Vanshika Gupta caught my eye because of her initiative to revive the old craft of Kutch called ‘SUF’ and further supporting the craftsmen in this period of pandemic. With the help of Kutch artists, Vanshika is making differently embroidered cotton masks with unique designs and colours. These masks sustain the age old craft and preserve it.
Her Label is making eco-friendly and sustainable masks that care and protect at the same time.
Suf embroidery masks by Vanshika Gupta
Suf embroidery masks are hand knitted cotton masks in different colours and patterns. It takes at least 2-3 days to make a mask. It’s a 3ply mask- the upper layer is cotton weave fabric with the Suf embroidery and the bottom layer is 100% cotton stripe fabric and cotton slub fabric. The middle layer is made of kala cotton fabric. The masks are breathable, reusable, rewash-able.
All the masks have been made from the left over fabric scraps. Vanshika is sustaining the craft and also using waste and sample fabrics in making the mask.
Here is a detailed discussion with the designer. Vanshika Gupta speaks extensively about her label, future and commitment to sustainability.
1. What does ‘ Fashion mean to you ‘ ?
Fashion, to me, is one of the most fascinating subjects. A person’s wardrobe can often reflect his or her personality. I believe it plays a significant role in our transformation and development as human beings. There is so much history and so much to be learned about its evolution. Not only is it relative to my professional career, but it’s something I find myself indulging in and becoming inspired by within all other aspects of my life.“Fashion is feeling good about yourself, taking inspiration from places and people and putting them together to make something that is your own, something that you are proud of and enjoyed creating.”
2. Fast fashion VS sustainability – your pick and why?
Slow fashion is also about returning to a personal relationship with fashion. One where trends and seasons don’t matter, but where your ethics and aesthetics seamlessly unite, and you can escape the stress of constant consumption, focusing on the style that truly appeals to you. Sustainable fashion is often concerned with the environmental impact. Opting for fibers and materials that are organic, recycled, or repurposed, limiting harmful chemicals/dyes, reducing energy/water usage and waste, and overall choosing low-impact options wherever possible. Slow fashion is sustainable and doesn’t view products as disposable. Slow fashion is ethical and looks at the connections between things—raw materials, the environment, human labour, etc. Slow fashion is about quality instead of quantity—garments that can last years or even a lifetime.
Sustainability: I think clothes tell the story of their journey or the generation they have been through. Since the consumption has increased in the fashion industry so has the waste. The crafts are dying because of fast fashion. And they need to be passed through generations now.
3. Are you a minimalist or a hoarder?
I guess I’m in between.
4. Tell us about your latest offering- designer Masks with SUF craft in different colours and patterns.
SUF is an Indian craft practiced by the women of Sarmasar village, Kutch. It’s an embroidery technique which requires no khaka or frame and is done by counting warp and weft by hand. Well, we planned to launch our clothing line in SUF but because of this pandemic our whole process had been put to halt. We got stuck on how the market will respond during covid. We made some changes in our silhouettes and used embroidered SUF from our collection to get out results. Rather than going for big we started with something small and essential during this time. As we have made different types of masks with different patterns, we have 3 varieties of surfaces on the masks- patchwork Embroidery, weaved embroidery, all over Embroidery. Then we have 2 different shapes and 2 different functions. One is like the N95 mask reinforced with 3 layers of cotton features with elastic for the ears. Second is like a pleated mask. It’s a folded pleated mask reinforced with 3 layers of cotton and features with adjustable strings that can be tied at the back of the head to avoid pressure on the ears. Of course, it’s done in a classic style.
5. What is the new normal?
The new normal is going to be slow and craft oriented. The new normal is making our senses phobic to everything. The process of garment making/construction will be delayed. Now the normal is disinfecting ourselves every time. This new normal is a depressive phase for the consumer and more for the producer. This new normal will be normal only when we have zero cases in the state/country. People are more afraid to purchase than to produce in this new normal which is not normal in its own way. But we still have positivity and hope that this new normal is going to be as prosperous as it was before. But will it be? I think that’s the question we all are asking ourselves during this new normal.
