Guwahati: For the love of the planet, awareness on sustainability has been included in several conversations in the last three decades, surprisingly, those conversations have made their way into the fashion world. Asenla Jamir, the founder and creative director of Otsü Clothing Co, is on the frontline – a mission to entrench sustainable fashion designing in India.
Originally from Nagaland, Jamir spent most of her childhood in Jorhat, Assam. She completed her secondary education at Patkai Christian College in Dimapur, and for her college education, she attended the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Mumbai, where she did a four year course on fashion communication.
After her graduation from NIFT, Jamir worked briefly as a freelance fashion stylist. In that time, she dabbled into the world of acting, featuring in the movie ‘Axone’ in the year 2018.
Jamir’s journey into the world of fashion styling began from her teenage years. In addition, her search for purpose in the things she found the most joy doing propelled her to take an interest in slow fashion.
“It all started with my graduation project when I went to Nagaland and researched two specific tribes – Konyak and Chakhesang. I experienced their lifestyle, food, learned their history and heard their stories. It was an eye opener for me, knowing that the place I belong to has so much to learn from and is also extremely rich in culture and heritage. When I came back to Bombay I started brainstorming on how I can embrace my roots and work on something which will promote our history and culture and put us on the map and make people know more about us. Hence, the journey began from there while I manifested for two years and last year was when I started executing it seriously after I moved to Dimapur, Nagaland,” Jamir narrates.
As global bodies continue to bring the heat on nations about the need to entrench eco-friendly practices, Jamir and many others like her have taken the mantle in spreading the message in the fashion world. This interest was birthed from a place of genuine concern, watching the actions and inactions of humans affect our planet. Although she isn’t completely living a sustainable life yet, being careful about her purchases and carbon footprint is definitely a step in the right direction.
She began his journey as an environmental friendly, ethical and sustainable designer when she became aware of the pollution by fast fashion companies. CO2 pollution and fabric wastage are some of the ways in which these companies have proven to be enemies of the environment, and Jamir aims to put an end to it.
There are not enough sustainable fashion companies like Otsü, which when translated from Ao dialect to English means “Stories”. Some of the actions that make Otsü a truly sustainable brand include using materials that are great for the environment like Naga textiles and rescued fabrics, strict “season-less” policy as they do not keep up with current trends and the “one piece item only” which limits mass production. This practice also greatly reduces environmental wastages.
Jamir also encourages consumers to begin sustainability, by purchasing thrifted items, paying more attention to purchases and their origins, reusing clothes to avoid wastages, being more conscious about buying lesser and more environmental products.
The fashion industry like many other industries is ridden with several problems that have slowed down its growth. Jamir says, “Mass production, sweat shops, environmental wastage, toxic clothing, physical/mental abuse towards workers and no authenticity/originality” are some of these problems.
Although at a slow pace, Jamir believes the Indian fashion industry is slowly accepting sustainable fashion. Fashion shows are beginning to incorporate sustainable fashion designs to their line-ups. Sustainable fashion designers are now given the freedom to express themselves and display creative and beautiful designs. In addition, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) has begun steps to promote sustainable fashion by promoting regional handlooms and fabrics.
The topic of sustainable fashion is fast becoming a global phenomenon. Jamir believes there’s a huge difference between the Indian and international acceptance of this concept. She describes the situation. “Here consumers find ethical fashion quite expensive. In India most of the people’s mindset towards fast fashion has not yet shaken, a lot of people would prefer paying less and getting more than investing on a good quality piece that will last for years (and I was one of them).”
“I absolutely understand why, it’s our mindset we need to change and actually think about how to contribute to the environment. But comparatively to previous years sustainable fashion in India has now been accepted quite well, some people are becoming more mindful and aware of their purchases and that’s a great start,” she adds.
On her source of inspiration and creativity, the Nagaland designer says; “I find inspiration anywhere and everywhere. I don’t go looking for it; I naturally let it come to me. I love communicating with people, listening to their stories, history, and folklore looking at their old photo albums and staying a night at their house and doing what they do for the day so I understand their lifestyle. It’s all a beautiful process,” Jamir says.
As with all sustainable designers, Jamir isn’t one to follow trends. Most of her designs are from pieces that she most connects with, and then she proceeds to working on the design that would be most suitable for the garment.
Some of her favourite pieces from her collection include – golden silk blouse with Changkini mekhela, grey trouser with Zung-ü jang and Azu Jangnup Su mekhela, and half-sleeve Denim jacket with Zung-ü-jang and modern design Chang-ki mekhela with reused fabric patchwork on the back.
The Nagaland-based designer is currently dealing with the pandemic to the best of her ability. She constantly tries to maintain her creative flow by seeking inspirations where she can find it, so as to continue producing amazing designs amidst the uncertainty. She also is trying out different collections with different tribes, as she constantly tries to keep her customers guessing and at the edge of their seats.
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