20 years in Sustainable fashion and I am still finding my way.

20 years in Sustainable fashion and I am still finding my way.

I never intended my life to enter the sustainability space! 

Environmental destruction was not a conversation in my circle.

And I was clueless about fashion & textiles.

Hi, I'm Sonal, documenting here the beginning of two decades of my journey in sustainable manufacturing, fashion & clothing. 

Growing up in Bombay, I was completely clueless about India's textile industry. Once while sourcing fabrics for a personal design project, I stood for an hour at a store, and remember feeling suffocated there. Then I didn't know the reason could be the synthetic chemicals in the fabrics! Although I was unwilling to work with clothes after the experience, that's what I ended up doing for the next 22 years!

When I moved to Ahmedabad, while driving towards the outskirts of the city I would see many factories with chimneys, unbearable stench & visual sights of coloured water. On inquiring, I figured these were textile factories.

Probing further, I became aware that the factories used heavy synthetic chemicals and the wastewater eventually landed up in the rivers. It was common for factories to dispose of effluent ( Exit water) illegally on empty land, isolated lakes, underground or rivers.

I had seen my mom faint after using mild bleach to clean the bathroom. The acids that the factories were disposing carelessly of were the most potent version. 

The government rules were there but lacked implementation. Speaking to the factory owners didn't help as there was a lack of intent to change. All the resources were spent to bend the rules & find ways to continue doing things the same way. Designing a water recycling plant was also of no use! 

A few months later, I did a workshop on painting with natural colours. A wonderful artist, Toofan Refai was teaching us how we could paint using colours directly from leaves & flowers. It seemed magical.  I was mesmerised!

What he told me later changed my life. He said, "India used only natural colours until 60-70 years ago, and was a leading supplier to the world."


 Being appalled, I had a million questions!

 Why did we not invest in this knowledge  about natural colours further?

 Why did we accept to pollute our waters?

 Why as a consumer, have I never had a choice to choose only natural colours?

 Why did I never learn this or knew about this?


During that time, my dream was to start a school, but this information was too big for me to ignore and I sought answers. 

I gave in my resignation as an educator amidst a lot of discouragement.

And just like that, out of nowhere, my journey with natural colours started & unknowingly I stepped into the world of fashion & textiles.

"Sustainable fashion" was not a term back then.

The journey that started 20 years ago continues today with me still finding my way with a foundation called Sustainable Earth Foundation and a non-toxic underwear brand Maayu. 




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