5 South Asian Sustainable Fashion Brands and Their Humble Beginnings

During 2020 when our world of living was limited to our living rooms, I spent 200% less than any other working year. Yet, I was in the best mental and physical health of my life, and that wasn’t a coincidence. Living with my parents in suburban New Jersey meant living humbly and consciously; I grew up with a mother who valued composting, upcycling damaged clothes and squeezing out every last drop of Aveeno cream. I spent less time chasing consumerism and more time learning how things, such as clothes, were produced — and I was horrified. Even more shocking were fast fashion revenue numbers — evidently, a majority of people didn’t care about the supply chain or effects on the environment if their lives weren’t directly impacted. I couldn’t help but think of this as a majority Western mindset, especially since it was a mindset I had adopted myself only after leaving for college.

[Read Related: Consciously: Democratizing Sustainable Fashion in the Midst of a Pandemic]

South Asian sustainable fashion brands, and many Asian countries, embed conscious living into their daily lives. There is an inherent understanding that with anything that we can buy, there has been a level of injustice and suffering along the supply chain and to the environment; therefore, we must honor what we have and own to its fullest extent. There is no morsel at the dinner table that is wasted, any torn shirt can be repurposed and every last drop of toothpaste should be squeezed out. As immigrants, my family and I have relied on the creativity of our brains to reuse and repurpose products around us besides their marketed intention. This is a form of “jugaad,” which encompasses the idea of making the most with what you have in life.

Sustainability has become an ambiguous term and is often influenced by our economic understanding of the geographic location we reside in. A clothing piece deemed sustainable could mean that fair wage payment was given to formerly marginalized workers or a manufacturing process was changed to incorporate zero carbon emissions and less plastic. Maybe the fabric is biodegradable, but the production value releases toxins into the air that affect our respiratory systems over time. How are brands defining their idea of sustainability, and how are people today grasping their identity in relation to retail consumerism?

I wanted to understand how South Asians with ethically conscious brands define “sustainability” and how they actively implement their ethos into their mission. In doing so, I wanted to honor each brand that I spoke to and hold a torch to the South Asian founders who are pioneers in this commonly white, female-dominated space. Check out these brands and founders below!

Nonsense Curry
Location: Goa, India
Founder: Jolynn Carneiro

Sustainable brands do have a steep price tag; that’s because of the work, labor, the way it’s manufactured, wages, consumption of resources, substitutes of packaging and time that goes into it. So it’s completely justified, but you don’t have to look at it that way. Just be conscious about the choices you make in your own lifestyle — check your consumption level, check whether it is a necessity or is it a want. You need to distinguish these things because if you have the money, you will indeed spend but you need to be conscious, and you need to practice being a minimalist. — Jolynn Carneiro

Founded by Goa native Jolynn Carneiro, Nonsense Curry is a lifestyle brand infused with a mix of alter egos like elegance and quirkiness. The brand capitalizes on creating products from durable and comfortable Khadi and embracing slow fashion as an extension to life. Carneiro sees the potential in all scraps, all seemingly small “thingamajigs,” and builds projects out of them.

Carneiro calls herself a lifestyle designer because she designs her life, and generates revenue from it, through footage from refurbishing videos and content, slow fashion, cartooning, merchandise curations, speaking to societal topics and being transparent about her opinions on them — right from skin color, to feminism and self-love. She speaks about her craft and how the choices she makes help her to lead a conscious life.

Anu’s picks: Joan of Arc Trousers, Plumeria

House of Bilimoria
Location: Wembley, England
Founder: Shilpa Bilimoria-Cherry

My real training is that of my grandparents and my mom actually hands-on making things. When I launched the label it was really important to me that I knew where things were coming from, [that] people who were impacted were treated fairly, because it didn’t even cross my mind to be a business that would operate in a different way. — Shilpa Bilimoria-Cherry

House of Bilimoria is a luxury t-shirt company rooted in sustainability of clothes and people history. All products are reproduced by upcycling vintage clothes and heirlooms. Founded by Shilpa Bilimoria-Cherry, the brand first promoted upcycling through their luxury upcycling “Luxcycle” saree program that took family sarees and turned them into bespoke wearables. From there, the brand has grown and changed over the years, but is still maintaining culture, ethics, circularity and community.

