12 indie fashion labels that deserve your love and support right now
Homegrown textiles, techniques and flair
When we don’t want to be the 800th girl wearing the polka-dot slip dress from Zara, it’s indie fashion labels that we turn to. Delicate fabrics and sublime prints, hand-crafted by India’s community of genius artisans — they make you feel like you’re wrapped in a lover’s embrace.
Painstakingly manufactured in small quantities, and often even custom-made, a number of these local labels focus on reviving indigenous handicrafts and using Indian textiles, while providing local karigaars with steady employment.
It is these designers and artisans who need our support to survive the lockdown, and we wanted to highlight deserving names from around the country.
Naturally, we turned to our virtual Tweak family and asked them to nominate their favourite indie fashion labels. Pairing their suggestions and some of our personal loves, we curated a list that will satiate your need for retail therapy, help you practise delayed gratification (as you wait for delivery) and boost your karma score.
From upcycled fabric turned into one-off masterpieces to dresses made from the most breathable yarns, Indian ethnic wear that protects age-old techniques to ethically-made accessories that will spruce up any boring outfit — here are the indie fashion labels that deserve your attention and support.
The indie fashion labels to put your money behind
Photo credit: Nor Black Nor White/Instagram
Founded by Toronto-raised Mriga Kapadiya and Amrit Kumar who moved to the sub-continent to explore their roots, NBNW was born out of a desire to take India to the world — a deep dive into bandhani opened up the floodgates, piquing an interest in old-school Indian textiles.
Their designs exemplify fashion as art — each of their vibrant, colourful pieces marries Indian textile traditions with contemporary silhouettes.
Think riotous bursts of colour, athleisure featuring bandhani, loungewear like joggers with tie-dye accents, and saris that float effortlessly in viscose chiffon and even psychedelic scrunchies. Price range: Rs 1,200 onwards. Norblacknorwhite.com
Photo credit: The Jodi Life/Instagram
The Jodi Life
Sure, clothes should make you look, and feel good. But The Jodi Life’s use of 100% natural Indian textiles and hand-block printing will make you feel really good.
Airy, breathable fabrics paired with graphic prints bring Gauri Verma and Karuna Laungani’s designs for men and women, to life. And with them, probably your desire to dress up as well.
We love their floaty dresses and skirts, and even men’s kurtas that work just as well for the girlfriend who stole them. They’ve also expanded into home décor, accessories and notebooks. Price range: approx Rs 3,000 onwards. Thejodilife.com
Photo credit: Doodlage Official/Instagram
As we add to cart we think about how our newly purchased outfit will look, how much it will hurt our bank balance and how quickly it’ll reach us.
The cost of our purchase on the environment scarcely occurs to us. This mindset is slowly changing, with more indie fashion labels drawing attention to the impact of consumption on nature.
Doodlage is a frontrunner. The label works at re-designing, re-constructing and recycling good quality second-hand clothing and industrial waste — giving us unique western wear with a conscience.
No two pieces are exactly the same. All the more appealing for those who like standing out. Price range: Rs 1,800 onwards. Doodlage.in
Photo credit: Torani Official/Instagram
Dadi and nani’s retellings of mythology and Indian legends evoke happy memories for most of us. For Delhi-based designer Karan Torani, his grandma’s tales, Chanderi saris and effortless grace became his inspiration.
His luxury Indianwear label takes shape with the looms of India – Bihar’s Madhubani to Gujarat’s bandhej to Kolkata’s fine mulmul and even Sindhi embroidery. Wearing his designs is like walking around with a piece of history lovingly wrapped around you.
His intricately created odhanis are stunning, and his western wear is also inextricably linked with Indian heritage — reviving local textiles one choli at a time. Price range: Rs 7,000 onwards. Torani.in
Photo credit: The Summer House/Instagram
The Summer House
Imagine being wrapped in a soft cloud, floating along on air. That’s what wearing a design from The Summer House feels like.
From consciously-made clothing to homeware that is created in association with local workmen and NGOs, they aim to employ organic materials and sustainable methods for their creations.
