The milky way


Noted Goan fashion designer Verma D’Mello has recently come out with bespoke garments made of handmade, organic milk cotton fabric. She shares more about this unique project with NT BUZZ


Margao-based noted fashion designer Verma D’Mello loves to come out with innovative projects. And her latest focuses on the unique milk cotton fabric.

Working with women from the Goa Sudharop NGO as part of The Thread Up campaign, she has already produced a few handmade outfits made out of this milk cotton fabric which are under testing and is now working on making multiple designs for sale. Calling it a “do-good fabric”, she states that it is also environmentally-friendly.

Excerpts from the interview with D’Mello

Q. When and how did you get the idea for bespoke garments of handmade, organic milk cotton fabric?

I love to experiment with something new. I have wanted to try this out for a long time, but never got the time as making natural, organic milk cotton fabric is very tedious and time consuming. Fortunately, during the lockdown, I was able to find the time to do it. The people who wear such fabric like to have custom-made outfits and not the one-size-fits-all concept. They are discerning fashion-conscious individuals who are very particular about what they wear. And hence one needs bespoke or custom-made garments for such clientele.

Q. What kind of challenges did you face while working on creating this fabric?

The biggest challenge was getting skilled, trained workforce. Since there were none, I decided to train some women (who needed the work) to do it. It has taken me nearly a year to train them from scratch. We started manufacturing milk cotton during the lockdown. There were many ups and downs and trials and errors. We are now at the testing phase.

Q. What is the procedure involved to make this milk cotton?

It’s a very long, time-consuming and tedious process. We use natural, organic milk obtained directly from the farms.

Frankly, the method which I am using is guarded trade secret and I do not want to reveal the exact ingredients and process. However in short I can say: The treatment of the milk to extract milk casein is a tedious and technical process and take a few days to a few weeks. Then it is cast into fiber or threads and woven using hand machines. Everything is handmade. In the colouring process, using 100 per cent natural plant and vegetable dyes and other oils rich in medicinal properties, the fabrics are dyed and cured for days. This fabric when ready is known as milk

Q. Since the fabric is created out of animal product, is there or are you anticipating any kind of opposition from the vegan community?

I do not think the vegan community has any objection to milk. The main ingredient is milk. All the colours and dyes used are either plant or vegetable based. Technically speaking there is no ‘animal product’ involved. I am very sure vegans would not have any problem because only unused or waste milk which is collected from dairies is used for this process. So, technically no animal product is involved. It is byproduct, no harm is done to the animal.

Q. What are the benefits of this

Milk cotton is very soft and suitable for babies. It is perfectly suitable for sensitive skin or those with skin allergies and skin problems. It has no chemical or chemicals used in its preparation. It is particularly recommended for new born babies and others with sensitive skin.

Q. Who are you targeting with this new line?

Anyone and everyone actually. Those who want to wear natural, organic, handmade and sensitive clothing are most welcome to buy and try it out.

Q. How do you plan to empower tribal and underprivileged women through this initiative?

The Thread Up campaign initiated by Goa Sudharop seeks to repair and restore the respect and dignity of underserved populations in Goa, fasten their grip on education, and join in enhancing the confidence that comes with learning a skill, working a trade, and providing for a solid financial future. Nearly 28 women from different parts of Goa are working round the clock to produce the natural, organic fabric and we already have enough fabric to make about a dozen full-size shirts. Though, we are focusing on making garments for new-born babies. The proceeds will be used to further train women from rural areas in Goa and provide them employment in my workshop, handmaking milk cotton for producing garments on a larger scale. The Centre for Promoting Indian Economy (CPIE India), has agreed to create awareness about the work with tribal and underprivileged women in Goa on a national level and we expect a national launch in the coming weeks.

Q. Where can one buy this fabric?

The fabric is already available at my studio. I have already prepared small quantities of the fabric to make a few garments; about a dozen. In the next one week we will have a sizeable amount of fabric to make several outfits and will start taking orders.