August 28, 2020March 22, 2021 5min readBy Anum Tahir
Photo courtesy of Sofiya Deva
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’slogo 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.
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.
Making conscious decisions can, and should, go hand in hand with wearing fashionable pieces of clothing. Fortunately, South Asian fashion is making huge strides in the sustainable fashion department, and ace fashion designer Anita Dongre is at the forefront of this change; she’s so dedicated to making environmentally friendly choices in her collections.
Brown Girl Magazine has previously had the honor of featuring her Grassroots Collection; today, we sat down with Dongre to chat about her new vegan luxury line.
Her love for animals is parallel to her love for fashion and she does not sacrifice one or the other. From handcrafted purses to belts, the new collection is made of recycled materials and leaves a smaller carbon footprint.
What inspired you to “go vegan” both personally and product-wise?
I have always loved animals. When I was 13 my best friend talked me into being vegetarian and there was no looking back – Sangita and I continued to work together and since then we have both also turned vegan. When I started my business, I wanted the brand to be an extension of my personal philosophies so being a vegan brand was a forgone conclusion. My personal philosophy is to live a mindful life with kindness. This philosophy extends to respecting all life [so] we have chosen not to use leather for our line of accessories. For years I have wanted to create a vegan line of accessories that was high on quality, fashion, and kindness, and technology has only recently caught up with that desire.
Women have always expressed themselves through what they wear. In today’s time, carrying a bag that reflects their core personality is the default, and yet until recently, there hasn’t been a leather replacement that is cruelty-free and kind to the environment. With material sciences finally having the answer it was imperative to design an accessory line that women, like myself who care both about fashion and a world of kindness, could carry with pride.
What material is used in this new line? Why did you choose it?
With MIRUM® we found a partner who creates this beautiful, plastic-free material that mimics the touch, feel, and age of leather without cruelty. The line also features bags made out of recycled glass beads. We’re careful about delivering high quality [products] and both these materials deliver to that benchmark while being plastic-free.
How many pieces does this new line have and what is the importance of the animal symbols of each?
This collection is inspired by nature, my eternal muse. The Swan mini grab bag draws from a swan’s graceful silhouettes; the birds of a feather cross body bag borrow bird motifs that you see across my collections; the haathi belt uses my favorite — the Indian elephant, [which] is a symbol of strength and humility — every piece in this line of accessories is an elegant statement in conscious luxury living. The Anita Dongre brand has stood for elegance, timeless classics, and sustainability. We have always stood for handcrafted luxury while being mindful of the purpose it serves. These same principles extend into this collection of conscious, plastic-free, vegan accessories. While the shapes of these bags are distinctive, they are also functional – a design approach that extends across all Anita Dongre products.
How to promote sustainability in India versus let’s say New York City:
India’s lived culture is based on the practice of sustainability. From clothes that would be passed down to siblings and then cousins to eating seasonal fruits and vegetables, our practices until recently have always defaulted to conscious consumption. It’s exciting to see the rest of the world adapt to that way of living and [it’s] a good reminder for us Indians to go back to the way we were raised.
Anita Dongre allows her consumers to choose ethically-sourced pieces while letting them embrace sustainability as a part of luxury fashion. Soon enough, such cruelty-free products will be synonymous with India’s (and the world’s) top fashion couture brands. This is definitely not a step, but a huge leap forward.
Photos in the featured image are courtesy of Anita Dongre.
When she was young, Preeti Gore, the founder of the clothing brand Tilted Lotus, always looked up to her dad’s “natural sketching” talent. His motivation led her to explore her creative side, whether it was experimenting with art or taking up sitar lessons. Regardless of that fact, she pursued a career in science and became a Physical therapist, following her gut instinct.
Stepping into the world of fashion, alongside being a PT, Gore talks to Brown Girl Magazine about her brand Tilted Lotus in depth.
Why “Tilted Lotus?” What is the significance of the name?
‘Lotus’ symbolizes the national flower of India, my birthplace and the land that has shaped me into the person I am today. It represents the roots from which I originate. On the other hand, ‘Tilted’ signifies the distinctive identity I developed while living in Western countries. With my experiences spanning four different nations — India, the UK, Canada, and the US — I’ve had the privilege of embracing the unique qualities of each culture. This odyssey has enriched my life tremendously, and Tilted Lotus is how I offer this special part of me to a diverse American market.
How did the transition to the world of textiles and design occur?
Despite never being pressured by my parents, I convinced myself that pursuing a career in science was the ‘right’ path, and thus became a physical therapist. My first job in the US was at Houston Methodist Hospital, located in the prestigious Texas Medical Center. Driven by my passion to help others, I am dedicated to this profession and have no intention of quitting. Relocating to the UK, and Canada, and eventually settling in the US presented numerous challenges, and every time I felt shattered, defeated, or alone, I somehow found the strength to push forward. My parents, despite limited resources, supported my dreams wholeheartedly, encouraging independence and the pursuit of my passions. My husband — who I affectionately call my “Sheldon” (a nod to The Big Bang Theory) — played a pivotal role in persuading me to embrace my creative instincts. I am grateful to have him as both a strong supporter and a staunch feminist.
