Keeping The Conversation About Sustainability & Indian Textiles Going With Eka's Rina Singh

A champion of Indian textiles and sustainability like no other, Rina Singh is placing her bets on the discourse surrounding the issues. The more, the merrier. 

If the past year, with its numerous collaborations, including one with the Japanese retail giant Uniqlo, beautifully inspired collections and a further foray into Indian textiles was remarkable for Eka, so is the roadmap ahead. In her own words, she doesn’t want to rewrite the rules of sustainability; only redefine them when required. Ranging from the learnings of the year gone by to the expanding lexicon of responsible and ethical fashion, Singh touches upon all that matters to her in what is perhaps the most relevant issue in these times. 

Luxeva: How would you say that 2019 was a momentous year for you?

Rina Singh: “I think we took a leap in 2019. When I started my label, I wasn’t showcasing my work on the runways; it was all about putting collections together, going to the trade shows and retailing it at stores across the world. But 2019 was when I expanded my boundaries and collaborated with several brands, building concepts, forecasting and entering territories in which I hadn’t stepped before. It was definitely a turning point.” 

Luxeva: Do you think sustainability is still a buzzword when it comes to fashion or have we moved on to actually being responsible?

Rina Singh: “I personally feel that even if there is a lot of conversation around it, maybe not everyone is equipped to make an impact or effect on a deeper grassroots level. As long as there are dialogues and conversations around sustainability and people are opening up to the fact that there is a real, clear, and evident threat to the environment and ours is an irresponsible way of living, we are getting there. More people joining the conversation is better—nothing goes against talking about sustainability. But I do hope that it doesn’t become another trend in fashion though, from what I see, it is only going to get more real, with people looking for more authentic ways to come on board. Fashion just comes across as frivolous but it is absolutely not.”

Luxeva: What are the key practices that you undertake as a designer to be ethical and stay responsible?

Rina Singh: “It’s not that I rewrite the rules or principles for Eka. The whole concept of the brand is working with Indian textiles and crafts—I work with weavers and artisans across the country who have been with me for 12 years. We’ve grown together with new developments and challenges and one way or the other when I am working on crafts that could be endangered, there is a need to evolve. If we [designers] don’t keep it meaningful in today’s day and age, all of these crafts could disappear. 

I would rather invest in what is unique to us, our legacy which I’ve grown up watching all around me. It’s not something that I consciously decide each season; it is the foundation of my brand and I will always redefine it but never rewrite it. It's a part and parcel of what Eka is.” 

Luxeva: For a consumer who wants to step up and be responsible about fashion, what would your advice be?

Rina Singh: “It’s not about buying less but buying and using your clothes meaningfully. 60 percent of your wardrobe is something that can go from one season to the other, so that’s something to take into account, as it is to be conscious about what you are throwing out and how you are disposing of it. Recycling, reusing and creating circular steps in consuming and making fashion a part of your everyday life is what counts. Ask how much of your wardrobe is natural; how much do you depend on artificial fibres and how often you wash your clothes. When you start believing in something, you will find ways to wear what you care about.” 

Luxeva: What's the next big thing for Eka?

Rina Singh: “I want to expand the collections to reach out to a larger audience that we are not yet catering to. Look at more meaningful collaborations, make effective communication about what Eka is as a brand and leave an imprint in the way that whenever there is a dialogue around textiles and sustainability, Eka is included in it. We are the changemakers. This year, it is all about staying true to who I am.”

Luxeva: What stereotypes in current times bug you?

Rina Singh: “I wouldn’t say ‘bug’ but there are lots of stereotypes out there. It's a status symbol to carry a certain type of a bag, so the sooner we break this cycle the better it will be for us. I strongly feel that we are trying to be some kind of people. We don’t believe in ourselves or our authenticity while the truth is that we don’t need endorsements to wear what we want. India is very unique and the kind of fashion statement that we have to make to the world can be unique too; we haven’t explored it enough. We have to come out strongly supporting homegrown brands that have a distinct identity so that the Indian language of fashion is recognised across the world.”

Luxeva: What is the best piece of advice you have received and that you abide by?

Rina Singh: “I don’t think anyone has advised me in that way but over the years, I’ve continued doing what I wanted to. If I look back in time, there have been a lot of lessons. The essence is all perfectly fine, that it’s [Eka] meaningful and authentic, craft-based and sustainable and has ethical practices, but when it comes to fashion, the attention span is extremely short. Not that I blame anyone; if I were a buyer, I would have a hard time at the fashion weeks and trade shows. What I’ve learnt over the years is to communicate with my design—to keep it striking and for it to have a clear, strong impression.”

Luxeva: What would you say your superpower is?

Rina Singh: “I don’t give up easily. The more I am pushed back, the more I take it into account as a learning. I am wired like that!”

Luxeva: What comes to mind when I say 'a year older and wiser'?

Rina Singh: “Perseverance and resilience.”

Luxeva: What's your hope for the future?

Rina Singh: “For myself and for Eka, I want to stand out as a unique voice in Indian fashion, leaving an impact on the coming generations in terms of meaningful design and inclusion of craftspeople. I hope that the researchers go back to the villages, to the artisans and their technique and not just the international runways and in doing so, I hope India becomes the voice for ethical and sustainable fashion.”

Featured Image: Eka on Instagram

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