Bilimoria-Cherry felt the pressure and hardships of working for large retail brands from a brand design level. Despite landing her seemingly dream job of fashion design, she quickly felt the shackles of owing her time and molding her creativity to fit someone else’s ideals. When she was told that heart medication would help with her daily bouts of anxiety, Shilpa knew that she had to leave the corporate part of the industry and create her own brand rooted in her culture and family practice.

We often forget to consider the caste system and its lasting effects on family life. For Bilimoria-Cherry, she attributed her skill and interest in the fashion design industry to the long lineage of the Darzi caste. She shined a light on a unique aspect of sustainable fashion: how sustaining mental health, heritage and identity can be intertwined.

Anu’s picks: Luxury Upcycled Ruffle Tee, Dvaya Scarf: Turquoise Snowflake

Location: Austin, Texas
Founder: Nicki Patel


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Like that of feminism, racial injustices hold roots in the topic of environmentalism. When it comes to the numbers, there is a disproportionate amount of vulnerable communities exposed to unhealthy climates, identifying by age, poverty and minority status as factors of susceptibility. — Nikki Patel

milo+nicki is a sustainable clothing brand that celebrates the power and strength of women, culture and diversity. Designed in-house by founder Nicki Patel, the brand was one of the first to use banana fabric, a zero-carbon emission fabric, in its products.

Nicki started the company after she discovered that her stressful corporate job was physically and mentally affecting her. She turned inwards and decided to pursue her passion for fashion, with a twist. She repeatedly asked: Who is the human behind your brand? And thus, milo+nicki was born. A testament to her pup Milo, the brand creates an open dialogue around the ethics of manufacturing and the consumer mindset, a term called intersectional environmentalism. The portfolio of blogs on the company website includes a campaign called “Be You” that features a variety of interviews from people that have personally inspired and helped Patel.

Tip: To become more sustainably minded, Patel recommends manifesting the idea of “seasonless fashion” — you can be a conscious consumer by building a closet that can be used throughout the different seasons.

Anu’s picks: The Fiesta Dress, Zero Waste Headbands

Sunday Monday
Location: Jaipur, India
Founder: Nisha Mirani


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I’ve never adhered to traditional fashion schedules. We launch one or two collections a year, and they are small. It’s really reliant on when the product is ready versus ‘okay, they have to be done in March.’ Right now, it’s starting to rain a lot, so production has stopped since there is no way to dry them. When there is heat or rain, they can’t block print because the fabric will stick to itself and smudge the print. Those are the challenges of working with a handmade process. — Nisha Mirani

Sunday Monday is a home textiles and art company that is founded on the principles of block printing and hand dyeing from the Bhuj region in India.

Anthropology studies graduate from Brown, founder Nisha Mirani didn’t realize that her passion for people and culture would lead to a path to fashion. On a trip to visit her family in Gujarat, Mirani visited the village Bhujodi with the city Bhuj and discovered beautiful textiles and the art of block printing.

On India’s 52nd Republic Day (January 26) in 2001, a huge earthquake hit Gujarat during which over 15,000 people lost their lives across India and Pakistan, and many lost their homes. During the aftermath, the Indian government reorganized craftsmen in order to support them better and encourage sharing of communal tourism through a crafts park in Bhujodi. Nisha was able to form personal connections with people in Bhujodi and decided to build upon the block printing art that she saw there.

Nisha’s approach to fashion is human-centric, minimal in production and craft forward. Rather than focusing on what the end consumer demands, she is focused on creation through the constraints of resources and weather.