6. How is the fashion industry coping with the current scenario?
Most of India’s local designers are small business owners who employ less than 100 people. The coronavirus outbreak has left those designers especially vulnerable, confronting an obliteration of sales, wage loss and employee layoffs. The number of garments have definitely decreased in a collection because of this pandemic. We all are just hoping for this pandemic to get over. Designers believe what will definitely survive these tough times is the clothing range that falls under the range of sustainable and classic fashion. Since customers might not have extra cash at their disposal, they will be compelled to shop more for items that last longer, clothes that they can reuse and those that become classics in the wardrobe. Designers could work on designs and innovate within the constraints of the present scenario with both empathy and sympathy for both craftspeople and consumers. A new range of textiles, clothes and crafted products could pave the future and in sync with the changing lifestyle.
7. Please tell more about the SUF craft and craftsmen.
Some women of Sarmasar village in Bhuj are the only craftspersons left who still practice this craft. This craft consists of a needle, a yarn which can pass through the minute holes in the fabric, and a good pair of eyes. As you have noticed I haven’t mentioned any frames or anything to help in creating the butas because this craft is done by holding the fabric and counting the tana and bana of the fabric. There are no khakas to make it easier as we won’t be able to know it the pattern is falling on the correct count of yarns. The butas are the geometric representation of nature or its elements. The themes are never drawn. Every craftsman envisions his or her plan, then counts it out, in reverse! Gifted craftsmen in this craft require a highly developed comprehension of geometry and sharp visual perception. A SUF craftsman shows virtuosity in detailing, filling symmetrical patterns with tiny triangles, and accent stitches.
8.Please throw light on the history of SUF.
Kutch is world renowned for its mirrored embroideries. Most of these were traditionally stitched by village women, for themselves and their families, to create festivity, honor deities, or generate wealth. While embroideries contributed to the substantial economic exchange required for marriage and fulfilled other social obligations which required gifts, unlike most crafts, they were never commercial products. Embroidery also communicates self and status. Differences in style create and maintain distinctions that identify community, sub-community, and social status within community. The “mirror work” of Kutch is really a myriad of styles, which presents a richly textured map of regions and ethnic groups. Each style, a distinct combination of stitches, patterns and colours, and rules for using them, was shaped by historical, socio-economic and cultural factors. Traditional but never static, styles evolved over time, responding to prevailing trends. This form of embroidery was traditionally used to decorate a bride’s collection of clothing and part of her family’s gifts to the fiancé’s family. Suf embroidery was also known from neighbouring Sindh, in modern Pakistan. In 1972, and as a direct result of the India-Pakistan War (1971), many Hindu communities, including embroiderers, migrated from Sindh in (Muslim) Pakistan to neighbouring (Indian) Kutch, thus introducing new elements to Suf embroidery in Kutch. Suf embroidery is a form of counted thread embroidery practiced nowadays in the Kutch region of Gujarat, western India, and beyond. It is characterised by a type of economy stitch worked from the back. The patterns are generally based on a triangle or ‘suf’, and are geometric, symmetrical and very detailed. The coveted motifs of Suf embroidery aren’t ordinarily drawn onto the base fabric; instead, they are developed around a progression of triangles and diamonds. Frequently, little bits of glass or mirror (shisha) are incorporated into the patterns.
9. What’s your take on the dying crafts of India?
India is a land of arts and crafts, it has always been known for its handicrafts, but sadly enough this has become a thing of the past as people have begun to lose interest in the handicrafts. The fact that there are now various new consumer goods which are mass produced and easily available in the markets that people have shifted their demand from handicrafts to these goods. The Indian soil has various forms of handicrafts. Though they are beautiful and have been passed on through the generations, it is rather sad that we are now in a situation that steps have to be taken to ensure that these don’t die. Somehow over the years, with the advent of technology and fast lives, we have been unable to protect the handicrafts completely. I have discovered three dying crafts till now. I am introducing these two crafts that I am currently working with to the market via my collections. I want to increase the curiosity in the consumer with these crafts. And I want to know the response within the craftsmen towards crafts and slow fashion so that they will be employed throughout the year and teaching to those who want to join our team. The dying crafts of India include Chamba Rumal painting, Madhubani paintings, handloom weaving, suf embroidery. Suf embroidery is a free hand embroidery, practiced only in the Kutch district of Gujarat. Rogan painting is a free hand cloth painting, practiced only in the Kutch district of Gujarat.
10. What are the fabrics & printing techniques being used for your regular collections?
Right now we are coming with our barcode collection which is made up of 100% cotton fabrics. We have used different forms of weaved lines to make this collection. We were also in the middle of our SUF collection which consists of cotton, linen and silk fabric. We have played with the yarns for the textures. For the textures we have been doing Suf embroidery on them. As it’s a collection on SUF only, we haven’t thought of any printing yet for the recent collection. But for the future I would be working with a lot of print crafts, like ajrakh prints and block prints.
