Can you tell this necklace was once a pile of plastic waste?
7 Indian brands that are turning trash into treasures
In college, every visit to M.G. road — Pune’s paradise for street shoppers — inevitably ended up with us buying more shiny jhumkas than the number of occasions to which we could wear them. Perhaps aware of their futile existence, the jhumkas played a game of hide-and-seek with me. One earring would inevitably divorce its partner and wander off to the sock drawer or dive into a forgotten corner of the cupboard, only to be discovered on the rare occasions I complied with impending requests to clean my room. By then, I had already tossed its lone partner into the trash.
This past year, as news headlines filled with stories of environmental damage caused by human carelessness, I’ve been forced to reckon with my retail therapy. Years worth of lost jhumkas, adding to overstuffed landfills.
Since I wasn’t going to give all my belongings to the Salvation Army and become a sanyasi, I had to find balance. As much as I hate to admit it, Instagram’s ad algorithm came to my rescue.
It introduced me to upcycled Indian jewellery brands that were pulling one person’s trash out of recycling centres and turning them into another person’s treasure. Including cardboard. Old teak furniture. And buttons, another species that loves to pop off and disappear at the most inopportune moments.
Scratch your shopping itch by investigating the offerings at these upcycled Indian jewellery brands. Your money does double duty here — keeps trash out of landfills and supports local businesses. That’s an achievement you can wear with pride.
Upcycled Indian jewellery brands that deserve your money
Studio Love Letter
Riding on the ’90s revival mode and beloved by fashion influencers, Studio Love Letter Studio gives every piece of recycled plastic jewellery its own name and personality. The pieces are handmade in the Goa-based brand’s workshop.
Tweak picks: This pastel-coloured neckpiece could have been dreamed up by Harry Styles on a watermelon sugar high.
Mumbai-based NIFT-alumnus Riddhi Patel found the right fit for her playful, aquatic designs in leather scraps found in Dharavi. The designs — cut by hand and laser — have a childlike quality about them which transforms the strips of waste into jewellery full of vigour and life.
Tweak picks: We are particularly fond of these deep-sea themed earrings which feel straight out of Finding Nemo.
A Bollywood fanatic needs no reminding that the most romantic thing that can happen between newlyweds is the button falling off their partner’s shirt. The button might play cupid for them, but Vibhita Edward saw a design opportunity. Her label breathes new life into discarded, leftover, and rejected natural buttons to create timeless handcrafted pieces.
Tweak picks: This gold-plated necklace featuring an upcycled Burberry button is no fuss, all fun.
Travel back in time to school where paper quilling was made compulsory to pass the art exam. It not only tested our craft skills, but also our patience and lower back strength. We swore that the C- wasn’t our fault — paper quilling is messy — but had to accept defeat after spotting this crafty member of the upcycled Indian jewellery brands club. Each paper bead is meticulously crafted from scrap paper by founder Devi Chand, then coated with sealant to keep moisture at bay.
Tweak picks: Our favourite is this mosaic necklace, which seems to be picked out of a mood board for rosé, romance and English countryside charm.
As property rates are skyrocketing, we have unanimously agreed to compromise on space. This means bulky, Narnia-esque cupboards only belong to fiction. Satat is creating exquisite jewellery from reclaimed teak wood and supporting local artisans who have been perfecting the craft of woodwork for generations. Even the pigments used in the jewellery are derived from natural elements like turmeric, kohl and indigo.
Tweak picks: Their coral ring with gold-plated brass transported us to white sands, seashells and lazy beach days.
This little gem among upcycled Indian jewellery brands uses every little scrap of waste leather to make earthy-looking jewellery in delightful shades of brown and muted tones. Even their packaging is 100% recycled paper.
Tweak picks: You know we can’t resist a well-designed evil eye charm.
The brand has a celebrity following that includes Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor, and we know why. Every piece is spared the factory-like manufactured perfection, instead retaining its natural, rugged form. With ‘Metanoia’, the label has experimented with jewellery made out of waste cardboard.
Tweak picks: With its unique concentric half-circles and coarse texture, this ring will have everyone paying attention.
With inputs from Vrinda Rawal