Journey of an outfit: A Summer’s Day dress

There’s a lot that goes into the making of a piece, right from the birth of the idea or the design inspiration, to the journey each garment takes to be made in its final form - it’s all a massive part of the overall story. One of the main motives behind the start of SUI was to be able to share these stories, to help women connect further with the clothes they own. Going slow with your fashion is all about this relationship with your wardrobe, it helps you better appreciate the craft and understand just how each step benefits communities and our planet - as well as helping you treasure this new lifelong friend you have made a part of your closet.

And so, with each chapter, our Journey blog series is a reminder that each garment you purchase and own has an origin, a travelled route, and a thought behind it.

Inspired & designed mindfully

The silhouette of A Summer’s Day dress is, in fact, a well known silhouette that you may have come across pretty often in the past few months, it’s one that we’ve loved and our goal was to bring it to you, in a way that it’s made sustainably, using slow processes and, of course, SUI’s promise of a green heart.

The inspiration itself was simple. We reminisced on summer days (this Chapter, as you may already know, focuses a lot on the comfort and ease of our childhood summers ) and found most of our memories were carefree and full of joy, and so, our pieces were created to reflect that feeling.

(Seen here: a moment from childhood of Anukriti, our textile designer, with her family on a picnic)

There was always something special about summer dresses too. They gave us room to roam, kept us light on your feet, and helped express that inner happiness through bright colours and flowy silhouettes. Thus this dress started to form in our minds, one that carried that feeling but also made a statement.

And now, onto the design process.

The total time to create just one A Summer's Day dress is 2.5 days - stitching takes around 8hrs, cutting takes 1.5hr, and embroidery takes 10hrs.⁠⁠

We put a lot of thought into the design and getting it just right, using new techniques and finding ways to truly bring our idea to life.

If you’re familiar with our set up, you’d know that we’ve built our team from the ground up. Tahir was our very first Master and tailor, from there on we hired more tailors who are now managed by him - it’s a small but mighty team. This also means that there is a lot of work that goes into working with them individually on new silhouettes, concepts and techniques. We also make sure to involve their feedback while sampling to understand better how we can proceed. We knew that the technique and focus point of this particular dress would be the smocking in the chest area, called an outline stitch, which would help accentuate the silhouette of the dress and, after that, we began to think through the length, the sleeves, the fabric, the colour and so on.

It’s important to remember that unlike bigger manufacturing units where most mass manufacturing takes place, we hold a very close relationship with our products and thereby our tailors also learn many techniques on the job. The smocking technique is one we’ve been working on for a year or so now and for this particular dress we went through rounds of 2 to 3 sample edits to finally arrive at a piece we loved. 

Our current work scenario is in between two countries, Mahima being in Singapore currently as she has not been able to travel to India due to COVID - this meant we went through a lot of back and forth via WhatsApp. She mentions, “This dress has been a silhouette I've really been wanting to curate - I've got to say it’s been tough working on this collection remotely, but we had an ultimate goal in mind and that’s what helped us achieve this gorgeous silhouette. What was important for us was to make sure it was made with a green heart and was still a flattering silhouette."

Conscious methods & the green effect

Here, we’ll take you through the different elements of our A Summer’s Day dress addressing what green methods and techniques we used to create the look.

Our vibrant cameo brown shade is herbal-dyed, a method we have been using to create our pieces since 2019. The method is carried out by our green partner, Truetone Ink, who are based in Gujarat. They create all their colours using ingredients like plants and minerals - anything you can find in nature.

The green effect?

1.Natural ingredients are a renewable resource. They exist , as the phrase suggests, naturally or can be grown again and again plentifully and relatively quickly making it a much better sustainable alternative than synthetic organic dyes that are more commonly used in the fashion industry. 

To be clear, “Synthetic organic dyes come from cracking crude oil. The specific colors, attributes, and ranges come from chemicals derived from petroleum products. They do not occur in nature, so we categorize them as man-made dyes. “Organic” comes from the idea that they are still derived from organic material, in this case, oil.” - however, it is also important to note that oil is a non-renewable resource. The oil we use today took a millenia to be formed and, with the rapid pace at which humans are currently using oil in our day and age, we are running out of it faster than it can be made, therefore, making it an unsustainable resource.

2.These colours are much safer for us and the environment in comparison to conventional synthetic/textile dyes. Within the process of dyeing, water is constantly used and released into our environment and so, when it comes to herbal dyes wastewater, its composition does not include man made chemicals often harmful to plants and animals.

On the other hand, synthetic/textile dyes do. This means most should be put through a treatment in order to make it safer to be released but “Unfortunately, most of these dyes escape conventional wastewater treatment processes and persist in the environment as a result of their high stability to light, temperature, water, detergents, chemicals, soap and other parameters such as bleach and perspiration” - this second point also highlighting how they are also not biodegradable and will continue to harm the environment for a very long time.

3.On a more direct note when addressing our own herbal dyeing partner, we always aim to be in close contact with our vendors so, we also know that within Truetone Ink’s process, they constantly recycle the water they use meaning less water is wasted.

We crafted the silhouette in Lyocell, which is a fabric created with wood cellulose fibres, specifically mostly from eucalyptus trees. We source it from Textile Basket, an India-based fabric production vendor as well as incorporating our fabrics from the leftover samples.

The green effect?

1.The first important point is the use of eucalyptus wood cellulose. These trees are highly sustainable due to how rapidly they can be grown without the need for irrigation as well as pesticides. With those facts alone, there is less water waste in the process and the fibre is completely safe for the skin (and the farmers!).

2.Within the production process, the cellulose fibres require a dissolving solvent in order to make it into a fabric and “99 percent of the solvent” can potentially and practically “be recovered in a closed chemical loop and then fed back into the production process.” as proven by Lenzing’s own method - just another way waste can be minimised!

3.To go back to the idea of water waste, Lyocell also has the potential to use less than half of the water cotton requires in order to be produced. This shows that there are great alternatives for fabrics that are currently conventionally used but require so much more resources. Bringing these more potentially sustainable fabrics to the mainstream could be a big step in a greener direction.

Machine embroidery and creating the final silhouette is done at our Delhi based workshop where our core team of tailors (threadspellers as we call them) put everything together for you! The pattern is always cut by Tahir, then machine embroidery is always done by Nawab who takes care to create every single motif - motifs are inspired by summer flowers and lemons. After that’s done, it’s handed over to another tailor who puts together the pieces to create its finished form.

The green effect?

1.The fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply” - with this in mind, we aim to always keep our team and production small to ensure each garment is created and examined with human touch and care. Using techniques like embroidery at a scale that is minimal helps us reduce our own carbon emissions but a large amount than if everything was machine made.

We then make sure to craft in minimal quantities for each and every piece, or on a made-to-order basis. This season, we have expanded our sizing range for many pieces to be available in XXS through to XXL, and for each, we craft around 10 or less and then will craft as individual orders come in.

The green effect?

1.Within our current fashion industry, the priority is quantity over quality whereas we try to do the inverse. In our fast-paced world, mass production is commonplace especially in the world of fashion where trends come and go, and so do our wardrobes. It’s been estimated that between 80 and 150 billion garments (a staggering number in any sense) are bought annually, moreover over half of that is thrown away into a landfill or to be incinerated.

Crafting minimally and monitoring our own waste, helps us try not to add to that number.

We hope this gave you some interesting insight into the fashion industry and our own process. It’s so important we all create relationships with our wardrobe in order to treasure it better and understand the importance of being green through our fashion practices and philosophy. The more we take those green steps, the closer we get to a better planet!

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