Iro Iro run by the intrepid Bhaavya Goenka, who uses upcycling techniques to create a community wardrobe where versatility remains the key
By Asmita Aggarwal
Sometimes a personal tragedy becomes the blueprint of your life, which was the case with Bhaavya Goenka, and her label Iro Iro. Translating to “various” in Japanese, the 28-year-old designer, who studied at the Institute of Craft and Design, Jaipur, won a medal for academic excellence, looked at her venture as an ode to her mom, her mentor who died of cancer.
Bhaavya grew up around a garment factory to a textile engineer father and a child psychologist mother, who were intrepid enough to leave Delhi and move to Jaipur with two young daughters and start life afresh. The training was thorough just by observation as her mother made pouches out of discarded fabrics she found around Jaipur of handloom and then started a garment factory, exporting to only Japan, not scaling it deliberately to control quality. “My mom would make baskets and hangers out of waste and when I decided to study design, in college I visited a village where most of the khadi weavers due to lack of work left to become construction workers. Only three stayed back and I knew I would work with them, they opened their doors to an impressionable 19-year-old girl,” she recalls.
Here she began weaving from waste, and the ideology was simple—just because you are using waste, doesn’t mean it will look sloppy, there should be no sense of donation but dignity. The textures created are indigenous almost inventive and a lot of thought goes into motifs and expression.
Bhaavya uses cut off waste, something that she learnt on a scholarship at IIM Ahmedabad, where she studied creative management. The katrans are then converted into beautiful patterns, by employing zero waste pattern cutting, and the label doesn’t want to stop at this, it looks at upcyling through various mediums—most potent is collaborations.
She remembers her father’s words quite distinctly, he always told her, “if you cook, but not from the heart, it will never taste good. Similarly, if you design and the quality of life of your employees is not elevated, you will never be truly successful.” Using Japanese techniques of origami, and ensuring everything is reused, her FDCI X LFW line is aptly titled “Pyaar”. It celebrates the power of relationships—it could be —mom-daughter, father-son, two lovers et al.
The beauty of the line is the garments are exchangeable, creating a communal wardrobe where you can borrow from each other. “Somewhere through this I am looking for my mom, I am keeping her alive through this process,” she adds. The collection focuses on circularity and is segregated into four parts; the first one is “Parichay” or introduction, where there is a familiarity and sense of safety, communicated through formal looks. The second is “Pusht” or validated, where extra weft motifs of tees and banana leaves in conventional shapes are moulded. The third is “Tyaar” or ready, where you are open to be vulnerable, it boasts of deconstructed saris, the pallu can be converted to scarves and the bottom into skirts, inspired by home textiles, largely Rajasthani. The last one is “Sweekar” or acceptance, with colourful zero waste patterns.
Iro Iro began by reusing katrans from their own factory, transformed into linear forms, slowly it became collaborative, the House of MG, a luxury hotel in Ahmedabad approached them to upcycle 2000 kg of waste from which 5,000 metres of fabrics was produced. Among others was also a Singapore company as well as domestic associations, who are focused on value creation and not blatant consumerism. “The problem is the customer expectations fast fashion has built, you want everything in 10000 pieces, in one colour and you are viewing it online. In upcyling, the blue, for example, will not be constant, as you are dependent on what you procure, the aspiration has to be for uniqueness and not sameness,” she asserts.
The pandemic made things challenging for small business, but Bhaavya is upbeat and believes her label is Indian and innovative, the competition is not with other upcycled labels, but with fast fashion. “My sister is also a designer, who graduated from Pearl Academy, and decided to work with Bagru artisans. Both of us have one mission to focus on small things which make a big difference,” she concludes.