An Interview with Sustainable Fashion Designer: Vino Supraja
Hi Vino, congratulations on officially launching Vino Supraja! The collection is stunning and it’s great to see a new sustainable brand on the scene too. You’ve had quite a journey into the world of fashion, from your roots as an architect to the designer that you are today. Tell us how it all started…
Hey Rhiannon, Thank you very much. To tell you my story in short, I am a small town girl, who moved into a city to study architecture. I was working in television and radio in India as a live show presenter. Destiny moved me to China, where language was a major barrier to continue my career in media, hence I decided to study something creative. I did my Bachelor’s in fashion Design in IFA Paris, Shanghai. My graduation collection walked the ramp in Shanghai Fashion Week and won awards and mentions in all major fashion magazines including VOGUE, China and ELLE, China. Destiny again moved me to the USA, where I had shown my collections in Brooklyn Fashion Week and New York fashion Week. Now, here I am in Dubai, graduated again out of ESMOD, Dubai in Fashion Marketing and started my own sustainable fashion brand. I am an artist and I design my textiles, my garments are my canvas and I express myself with the prints I design on the fabrics. As you can see, I am the child of destiny.
Was it always the intention to become a sustainable and ethical designer? What was it that first raised your awareness on the issue of fast fashion?
Like every other designer, I was ignorant about the environmental impact that the fashion industry is causing. It was when my teacher Mr. Jean Michel, from ESMOD, spoke to me about the impacts of fashion on the earth, I decided that I shouldn’t be part of something that causes so much damage to nature. The transformation didn’t happen overnight. The trigger from my teacher made me read, watch and learn more about sustainable fashion and I started up ‘Vino Supraja’ as a sustainable and ethical fashion brand.
What would you say are the key things that make your brand sustainable?
Being a sustainable fashion brand is a continuous process of seeking safer and sustainable materials and coming up with new methods of production. The fabrics we use in our garments are all made of 100% organic cotton, hand loomed and tailored by a community of weavers in a small village called Chennimalai, Tamil Nadu, India. The pigments that are used, the fabrics and the fibres are all GOTS certified. We try to avoid plastic everywhere possible. We are currently exploring various other sustainable materials for our next collection aside from organic cotton. As I said, this journey is continuous.
It’s not just sustainability that matters so much to you, but also ethics. When choosing the tailors and artisans to work with on the production of your own garments, what factors were most important to you?
Mahatma Gandhi is one of the greatest fashion warrior against mass production this world has seen. He said, “There is no beauty even in the finest cloth if it creates hunger and unhappiness”. I strongly believe in his words. Our team of weavers and Tailors live in a village, weave in an eco-friendly green building, have food together in the community canteen, they are paid proper wages and they do not slog at work. I can assure this because, I went there personally, stayed with them for weeks, had food with them and listened to their stories. They are very positive and enthusiastic that reflects in the products they make.
As consumers, what are the easiest ways that we can all be more sustainable in our approach to fashion?
The biggest problem of fast fashion is the amount of consumption. We are buying 400% more than what we used to buy just two decades ago. Our wardrobes don’t have stories anymore. We buy clothes not because they are special but because they are on sale. It is very much possible to have a capsule wardrobe and be creative in styling. We can make one purchase that is meaningful than buying four t-shirts on sale. We write blogs on our website where we talk about how to create a more sustainable wardrobe and sustainable fashion to bring awareness to the people about this. This is so important because sustainable fashion can no more remain just as a trend, it is a necessity and need of the hour.
This first collection of yours is inspired by art deco. We know that your childhood home had a lot to do with your love of art deco, and later, the architecture in Michigan where you studied for some time. Can you give us any teasers on what might be the inspiration for the next collection?
Haha, our next collection is ready on papers. We are planning to visit India this December to kick start the production process. We are also planning to explore sustainable fabrics other than organic cotton. If you want to know about the inspiration behind the collection, I can tell you it will be a signature Vino Supraja collection- artsy, fun with a deep story behind the inspiration. I can’t reveal more than that at this point :)
You’ve achieved some great things in sustainable fashion since you became a designer and have garnered some notable awards already, such as The Golden Laureate award and The Sustainable Fashion Runway Award from the UAE Fashion Revolution. Tell us your proudest moment so far.
Honestly, I never work for achievements or awards, I work because I enjoy the process. I like expressing myself through this form of art called fashion. Whatever comes on the way as recognition, I respectfully accept. We all appreciate a pat on the back but regardless I will continue my process. I have not felt proud about anything I have achieved so far but have felt extremely happy and satisfied when I create something good and meaningful. Art excites me more than awards.
Thanks Vino for taking the time to answer these questions! It’s been great speaking with you and learning more about your sustainable journey. We’ll look forward to seeing the next collection and following all the great work that you’re doing!
Thanks for appreciating my work. It takes a lot of courage to move away from a regular job and choose art as a career. All the very best to you Rhiannon in your own artistic ventures, it was wonderful talking to you.