Vinaya Palekar from Taleigao is aiming to take the sustainable fashion movement forward with her brand Kaapus Tree
Danuska Da Gama | NT BUZZ
Having grown up in Taleigao surrounded by fields, Vinaya Palekar spent her childhood either doodling or playing outdoors. “While we were at home, I remember watching my mother sew clothes for me, my sister, and our dolls from the patches of fabric she collected from my grandfather who was a well known tailor in Mapusa (Kashinath),” Palekar recalls.
Post completing her studies, Palekar began pursuing a career in the advertising industry in Mumbai. “However, after years of living in a big city, I started craving the need to draw again and to reconnect with nature. This led me back to Goa,” she says. Palekar started doodling again and soon started getting commissioned projects. “I made a bunch of doodles on bags and lamps in 2018,” she says, about her initial work assignments.
Palekar had also been initiated into bespoke tailoring and sustainable fashion early in life by her mother, a self taught seamstress. “She would put together scrap fabrics and magically create something spectacular. My sister’s old clothes were also passed on to me to wear until they tore off,” she laughs. “Sometimes she would also let us select patterns from the pattern books she acquired from her friends overseas and bookstores. From the vintage Maharashtrian lehenga crafted from Dharwad Khun fabric to Rani Mukherjee’s halter neck dress from ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, I had it all.”
Thus, upon her return to Goa, Palekar decided to take sewing lessons from her mother. “I soon started making clothes for friends, family, and myself from the hand-woven fabrics I had sourced from Mumbai. I spent most of my time doodling and making small pouch bags, garments. From the basics taught by my mother, I have continually sought out new things to do and ways of doing them,” she says.
On a friends suggestion she shared her work on online platforms and people could order. And thus Kaapus Tree came to life. “I was sure that I wanted to work with natural fibres and cotton. Thus, Kaapus Tree which means ‘cotton tree’ seemed like a cool name,” she says.
At Kaapus Tree, her attempt is to make something comfortable, sustainable and well styled from natural fibres such as cotton, khadi, linen, silk and also up-cycled products out of the discarded fabrics which are otherwise added to the growing landfills.
“The idea is to make an amazing item that people are excited to purchase and having it consciously designed and created. All shapes and sizes of fabrics are put together to form a unique piece every time,” she says, before adding that she is drawn to block printed fabrics, the ancient art of hand stamping carved wooden blocks onto fabric, using natural colors like red from the madder root, yellow from turmeric, brown from different types of beans, etc.
She has worked on several collaborations too, including Indie Project store, a kids clothing brand. She also works on doodle projects. “Sometimes people just need it framed, sometimes they need it on pouch bags, drawstring bags, lamps or a print pattern on a fabric material,” she says.
And Palekar wants to make sustainable clothes and products more accessible to people while also promoting the practice of upcycling. “The kind of clothes we wear can impact our mental and physical health. There is a huge difference in the way your body functions when you wear synthetic clothing and when you wear organic clothing. The rise of fast fashion – trendy clothing produced and consumed quickly at a low monetary cost but high environmental cost is a threat to the planet and our health,” she says.
Giving facts, Palekar informs that it is estimated that the average person purchases around 60 per cent more clothing pieces and discards them in half the time than was done 15 years ago. Half a million tones of plastic microfibers are released per year from washed clothes – 16 times more than plastic microbeads from cosmetics – contributing to ocean pollution.
And it’s not just consumers but fashion brands who need to take the onus and lead the sustainable movement, she says. And it is happening slowly, she believes.
“Times are slowly changing. Today’s consumers are taking note of fashion brands sustainability focus as well,” she says before throwing in statistics. “33 per cent of consumers indicated in a report that they have switched brands to support those that take a public stance on environmental change. 50 per cent of shoppers plan to switch brands in the future to support fashion brands that are environmentally – friendly. So, consumers have begun shopping with great mindfulness and are looking for great quality goods that last longer and are more versatile,” she says.