By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Upcycling, also known as creative reuse, is the process of transforming byproducts, waste materials, or unwanted products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value; it’s also been the bread and butter of ethical home-grown brand House of Lonali since its inception. House of Lonali is one of Sri Lanka’s foremost establishments dedicated to a thoughtful approach to consumption, with a mission statement where they believe we should recycle (or upcycle in their case) whenever possible, reuse things you already have, and reduce our impact on the environment and its resources.
The antidote to the rise of fast fashion, House of Lonali upcycles unwanted textiles from large manufacturers – waste that would otherwise end up as landfill – and transforms it into original clothes and lifestyle products, while also working closely with the cottage industries in Sri Lanka to churn out their pieces, providing income in fair conditions for local artisans.
Considering what they do best, House of Lonali has taken a step further in their journey of sustainable fashion, recently launching a kids’ collection at The Design Collective with the aim of creating a responsible next generation.
House of Lonali Founder and Lead Designer Lonali Rodrigo spoke to us about the conceptualisation of their brand-new kids’ collection, stating that they have a vision where they believe everyone should play a part in protecting the environment. “We should all be playing our part and this thinking inclusivity has always been a part of our brand,” she shared. House of Lonali started as a women’s wear brand and moved to men’s clothes, men’s accessories, and is now gradually expanding to kids’ clothing.
Lonali shared that House of Lonali’s products don’t compromise on fashionability or sustainability; it is always a unique piece which is upcycled and made locally. “We love upcycling pre-consumer textile waste from the apparel industry which we handpick individually. Like every other House of Lonali product, our kids’ collection is also 100% upcycled in Sri Lanka, supporting a shorter and transparent supply chain,” she said.
She also added: “Doubling the useful life of clothing from one year to two years reduces emission over the years by 24% (source: Fashion Revolution). Therefore, we as responsible designers are taking a step forward towards creating a positive impact in consumption and disposal.”
She said that with regards to timing as well, the movement has been most ideal, considering that while the idea has been in the works since last year, recently, the lockdown really shed light on the way we consume; people were made aware of their consumption patterns and this awareness has made them more susceptible to sustainable consumption.
Young parents especially have come to realise the nature of providing for their children, and in response to this, House of Lonali’s new kids’ collection has adopted certain elements. Firstly, they have tried to keep many of their designs unisex so it promotes the sharing culture amongst their customers, while at the same time factoring in that kids outgrow their clothes very quickly.
Usually in this case, most often these clothes will be disposed of unsustainably in landfills, which creates an irreversible impact on the environment. Referring to this, Lonali said: “House of Lonali, with its kids’ collection, introduced the circular fashion initiative, which hopes to collect kids’ used clothes from our brand and give it a new life or expand its life with the aim of reducing the negative impact on the environment whilst also providing a fashion upgrade to our customers. We also plan to promote consumers to close the loop with a reward system.”
The launch event for the initiative was held last Saturday (26 September) at The Design Collective where the House of Lonali’s flagship store is located. The launch began with a book reading of “Tikiri’s Big Trip”, with many kids taking part.
Lonali shared that their primary objective with the event was to let kids be kids while educating their parents on the importance of sustainable clothing and consumption. However since the beginning, she said that for older children – somewhere around the age of eight – they’ve always conducted programmes where they discuss the importance of contributing towards the protection of the environment, along with encouraging children and their parents to drop off their used clothing without throwing it away.
She stated that they sort the clothes they receive into three categories: A-grade items being sold on a second-hand retail rack which is a dedicated space at The Design Collective, B-grade items being clothes that can be donated to charity, and finally C-grade items being what is used in the process of upcycling to make new clothes. She added: “There is no reason why we should be chopping up something perfectly wearable when there are those who are in need of it immediately.”
We also spoke to Lonali about Sri Lanka’s receptiveness to this concept of fashion, and she shared that while in the west, for over two decades, they indulged in fast fashion and have now only come to realise the harmful impact of such practices and so are now headed towards sustainable consumption, Sri Lankan culture has always had a practice where we do not throw away clothes; there is a culture of sharing, hand-me-downs, etc., however, fast fashion has started to creep into our ways and we should take steps to nip it in the bud.
However, she did say that while in the west there is now a culture of purchasing second-hand clothing, it is not yet a practice here. She stated that we should make it a trend here – where second-hand items, if in useable condition, are purchased. Whilst there is no space yet where you have second-hand retail, they are making efforts to change this, she concluded.
Follow House of Lonali’s Facebook and Instagram pages to see the latest sustainable initiatives and learn more about the stories behind the brand.