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This Same Sky on Sustainable Fashion

5 min read

Editor’s Note: This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Sofiya Deva, an entrepreneur, knew she wanted her brand logo and name to serve a purpose. When she founded This Same Sky, an accessories brand, she paid homage to the poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Deva says Nye’s anthology of poems does a beautiful job to capture the human experience. It mimics the brand’s mission to create products that are intentional while preserving traditional arts. 

This Same Sky empowers artisans worldwide and produces internationally-recognized designs, accessories and one of a kind home decor pieces. The social enterprise is built on handcrafted products and authentic relationships with artisans, which aim to share stories about their crafts. Take Sumit, a talented and hardworking carver in India who, at a young age, has a decade of experience in beautiful, intricate block printing. Stories such as Sumit’s are food for the soul and may ultimately inspire us to live creatively and contentedly.

Deva says This Same Sky’s logo represents the two traits that are core to the brand: an appreciation for the handcrafted and a sense of intentionality. She says she wanted it to be inclusive, with echoes of home. The three lines represent values of time, community and story. The intention is to remind us that we must locate ourselves in and be good stewards of each.

Brown Girl writer Anum Tahir spoke with the founder to learn more about the brand’s specifics.

Did any certain experiences affect the design and meaning behind the brand identity?

Sofiya Deva: I moved to the states from India with my family when I was five years old, and at the time, I’m not sure I understood that we’d never be coming back. We left behind grandparents, neighbors, traditions, familiar scents and sounds.  

As someone who grew up straddling two cultures, I often felt a sense of displacement, and a longing to belong. We don’t talk enough about how the other side of assimilation is erasure. I’ve realized I can honor and reclaim my heritage, while also celebrating my independence and ability to create new narratives. It’s the dance between those two poles that shape our design aesthetic and approach. 

How do artisans feel about being acknowledged on the internet around the world? 

From my conversations with them, my impression is that they take deep pride in their craft, especially as it’s often been passed down over multiple generations. But, they’re humble. They see it as simply their trade. They don’t always regard it as something novel or rare, so I imagine the fact that our team and our customer base do is a little amusing to them.

They’ve been very generous with us, and our goal has been to reciprocate that and build a long-term relationship. We have a deep respect for their wisdom and expertise and approach the collaboration with awe and curiosity. It’s not merely transactional for us.

During the lockdown in India, I sent them videos over WhatsApp in my terrible Hindi to let them know I was thinking of them and sharing the new website with their photos and product designs. That was a very sweet moment and a good example of technology fostering connection. I don’t know if they’re going to start Instagram accounts of their own anytime soon, but I think that’d be so cool. One of my goals is to spend more time in Jaipur, so we can continue to find ways to amplify their voice and craftsmanship that more closely align with their interests.

Can you tell us more about the eco-conscious initiatives that the brand is taking? For example, in the workshops for block and screen printing, the printing/dyeing is done in an environmentally friendly fashion. Are you using methods that use water-based inks, and is there some sort of a closed-loop water system in the dye houses?

I often say that artisans are the OGs of slow fashion. Because our process is small batch and hand-done, it’s inherently less wasteful. We also use AZO-free non-toxic dyes, and I love that you mentioned the closed-loop water system for the dye house, because this is my big goal from a sustainability perspective over the next one to three years. As the printing sector in Jaipur becomes more popular, it’s important to us that we’re part of the solution in combating water waste and pollution in the local area.

Once we’ve established a proof of concept and have a successful launch under our belt, we’ll be auditing our process in Jaipur and finding ways to both limit water and fabric waste. We have a wonderful consultant, Mansi Shah, who used to head up the textile lab at Bombay’s first hemp company, we’re working with to help us with that. We’re also currently working on a capsule collection that uses handwoven silk, Tencel, and recycled polyester as its main fabrics, with a portion of the proceeds going towards equipping human trafficking victims with job skills and mental health support.  

As a social enterprise, we do have to balance our main mission of providing artisans with an exceptional livelihood and preserving heritage crafts with sound environmental stewardship. Still, I think that’s the dance of sustainability, and its triple bottom line of profits, planet and people.

[Read Related: Lakme Fashion Week W/F’19 Saw Sustainable Fashion at its Best]

I am quite irked by the blindingly fast pace at which clothes from fast fashion brands are now manufactured, worn and then eventually discarded. Many people are now terming brands such as H&M, Zara, etc. as ‘Disposable Fashion.’ Do you feel that clothing and other personal items from such brands have become commodities rather than keepsakes? 

DEVA: Absolutely. And I think there are two strong impulses for reform right now. One is less stuff, and the other is more meaning. And the two go hand in hand. When we can own our style and values and curate a collection that not only lasts for our lifetime but can be passed down, we don’t need as much novelty, and we feel a stronger connection with what we have. 

Our material possessions are meant to be part of our story: our community, and a link between our past and our future. When we lose that sensibility, what we end up with is exploitative supply chains, wasteful use of resources, and compulsive consumption.

After seeing the elaborate process behind the preparation, do you feel the consumer will then only truly appreciate the craft behind it and end up loving and cherishing the item itself?

Yes. That’s the dream. And of course, there are many entry points to engage with the brand. Some customers might love the look, and that’s wonderful. Others will appreciate the design, as well as the craftsmanship and the mission to spotlight artisan talents. And others still will adore the design, connect with the mission and also use the scarf as a way to set their intentions.

Our first customer was amazing. She was gifted the Decree scarf for her 60th birthday by a friend and was so taken by the symbolism: it inspired her to put lavender highlights in her hair. She sent us pictures, and when I looked at her, I thought, what a model of funky, regal eldership, and how cool that we got to be part of her story.

We try to reinforce this in our packaging. Every order comes with an intention setting card to invite reflection, and of course, the scarves, themselves, are works of art that transmit both the care of the artisan and the soulfulness of the design.

 Use discount code BGM15 for 15 percent off your order.