Anu’s picks: Mosaic Table Runner, Sundial Bandana in Canyon

Location: Mumbai, India
Founder: Vandana M. Jagwani


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No other industry [other than miners] will suffer at the entrance of lab-grown diamonds; after they are grown, they go through the same factories for cutting, polishing, designing, everything. I was moved because sustainability normally comes at an increased cost, but because of advanced technology, this was something that became affordable as well. — Vandana Jagwani

Founded by Vandana Jagwani, Vandals is a unique and luxurious lab-grown diamond brand that has been worn by top Bollywood actresses including Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone.

Traditionally, South Asians have viewed purchasing diamonds as an asset or investment, an expensive adornment; the harmful effects of sourcing these mined diamonds are rarely spoken about, if at all. DiamondFoundry claims, “Even the most eco-friendly diamond mines are environmentally damaging because diamonds aren’t renewable resources. For example, the Ekati mines in Canada are often cited as the most environmentally benign of all mines. However, in order to extract its diamonds, the mine produces an annual carbon footprint equivalent to more than 600 million car miles.”

Jagwani wanted to disrupt diamond commercialization to introduce affordable and sustainably sourced lab-grown diamonds that were equally, if not more, luxurious than their mined counterparts. Jagwani hails from a lineage of jewelry businesspeople and is one of the few changing the course of South Asian jewelry design one lab-grown diamond at a time.

Note: What about miners? Lab-grown diamonds would replace mining jobs, but other aspects of the supply chain stay the same. The trade-off here is a depletion of high-risk jobs in exchange for affordable jewelry.

To make the conscious effort to invest in fashion that goes a long way for less is a choice we can all make. Let’s take inspiration from these South Asian sustainable fashion brands that make fashion an ethical passion and not just a quick buy.

By Anushree Sreedhar

Raised in Edison, NJ Anushree is an avid reader, imaginative creative writer, dramatic storyteller, obsessive shopper, experimental yogi, and a … Read more ›

3 Tips on how to Rock Viva Magenta, the Pantone Color for 2023

The results are in — the Pantone Color for 2023 is here — and it looks like Viva Magenta will be ruling runways, the streets, and (even) your wardrobes.

Viva Magenta is a deep shade of red, and Pantone describes it:

Brave and fearless.

It’s meant to be celebratory, and joyous, and encourage experimentation. If you were thinking of toning it down a notch with your wardrobe in 2023, it’s time to think again. It can really be your time to shine in something bright and colorful!


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But, for anyone who’s used to wearing neutrals, Viva Magenta can be daunting.

How do you incorporate this vibrant hue into your everyday looks?

Where can you find just the right pieces?

How do you rock the color without going overboard?

Well, popular South Asian designers and maestros of color are here to answer all your questions.

[Read Related: Decoding Dopamine Dressing This Summer]

Aprajit Toor, Arpita Mehta, and Rahul Khanna break it down for you — what to wear, how to pair, and everything in between. Their takes on the Pantone Color for 2023 are simple but they’ll help you make a bold statement anywhere you go!

Take a look at what they have to say.

Rahul Khanna of Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna:

Viva Magenta is a color that suits all skin tones. It’s a color for all occasions; women and men can both wear this color with [the] right styling. Cocktail saris, jumpsuits, and reception gowns are some great options for women whereas, for men, the color has started picking up a lot lately. Men have started experimenting with their looks and we as designers have more options for men as well. Recently, we made a custom-made silk velvet fit for Ranveer Singh in the same color. Apart from your everyday clothing, Viva Magenta is also going to be the ruling shade for the upcoming wedding season.

Arpita Mehta:

The best way to do Viva Magenta in your everyday wardrobe is to go top to bottom in [it]. Be it in co-ord sets or a kaftan or any comfortable outfit. It’s such a bold & beautiful color that it looks the best when it’s self on self rather than teaming it up or breaking it with another color.

Aprajita Toor:

Viva Magenta is a very powerful and empowering color that descends from the red family. It is an animated red that encourages experimentation and self-expression without restraint; an electrifying shade [that] challenges boundaries. One can easily incorporate this color by picking a statement footwear, bag, or jewelry in Viva Magenta which can be paired with neutral or monotone colored outfits.