Sinuous silhouettes, airy fabrics (organic linen, khadi, silk and more) and soft colours — just like the sky, their pieces are timeless. Price range: approx Rs 2,500 onwards. Thesummerhouse.in
Photo credit: Keyah/ Instagram
This sari label is so under the radar that it doesn’t have a website, or a facebook page — but one look at its Instagram page will give you enough reason to reach to out to them via email or if you’re in Trivandrum, to check out their collection at multi-designer concept store RAHEL.
From delicately tie-dyed, geometric block printed, hand-painted to embroidered organza ombre saris, their nine yards are worth the effort. Price on request. [email protected]
Photo credit: Diaries of a Nomad/Instagram
If the Manic Pixie Dream Girl was looking for India-inspired fashion, she’d have a ball shopping at Nomad, founded by designer Harshita Gautam.
Inspired by ‘rural India’, she designs gypsy ghagras, wispy Chanderi saris and dresses, embroidered blouses, and much more.
In an interview with the Sunday Guardian, she says, “The fabric of our ghagra comes from the loom, and is hand-stitched, and by giving a platform to the handloom weavers, we not only provide them with employment but also save a part of our rich Indian traditions.”
Her website also offers up ethnic silver jewellery and home furnishings. Price range: approx Rs 4,000 onwards. Diariesofnomad.com
Photo credit: Chamar Studio/Instagram
If his work is anything to go by, Sudheer Rajbhar is an artist, designer and activist.
His design house Chamar Studio handcrafts sleek bags using recycled materials, shunning leather and mass production.
His products are made in collaboration with cobblers and leather craftsmen from the Dalit community (hence the name) and address social inequalities head on — with this collections titled, Bombay Black, Blue Collar and Black Fortune, respectively.
In aid of artisans living in the heavily Corona-affected Dharavi area, Chamar Studio will be supporting the families of 13 artisans, over the next 3 months, and has started a crowdfunding page to support this endeavour. Price range: Rs 1,500 onwards. Chamar.in
Photo credit: Picchika/Instagram
Can a sari infuse you with calm, make you one with nature?Allow Picchika by Urvashi Sethi to answer that question with their floral-rich designs, hand-painted by the craftsmen of Jaipur.
Solid colours with a whimsical wash featuring botanicals like java rose apple flowers, cherry red rose and spice-coloured Bougainville take you on a walk through a summer garden — except you’re not just smelling the roses, you are one of them.
From saris to salwar suits, they have the most delicate Indianwear on offer, and they even design custom orders.
Happy customers include everyone from Instagram influencers like House of Misu to powerhouses like Isha Ambani and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Price on request. Picchika.in
Photo credit: Suta_bombay/Instagram
A ruffled sari that makes you look somewhere between a sexy tiered cake and a bird with elaborate plumage, polka-dotted drapes in soft mulmul— Suta saris are unique to say the least.
Founded by sisters Sujata and Taniya Biswas (Suta is a portmanteau of their names), Suta is a house of handwoven saris, sourced from tiny Indian villages.
They work extensively with local weavers to create individualistic pieces, and with one visit to their site, you’ll be in sari heaven — they piece together everything you need, from petticoats, to blouses, sari fall and edging and even just fabric.
Indian at heart, the pieces live in contemporary bodies, perfect for the modern Indian woman. Price range: Rs 1,700 onwards (for saris). Suta.in
Photo credit: Amaria.in
We’re really not sari about having another sari label on this list. Especially since this label, founded in 2016 specialises in bringing us looms from the north east of India.
Founder Amy Aribam wanted to focus on the rich legacy of Manipuri weaves, while economically empowering the women weavers from Manipur.
Exploring the site is like getting lost in particularly graphic history lessons, and you can shops saris by state — from Kashmiri Ari embroidery to Assam handloom and more. Price range: Rs 1,800 onwards. Amaria.in
Photo credit: Urthlabel/Instagram
We love a play on words — and Urth label is one that promises to care for well, the Earth.
Their ‘urthlings’, aka, founder and team are attempting to create breathable, well-tailored designs (Western wear) while contributing a portion of their sales towards funding and planting trees.
Waste is sent to NGOs as raw material for art and craft workshops.
We love their contemporary takes on classics, and the fact that we can actually walk around in their clothes without worrying about sweating through synthetic fabrics in the India summer. Price range: Rs 2,200 onwards. Urthlabel.com
With inputs from Rochelle Pinto