Two years ago, I took the first step toward launching Tilted Lotus. I enrolled in the entrepreneurship program at The Wharton School and pursued a course on starting a fashion line. I was focused on finding the right supply chain and developing a solid business strategy, but the real test came when I had to work tirelessly in the ICU during the COVID wave, back-to-back nights and days, all at the same time. Through ups and downs, failures, and victories, I finally launched Tilted Lotus in December 2022.
India to the UK…then now to the US! Did the need to stay rooted in your culture strengthen? If so, how did that help you envision Tilted Lotus?
From my childhood days, I’ve held onto my personal values like a compass guiding my way. During my experiences living in different countries, I noticed [I was] slowly losing myself, losing what truly makes me, me. But my love for my culture grew stronger, and I found ways to preserve it. As I wore clothing that reflected my identity and initiated conversations about culture and heritage, I discovered that these markers not only distinguish us but also bring us closer together. People are often eager to learn and experience different cultures, which inspired me to create Tilted Lotus, offering a glimpse of me to others.
How do you aim to combine South Asian elements with contemporary designs?
The design process for creating an outfit involves a multitude of elements. Our primary objective is to take a traditional Indian art form, put a Tilted Lotus twist on it, and incorporate it into contemporary, everyday silhouettes that are both adaptable and effortless to wear. Our latest collection, Jungle Glam, embodies this unique concept flawlessly.
Who is your target audience? And, how do your pieces help express themselves?
We cater to a diverse and inclusive audience, embracing individuals of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities. While our current selection includes unisex options, our plans involve expanding more into the realm of unisex clothing. Our aim is for our garments to transcend traditional gender norms, welcoming everyone into our fashion community, regardless of their background.
Our target demographic consists of individuals who revel in dressing eclectically, and fearlessly expressing their unique selves. Our garments become a canvas for personal stories, silently representing who they are. They complement individual styles and can be effortlessly combined with other pieces, adding a touch of boldness and confidence.
One adjective to describe your clothing line.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?
Our ultimate goal is for them to exude confidence, radiate happiness, and proudly embrace their true selves when they don our clothing. We want them to feel empowered, ready to conquer the world, and unapologetically display their unique style and individuality.
You mention one of your brand values is compassion. Can you tell us a little about your vision to help your non-profit partner: Three Little Pitties Rescue?
We take great pride in being a strong corporate sponsor for the Three Little Pitties Rescue, an extraordinary non-profit 501c3 organization that goes above and beyond to rescue dogs and cats in dire situations, primarily in the Houston, Texas area. Their unwavering dedication has resulted in the rescue and salvation of over 11,000 animals in recent years, and we are honored to contribute to their cause.
As avid animal lovers, our affiliation with Three Little Pitties Rescue began long before the inception of Tilted Lotus. We have closely collaborated with them, witnessing firsthand their remarkable achievements and tremendous growth over the past few years. Their progress has been fuelled by sheer honesty, selflessness, and unrelenting hard work.
One thing that sets Three Little Pitties Rescue apart is their absolute commitment to ensuring that every donation they receive is put to its intended purpose. They maintain the highest standards of transparency and accountability, ensuring that funds are used solely for the betterment of the rescued animals. There is no room for misuse or misappropriation.
Through our partnership with Three Little Pitties Rescue, we have witnessed the profound impact they have on the lives of animals in need. We are privileged to be part of their journey and contribute to their noble mission. Together, we strive to make a lasting difference and create a better world for our furry friends.
We are set to rock the Runway show at New York Fashion Week this fall with Runway 7 productions at Sony Hall, New York. We will be unveiling an all new collection.
Stylish, sustainable silhouettes with love. Tilted Lotus is synonymous with wearing your culture with pride. With prints that bring you back to traditional Indian art, the collections have pieces that you can wear to your next big event or even pair with your everyday jeans and a tee.
And, after an incredible showcase at Austin Fashion Week, the Slow Fashion Festival, and two successful pop-up events at Renegade Craft and Austin Fashion Week, the team is thrilled about what lies ahead this year! Their calendars are full, and they couldn’t be more grateful to everyone that showered them with love and welcomed them with open arms.
Here are some exciting upcoming events Titled Lotus has planned, and they’d be delighted to have you join them in person!
New York Fashion Week: Runway 7, Sony Hall, September 9, New York
In Todo Pop-up Shop: November 4-5, Los Angeles, California
You can continue to be part of their journey by following them on their official Instagram account, here.