And there you have it — three ways you can easily take a vibrant hue and turn it into something you can wear every day. Take cues from these top designers on how to wear the Pantone Color of the year and get started! We’d love to see how you style Viva Magenta!

By Sandeep Panesar

Sandeep Panesar is an editor, and freelance writer, based out of Toronto. She enjoys everything from the holiday season to … Read more ›

Khushey: Fashionable Blouses Without the Suffering


While growing up, the only complaint I had when wearing desi clothes was that the embroidery on the fabric would always end up scratching my skin. As beautiful and intricate the details were, putting on an embellished blouse meant wearing an inner or a comfortable t-shirt underneath. Fortunately now, many South Asian brands are changing the game; focusing not only on the quality and intricacy of the embroidery, but also on comfort and wearability of the blouse itself. One such small business is Khushey.

Khushey is a one-stop shop for “buttery soft” performance blouses that don’t compromise on comfort for fashion and pair just as well with any of your mom’s saris as they do with your newest lehenga. In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, founder Neha Seelam talks more about what inspired her to launch Khushey and what the brand has to offer.


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Why did you want to start a brand that specializes in South Asian/Indo-Western blouses specifically?

I wanted to specialize in blouses because blouses are really the only part of Indo-Western clothing that I found a specific ‘problem’ with — one I thought I could solve. I absolutely love everything else about our clothing — with the variety of patterns/styles/cuts available, I feel that you can easily find the perfect piece out there.

But the part of South Asian clothing that my friends and I found to be a perpetual challenge was the blouse. They’re usually gorgeous, but by the end of the day you can’t wait to take them off. Also, it’s so hard to find a fit that looks seamless and beautiful — usually the chest, underarm or sleeve just wouldn’t fit the way you want it to with the heavy material and traditional tailoring.

I wanted to start off with basic colors but in shiny/formal-looking material that I could mix and match with all the different colors and styles of South Asian clothes that I already have in my wardrobe. The goal is that the blouses can be used multiple times with different outfits, are ideal for long nights of partying, and feel great against the skin.

What’s the story behind the brand’s name, Khushey? 

The English word “cushy,” which means comfortable, actually originates from the Hindi word ‘khushi’ (happiness). I thought that the origin story was very sweet and resonated with the idea of comfort and happiness I had for my label. That’s how I chose the word Khushey — slightly adjusting the spelling so I could snag the right URL! 

What is your number one priority when it comes to your blouses? 

Formal wear that’s actually comfortable! I would love for women to be in the moment at their celebrations, and not feel constrained, itchy, or uncomfortable in their blouse.


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Who is your target customer? 

South Asian women! Customers, from recent graduates all the way to stylish moms, have loved the product — especially moms since they typically value comfort and movability if they have to chase down kids at events!

How do you think Khushey allows South Asian women to embrace their love for South Asian fashion? 

Over the last decade, I’ve seen women repurposing crop tops from Zara and H&M as sari blouses, and while I think that’s awesome and creative, I wanted to create an option for South Asian women where every detail was oriented around recreating the perfect sari/lehenga blouse. The shine is intended to be appropriate for formal wear, the cuts were inspired by some of my favorite blouses from when I was younger that wouldn’t have bra straps showing from underneath and were versatile for saris or lehengas, and the embroidery is intended to add a desi flair.

You’ve mentioned sustainability on your website. How are your blouses sustainable?

I plan to donate five percent of profits every year to a sustainable organization. Once I get enough interest from the public, I would like to fund new product lines that use eco-friendly materials that were prohibitively expensive for me to launch with. But I am eager to incorporate recycled spandex/nylon and metal into my pieces once I can afford to!


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What sort of designs do you plan on incorporating into your label in the future?

I’ve thought of so many designs that I can build on. Starting with colors; I’d like to have all of the major colors available in my basic sleeveless blouse and then create a more modest version of that blouse with a variety of basic colors as well. 

I’d also love to expand the patterns and embroidery options on the blouses. I hope to create seasonal collections that enable me to tap into the vast array of style/color inspirations that South Asian wear includes.

