By Pujanee Galappaththi
With the movement towards sustainability and attempts to preserve our planet from the effects of climate change and environmental degradation, fashion has been put in the hot seat.
What is sustainable fashion? It’s the movement and process of fostering change in fashion and the fashion system towards achieving greater ecological integrity and social justice.
While it may entail small businesses recycling waste into high fashion products or textiles, it is also about addressing the whole system of fashion. This means dealing with interdependent social, cultural, ecological, and financial systems.
The majority of the big fashion brands, including some brands in the Sri Lankan fashion scene, have moved towards the adoption of sustainable methods to create innovative fashion choices. Nevertheless, we should always admire the small businesses doing their part to create sensational styles and save the environment at the same time.
This week, we spoke to one such designer passionate about creating beautiful designs with waste – Udari Mohotti, the Founder of “Umo Designs”.
She is a design student of the University of Moratuwa who creates portraits and jewellery using wastepaper and garbage under the brand name “From Trash to Treasure”. Mohotti was placed ninth at the national “Green Inventor” competition in 2017. She is part of the team participating in “Climate Launchpad 2019”.
When asked what sustainable fashion means to her, Mohotti answered that it is a manner of going beyond the sense of aesthetics, being responsible, and making a positive impact on the environment.
She further added: “People are constantly creating and following fashion trends, but rarely do they take action responsibly. If I can create that sense of duty with my designs, I believe that would be a great accomplishment.”
The portraits are made out of waste paper and board, hand-cut and crafted into layers. Once a customer sends a photograph, she converts it into a personalised piece of art. The jewellery is made out of vehicle tyres and tubes that are considered waste. All the products are handcrafted from beginning to end.
Speaking of her designs, Mohotti stated: “While I have received a lot of love for my portraits due to their uniqueness, the “Perforate” collection – elephant pendant and phoenix jewellery – has been popular among my clients.”
Like most remarkable designers, Mohotti says her inspiration behind these creations is nature. She further added: “I am a nature lover. Growing up, both my parents worked in the field of science and I was taught to appreciate nature.
“I started my career in design by crafting simple personalised gifts for my friends and family, which I have been doing since my very young days. As a young designer, I started experimenting with paper and board to create portraits and here I am making a living out of it.”
While acknowledging that fashion is all about innovation and refreshing designs, a design becomes special based on the amount of care put into it. Mohotti shared that she believes that incorporating each customer’s personal taste into each item is her secret to success.
When asked what makes her portraits special, Mohotti listed her reasons.
The first is that they are custom-made, hand-crafted with lots of love, and are unique and one of a kind. The final and most important reason is that they are crafted out of material generally regarded as waste, and converted in such a way that the value given to it converts it into a treasured item. She shared that this was the logic behind her tagline, “From Trash to Treasure”.
She added: “I have enjoyed every minute crafting and designing every single item I have made and I believe my passion towards what I do adds a certain flavour to the items.”
While believing anything can be created into something beautiful, Mohotti also believes that it is time we act appropriately in order to see change in the world. She believes that designers with a passion in what they do are changemakers, and stated:
“If you believe you can, you will do it. As Mahatma Gandhi said: ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’.
“I believe that we must be responsible for our actions, including in our sense of fashion. We should think as part of a whole system, and make sure we always try our best to make a positive impact in the world.”