March 16, 2024 FDCI

Right to Repair

Ashita Singhal started as a curious fashion student wanting to know how to upcycle waste, and that’s how Paiwand, her label was conceptualized. Winning the Nexa Spotlight and telling us that re-woven is austerity personified; she is consciously saving the planet one less stitch at a time.

By Asmita Aggarwal

She was quintessentially far away from anything remotely fashion, as the Delhi-born and raised Ashita Singhal founder Paiwand Studio’s father’s business is of electrical wiring and her mom a homemaker, but the capital and its inhabitants did turn on their charm on the young aspiring fashion student. She graduated in fashion design from Pearl Academy of Fashion, in 2018 and her graduation project was the one which won her the Nexa Spotlight.

Learning pattern making in college, she understood the enormous waste fashion generates, which is the reality of fast fashion. Most of her projects for college submissions revolved around upcycling textile waste, thus the moniker “Paiwand”, “lagana” or “to repair”. “Blue Pottery, the title of my Pearl Academy project, was a wholesome way to recraft what was considered waste, weaving it into something spectacular. It also won me a $25,000 James Mcquire grant that helped me start my business,” says 28-year-old Ashita, who used to get the katrans from either ragpickers or export houses.

“Clothing is second skin, it must be special, so I began a concerted effort to undertake R and D on the kind of textiles we wear. The only way to upcycle was to visit local markets and procure materials and then elevate it with patchwork and hand embroidery. My in-house handloom unit is focused on innovation and we have successfully upcycled leather, flex, cotton to silk, polyester and knits,” she admits.

The beauty of working with waste is, its unpredictability, it is limited, so you have to be imaginative, and keep looking at options, developing around the concept, you find ingenious ways along the process. “There is no stagnancy in the colours or yarns, but yes, the biggest challenge is to justify costing, as consumers tell us, “it is made out of waste, so it should be cheaper,” she laughs.

‘City Blues’, the title of her 2024 line for the Lakme Fashion Week 2024 X FDCI was around the Nexa theme “Urbane” and this is where her “love-hate” relationship with Delhi came into play. Ashita loathes the mass consumerism and herd mentality, but admires how the Capital gives her the space to express herself, looking at the multiplicity of life, through like-minded individuals. “I wanted to showcase the contrasts —we are inspired by streetwear, but I have intermixed it with understated luxury,” she exclaims. There are blazers, jackets, dresses, and conceptual pieces which push the design envelope.

“Jod” is her showpiece, woven on handloom, it is two pieces connected without a single stitch, showcasing the binding through contrasts. This line has effectively utilized knit waste, block printed scrap, whatever she could find and flex which is easy to get in local bazaars. “At the Nexa jury the members couldn’t believe that our pieces which had a couture feel were crafted out of scrap, they were both esthetically and visually appealing,” she confides.

Offering a lifetime guarantee to repair outfits when consumers buy from her, she believes, interiors and hotels, allows her a chance to diversify, as her dream collaboration must be with Eileen Fisher, the American conservationist and designer.

The price range is Rs 10,000 upwards, to Rs 40,000 and Paiwand also offers customization. “We also use jamdani, traditional weaving techniques, zari, as well as double circularity where we recycle our waste which we call- ‘re re woven’ or woven twice. “The future for us as a brand is establishing a signature brand identity and maybe acquiring a distinct global presence,” she signs off.

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Fashion Design Council of India