[Read Related: Walking the Journey Through Time with The Saree Room]

Khushey promises to offer comfort and style, all packaged into one performance blouse that you can reuse with a variety of desi outfits. Like Neha said, ditch your Zara crop top for a design that actually complements your desi look. Make sure to keep your eyes out for her latest designs!

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By Shezda Afrin

Shezda Afrin is an aspiring physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of four, it was quite normal of her … Read more ›

BySimran: On a Mission to Make Minimalist Desi Jewelry for Everyone

desi jewelry

While growing up in suburban Pennsylvania, with little to no outlet to connect with her desi culture, Simran Anand always strived to stay true to her Indian roots. Fashion, which is almost the easiest medium to incorporate his or her culture, is something she and her mom enjoyed exploring. “Beauty needs no ornaments,” her mom always says. Beauty is something that is innately within us, and we can only enhance it with desi jewelry or clothing, makeup, compliments or “ornaments.” That is one of her favorite quotes. It serves as a building block for her personal style and the nature of her brand. 

desi jewelry
Simran Anand, founder of @_bysimran, wearing the iconic ‘Baby Jhumkas,’ ‘Moksha’ anklets, and ‘Just Pretty’ necklace.

As a fashion enthusiast, she often found herself scrolling through Etsy and Amazon to find the perfect desi accessories to match her Western outfits. While there were abundant options displaying intricate jhumkas to chand-balis, none quite matched the vibe she was on the hunt for. 

And, what was that vibe? 

“Versatile, indo-western, comfortable. I truly wanted pieces that reflect western minimalism and desi maximalism. I am on a mission to create the ‘desi girl aesthetic.'”

Where, oh where could she find those? Sure, the mini jhumkas are a cute addition to a Lucknowi kurta and jeans. But, what about putting a South Asian twist to the perfect white dress for your European vacation? Or, something minimal to pair with maximal Indian outfits?

That’s exactly when her ever-so-supportive fiancé encouraged her to make them! Desi jewelry that is made for both sides of our identities, South Asian and American, “because that’s who we are.” Easier said than done, of course. The quality had to be on par with the daily jewelry we are used to wearing. Since she wanted pieces that were wearable daily, creating jewelry that is nickel-free, tarnish-free, and hypoallergenic was the goal. 

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After countless hours of designing and kickstarting her brand, she received her first batch. Staying true to her mission of producing wearable desi jewelry, the original clasp on the jhumka was a bit too thick and that was something she was not “300%” proud of. Now, her pieces fit more like a “paper-like stud.” The material was one hurdle. The other ordeal was dealing with her imposter syndrome. Dealing with the fact that she started this venture, which to some, may seem like “just selling jhumkas” was something that she needed to overcome. 

So, how did you overcome that? 

[Read Related: Accepting my Cultural Identity Through Jhumkas and Bharata Natayam]

The universe has its way of having your back. “When I posted a video on TikTok, I literally woke up from a nap to see it go viral.”  As the feedback came in, her confidence skyrocketed. “Every no is a yes you do not know about,” she promises. Sales started pouring in and Simran noticed that many felt the same need for such pieces as she did. 

Months after her launch, Simran aims to build ‘BySimran’ stronger each day. Soon enough, she would like for it to be a household name and a lifestyle brand. We can definitely see her “Hailey Bieber Meets Desi Girl” jewelry brand on every girl’s aesthetic Pinterest boards. 


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Pro Tip: 

If you are a mono-chrome girly like herself, get a white button-down basic shirt with some medium-washed high-waisted jeans, and pair them with some kitty heels and a matching purse. And, do not forget to finish the look with the micro-jhumka if going out for brunch or running some errands. If you’re getting ready for a dinner date, go for the baby jhumkas. Do not miss the Sapna anklets, which come in a pack of 2, the true desi way.

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By Shezda Afrin

Shezda Afrin is an aspiring physician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of four, it was quite normal of her … Read more ›