Ever since we can recall, the Cannes Film Festival has been a merger of movies and glamour. On one side, there are hand-picked films — ready to premiere and make their mark in the world of entertainment — and on the other, audiences and paparazzi alike are served epic moments in fashion.
The festival, aimed to preview upcoming films from all over the world, invites a wide variety of guests that span the film fraternity, of course, but more recently, has opened its doors to many digital content creators, including renowned South Asian creatives.
With a more vast guest list comes a more recent debate: Cannes is a film festival and not a fashion showcase. Kickstarting the debate this year was none other than ace Bollywood director, Nandita Das, who in an Instagram post shared:
Sometimes people seem to forget that it is a festival of films and not of clothes!
In short, Das wants Cannes’ narrative to continue to focus on films.
But of course, there’s been a paradigm shift in the guest list over the last few years; this shift has allowed talents from various industries — including lifestyle content creators, entrepreneurs, etc. who showcase their work in fashion and beauty like fine masterstrokes — to walk the carpet and represent their craft, making space for others in their industry.
Influential names like Dolly Singh, Kaushal, Diipa Buller-Khosla, and Shivani Bafna — all of whom made a raging impact on the red carpet this year — weigh in on the significance of representing South Asian artists/influencers on the red carpet, and how they feel they’ve been part of this paradigm shift at Cannes Film Festival.
I believe that each step we take at events like Cannes sends a powerful message of diversity, cultural richness, and artistic excellence. Representation matters, and the presence of South Asian creators on the red carpet at Cannes helps broaden the narrative of beauty, talent, and creativity. It allows us to showcase our unique perspectives, narratives, and contributions, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive industry. By actively participating and making our presence felt, we help create more opportunities and spaces for South Asian creators, encouraging others to share their stories with the world.
Since 2015, the first time I walked the red carpet, till this year I have always been invited by L’Oreal Paris, one of the main sponsors of the event. It has always been such an honor to be invited to the festival through the makeup brand that I have been using for almost two decades, and, before my social media career began. Personally, I feel a sense of acknowledgment from such a prestigious brand, and its head office teams that sponsor Cannes Film Festival, and value the work I have done and continue to do as a South Asian content creator within the beauty space. Makeup, hair, and beauty will always play a big role within the film industry and it’s something I have always created my content around which is why I am proud to attend.
This is a proud moment not just for me but also [for] my peers and the entire content creator ecosystem given that we have reached such new global stages and presence. Of course, as you said, such film festivals, once considered as an exclusive hub for a congregation of the finest acting talents have, in the last few years, opened their arms to more people from the entertainment industry.
This is not just a sudden phenomenon with a burst of Indian creators at the festival this year but there is increased participation from non-film and non-South Asian celebrities across various spectrums from different sides of the world. Along with the many filmmakers, actors, producers, etc I also met some amazing influencers and entrepreneurs from other sides of the world. It’s amazing to represent India and celebrate and champion the advent of the digital ecosphere on such a prominent platform.
The confluence of actors and creators signified the amalgamation of traditional cinema and new-age digital influence, highlighting the transformative power of creative expression and how festivals like Cannes have become more forthcoming and progressive in their approach.
Cannes, like any other prominent festival, boasts of a red carpet that is synonymous with fashion and glitz, and I wanted to use this opportunity to represent all the amazing Indian fashion designers on the carpet besides, of course, attending the screenings. As someone who is just not an influencer but also an actress, I thoroughly enjoyed all the red-carpet screenings and meeting like-minded film talent from around the world at the event. At some point in the future, I would like to be attending Cannes for a film I’ve featured in.
Creators are often placed into boxes of where they belong and the rooms they can be a part of. Being on the red carpet dismantles the ideology that there’s a cap on how far we, as creators and as a South Asian community, can go and what we can achieve.
The Cannes Film Festival has always been viewed as the epitome of a glamorous event — everyone who attends looks like they’re living their best lives. I used the platform to share an authentic message of what the experience felt like for me. To represent all of us who doubt our potential, experience imposter syndrome, and are nervous to find their place, yet continue to push through to achieve their dreams!
As the first Indian American influencer to walk at Cannes, I hope I can inspire young women to confidently ask, ‘Why not me?’
There’s no doubt that the Cannes Film Festival is centered around films, and continues to be a unique space for the global film fraternity to bring their art and showcase their aptitude. But, creators like Bafna, Singh, Buller-Khosla, and Kaushal — a special shoutout to Raja Kumari for being instrumental in paving the way as well — have their own set of responsibilities to fulfill upon their invitation to the prestigious event. Their will to represent their South Asian identities, celebrate their industries, and continue to hold space for their peers makes their presence at Cannes more than just clothes.
All images in the featured photo are from the influencers’ Instagram feeds.