11. How do you ensure that the brand creates minimum waste and uses all its resources to minimize the negative impact on the environment?
As a brand practicing less wastage, we have been making our packaging inhouse from muslin fabrics. Our garment bags (potlis) are made using our leftover fabrics from the collection to make tassels (Lumba). We also use our leftover scraps fabrics and embellishments to decorate the tassels and make tags out of it.
We also use whatever waste is left from the collection to make quirky products. We have a sustainable line as well where we display our products. Since the market requires masks, we have used our scrap fabrics from barcode collection to make them.
So, as a brand we are doing our bit for almost no wastage and a clean environment.
12. How did the brand incept?
My brand is about amalgamation of Indian craft i.e. SUF with western touch and essence of Indian silhouettes. We are introducing this craft to the market so that it can be revived again and the craftswomen who practice these crafts can earn more through our collection.
13. What are your favourite pieces from the launch?
Red jumpsuit with a different silhouette.
14. What’s your relationship with clothing?
It affects you more than you may realize. Whether you consider yourself someone who is “into fashion” or not, you have a relationship with your clothes. You put them on every single day (at least I hope you do!), and they speak on your behalf to those around you before you even open your mouth.
Think about it this way: Once you start being confident in your own skin and stop requiring your significant other to provide constant validation, you’re actually able to enjoy them more as a person. It’s not that you love them any more or any less, but you’ve shifted your expectations of what they are supposed to ‘do’ for you. You’re able to appreciate them for who they are and great outfits makes me feel amazing, but the base of my confidence is not dependent on it.
15. Three clothing pieces you can’t live without?
Jeans – Everyone owns a pair of denim trousers. Look out for the right fit and style that flatters your body shape.
The Handbag- Investing in a good, versatile bag is the best option. For my everyday-running to meetings-runnning errands- handbag, I prefer spacious bags that can carry a lot of things. Simply opt for a colour that’s easy to match (classic black, white, even tan).
The Classic Plain White shirt / Tee – it comes in a variety of styles: V neck, fitted, loose, oversized, but it never loses its necessity in your wardrobe. I seriously can’t think of anyone who doesn’t own a basic white tee. For real.
16. 3 Reasons to go for Label Vanshika masks?
1. Indian crafts and textile
17. What are your upcoming launches to look forward to?
We are launching our crafted masks from Kutch which are Suf embroidered face masks and Rogan art (hand painted) face masks. Then we are launching barcode collection : 100% cotton collection, inspired by lines. In our barcode collection we are making masks with almost every garment. Keeping in mind THE NEW NORMAL.
18. What is your one key advice to women who want to start their fashion business?
Your brand needs to be about something bigger than just selling clothes. Figure out why you started your brand. What’s the story that you’re going to tell through selling your clothes? It may take a long time but just have the patience and confidence. Push yourself!
19. How can women instill more confidence in them?
Women only pursue opportunities when they have 100 percent of the skills needed while men pursue opportunities when they have just 60 percent. Women are missing opportunities because they’re not participating. They’re not putting themselves out there. But with more confidence, women could achieve more by taking chances.
Focus on your strengths rather than your shortcomings. This is again related to how you think.
Write down 3 things every day that you did well, and you are proud of.
- SKIN CARE JUNKY
- LISTEN TO MUSIC TO INCREASE MY CONCENTRATION
- WORK AND LOVE FOR FASHION AND CLOTHES
20. What are your favourite 5 Fashion Must haves?
1. Pumps – “Pointed-toe styles are pure magic when it comes to making your legs look longer (and leaner).” — Stylist Nanda G.
2. Button up shirts – “Take your button-up up a notch by choosing one in a luxe material like viscose, Tencel or silk.” — Stylist Jennifer M.
3 . Black pants – Don’t be afraid to invest in these. A great pair will stay in your closet for years and years.
4. Statement jacket
5 . Lightweight scarf
21. Your one advice to all the readers of Let’s Expresso, a top fashion & lifestyle blog?
Stay indoors and stay safe.
Well, I couldn’t agree more. With this, I sign out with a big thanks to Vanshika Gupta for being true and inspiring for the upcoming designers and customers. Slow fashion and sustainability is the need of the hour. It’s our planet, our life and our commitment.