Kriti Tula of Doodlage, would have been an archaeologist or psychologist if she wasn’t a designer and she uses the same excavation style while crafting magic out of discarded fabric.
By Asmita Aggarwal
Bareilly-born Kriti Tula always knew that fashion had to have more meaning than just wearing clothes, it had to be a deeper thought, a researched idea and she believed it is not just great intellectuals or economists, who have the power to change the world, but even seamstresses and idea thinkers. That’s why after Pearl Academy where she studied fashion design and also taught, she went on a scholarship to the London College of Fashion, for two years to study design management.
While in the UK, she worked for Shopvolution where she curated fashion but had to return to India as she had already launched her label Doodlage, in 2012 before she left. “The whole idea was to do clothes out of discarded fabrics and they would still look one-of-a-kind, as well as individualistic,” says Kriti.
Doodles, which everyone once in a while indulges in, in a coffee shop, on a flight, while having lunch or waiting for a lover, is deeply personal and also a stress buster and that became a metaphor for her label.
“We work with limited resources as we don’t order raw material, but collect it from factories, who have sent off large shipments, and this according to me, makes each dress unique,” she smiles.
When she started her label, it was more about comfort, looking beyond the conventional manner of dressing, so anti-fit seemed interesting as there was no mould to fit in. “A lot of our customers came to us saying that your clothes must be cheaper as you use waste fabrics or cuttings, and export rejects, that we source from printing units. Earlier it was tough as we didn’t have places we could source from, but now people come to us as India is frankly the largest production ground for most foreign labels,” she admits.
What’s fascinating is that most designers travel abroad, look at architecture, get inspired by a poem or nature and then look for materials, but Kriti has to do it the other way around. She first sources waste fabric and then has to think about how she will put it together. “So, we had to reinvent our supply chain, and if people like something they tend to reorder, so we have to think about that too and how we can replicate it,” she asserts.
Kriti started working while she was in the second year of college, and saw how many export houses wasted so she was never interested in virgin fabrics. “It is not just important how you source, but also how you take care of your waste. Whatever we waste, we create scraps, and then we make textures out of it. These are converted into home furnishings and bags, we also give home stores fabrics they can use, so really nothing ever goes into the bin,” she adds.
Kriti, who admires brands like Reformation, says that there are many challenges working with discarded fabrics as some may have tears or stains. Also, she needs to see how to align the fabrics to be able to make 100 pieces out of it, even if it comes in small quantities. “If there is a hole in the fabric we hand embroider it; a stain is handled with patchwork, making each piece aesthetically pleasing,” she says.
Coming from an academic family, her father worked with State Bank of India, her homemaker mom encouraged her, and her sister is a PhD in English literature, so no one was even remotely interested in fashion design. “I was always interested in the nuance of design, and there is a connection between the environment and fashion, so even buying a jean can impact the delicate ecological balance. We decided to follow a holistic process. Everyone should think about how to dispose of their dyes, use less polyester and also take care of their waste,” she says.
Kriti has also started working with recycled cotton and wool, as she feels enough is produced, though what she feels needs to change is the consumer mindset, building a sustainable business model and make less, but good quality garments that last a long time. “We have started giving repair kits along with our garments, to make the consumer more conscious and the response has been phenomenal. We don’t believe in aggressive marketing, but only through the medium of Instagram we have got a lot of queries and orders from Australia to the UK,” she admits.
What’s fascinating about it is also that Kriti takes care of small things that make a big difference, so the packaging is in a recycled cloth bag, so everything she does and breathes is sustainable and plastic-free. And the price range is Rs 4,500 to Rs 14,000, though she hopes to bring it down to Rs 2,500 to Rs 6,000. “In the past, we would get hand-me-downs of my sister’s clothes; if my cousin’s jeans were torn, a denim patch was put on top of it. I miss those good old days, and I want to bring back the culture of wearing a garment 40 times before it is discarded,” she concludes.