March 10, 2023 FDCI

Ink-ing a green future

Ink from exhaust fumes carbon, or Air Ink will define our relationship with the way we print and dye believes Nitin Bal Chauhan, as he channels sustainability and begins a much-needed conversation about conservation.

By Asmita Aggarwal

He opted to showcase issue-based collections, whether it was the immigration crisis and the loneliness associated with it or the Jallianwala Bagh massacre to today when he is exploring how pollution in Delhi, a killer, can be controlled. Nitin Bal Chauhan tied up with Graviky, run by inventor Anirudh Sharma, who first thought of the idea of Air-ink during an experiment at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, (MIT), while he was designing a printer that could print with carbon nanoparticles.

The company now produces paints made out of the exhaust fume carbon collected from vehicles. “He has spent three years developing an exhaust filter that can capture 95% of the carbon from cars, generators and boats and convert it to ink and paint. Air-Ink is the only line of art made from air pollution,” says Chauhan. It makes pollutants into refillable, water resistant markers and screen printing ink.

The colours can be used to print and dye textiles, an alternative to chemical infused offerings the fashion world has been using till date. This is being initiated by the Fashion For Good Museum in Amsterdam, who are looking for people who can be agents of change. Chauhan was one of them who also got featured in the museum along with his ensembles, which one accolades globally.

The conversation today revolves around sustainability and the world is looking at alternatives to fibres—-wood, hemp, banana have been explored. Delhi being the epicenter of pollution, crop burning has accelerated the chaos, ingenious engineers thought of creating a fibre out of crop waste; much like making vegetable dyes using microbes.  For the FDCI X LFW line, Albert Camus’ Nobel prize winning book The Stranger, published in 1942 is the ignition point for Chauhan, which explores the wilderness of life. Human consciousness through one man’s misery.

The designer has been working with hand embroidery abandoning any machination, and new-age materials gave him an undeniable continuity. Though there are innumerous challenges working with alternative materials—coarseness being one, so blending is essential; colour palette is restricted; tonality gets restrained; owners must agree to put the apparatus in their vehicle to collect the soot; and costing becomes higher that’s why some brands are still hesitant to use these.

 “These inventions are at an initial stage, they will need time and investment to experiment,” says Chauhan. Camus forced us to look at things differently and Chauhan attempted to do the same with fashion, offering structured shapes, voluminous jackets, asymmetrical dresses, pattern cutting which he enjoys along with a heady mix of 3 D embroideries.

“This year there is more brightness than I use —from apricot crush to galactic cobalt and digital lavender,” he affirms. The contrast of monochromes makes it more interesting, as he also incorporates paper mâché, organic cotton, engineered polyester which offers both longevity and durability. The designer believes in reformation, if you buy an outfit and the embroidered beads fall off, they will be sewn and straightened for free.

Architecture comes naturally to Chauhan and the precision geometry boosts his passion, along with this all the waste strip cut is converted into doori and used as embroidery on garments. Few know, Chauhan also launched a line of streetwear for Walt Disney, inspired by a cartoon strip, making denims, tees with graphics and prints giving the company a turnover of Rs 60 crores. He launched a store in Mehrauli but refused to get drawn into the lehenga-choli selling war, closing it for more intellectual pursuits and also runs NBC fusion which is a trousseau wear line done in his unique—“more but less” way! Interestingly, along with two of his friends from Himachal, specifically Shimla he launched a line of teas, chilli paste and woolen accessories as a homage to his land of birth. “That is something close to my heart, it made me the man I am today,” he concludes.


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