd garment, bags and shoes as well as a men’s t-shirt and carry bag.

The Circular Design Challenge was launched in August at the Winter Festive 2018 edition of LFW in collaboration with the UN Environment as a part of R Elan’s ‘Fashion for Earth’ initiative. It received 900 entries from over 30 cities in India. In November 2018, a shortlist of eight designers was announced who presented their collection at LFW summer resort 2019 on Thursday: Bareek, Pozruh by Aiman, I Was A Sari, Iro Iro, Lifaffa, Saltpetre - Minimal x Sustainable x Work wear, Miesu Studio and Doodlage, after which a jury selected the winner.

The international jury comprised of Mickey Boardman, editorial director and advice columnist for the New Yorker Paper Magazine; Bandana Tewari, lifestyle journalist, sustainable activist and columnist for Business of Fashion; Indian fashion and textile designer Rahul Mishra; Harsha Vardhan, global environment lead – supply chain, H&M Group; Atul Bagai, country head, UN Environment India, and Indian film actor and producer Neha Dhupia.

“It is evident from the sustainable collections showcased in the Circular Design Challenge that circularity in fashion has unprecedented benefits not just for the fashion industry and business but also for the environment. Circular fashion can and should be mainstreamed to drastically reduce the fashion and textile industry’s environmental footprint,” commented jury member Bagai.

Reliance Industries Ltd.’s ‘Fashion for Earth’ programme collaborated with UN Environment and LFW to launch the Circular Design Challenge to encourage designers and entrepreneurs to use innovative ideas by using materials from diverse waste sources including plastic, thus recognising the environmental champions of tomorrow.

This is the country’s first award for circularity in fashion, promoting sustainability across the value chain, inspiring innovation and offering solutions to reduce the environmental impact of India’s fashion and textile industry. “We are very excited for our first winner of the Circular Design Challenge. The crucial part for us is now to track and develop the business and ensure genuine impact to the circular and sustainable narrative,” commented Jaspreet Chandok, head of fashion, IMG Reliance.

Photos: The jury and winners at the event, some of the winning entries / Lakmé Fashion Week
circular design challenge
i was a sari
Lakme Fashion Week