En Inde, as a brand, has a deep-rooted commitment towards utilising art in contribution towards a greater good. Focusing on social and environmental issues is at the core of the brand values with Anupama S. Lalvani’s (Founder and Creative Director of en Inde) vision coming alive through the use of natural, sustainable fibre and metals, the two primary ones being steel and jute.
Jute is vegetable fibre that has been found to have been used for textile production as far back as ancient Indus Valley Civilisation in the 3rd millennium BC. India remains the main producer of jute worldwide to this day, with its areas of usage only topped by cotton. In stark contracts to cotton, jute requires little to no fertiliser or pesticides during cultivation making it an environmentally friendly and sustainable fibre. In fact, jute is known as the most eco-friendly, biodegradable and recyclable natural fibres in the world.
The process of creating jute yarn starts by harvesting the stems of the plants. They are then kept in slow running water for up to one month. This process is called retting and it involves the bacteria dissolving the glue-like material holding the fibres together. They are then stripped away from the stems and milled manually until the fibre strands are separated, then they are washed, dried and shipped to the jute mills for processing the yarn.
In spite of jute being one of the highest revenue-generating industries for India, the infiltration of foreign brands and globalisation backed by massive investment diminished the demand to a great extent. Plastic products could be supplied quicker and at half the cost of jute, reducing the demand and bringing the industry into hardship. However, as we face an existential crisis point for the planet there are calls for concentrated efforts to rejuvenate the use jute in everyday life.
The government has finally put their weight behind small struggling groups working to resurrect the handloom and craft industry. India’s current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi recently declared that their efforts to re-develop the handloom sector will create employment opportunities for the countless highly skilled craftsmen and weavers of the country; as well as bring new opportunities for empowering women and building bridges to surpass the socio-economic barriers in India.
Jute and en Inde
It is the qualities of this fibre, aside from the environmental aspect, that draw designer Anupama to utilise it for realising her designs. Jute is raw and strong in balanced with its supple and unassuming nature. It is pure, honest and unapologetic.
Anupama explains: “As an artist I use it because it represents the colour of earth and for the uniformity of the fibre itself. It softens with wear and maintains a lustre. To me it’s the ‘natural’ choice for a material to sit in contrast with steel. Along with the craft it has given en Inde the perfect language to communicate the unjust societies that we live in. It is a socio-political stance to eliminate the socio economic barriers that separate us….. especially in India (the prevalent caste system etc). I live in the hope that it will resonate in the same way Khadi does. …… As an Instrument of socio-economic and political change.” – ASL notebooks, 2007
As a socially conscious brand, en Inde sources jute carefully, with focus on choice of farmers and suppliers in order to ensure a fair and responsible chain of production. The emphasis is that there is pride, respect and care in every aspect of an en Inde creation. Every piece is handcrafted from the harvest of the plant to the finished jute jewelry like necklace in a slow organic process.
Anupama Sukh Lalvani, Founder and Creative Director of en Inde along with Sonal Sood, Co-founder and Director, en Inde, created the brand to challenge and narrow the gap between the contemporary society and the world of fashion. Their wish remains for the wearer of their work to realise their own strength and unique presence; being honest, responsible and unapologetic in their existence.
Sonal says: ‘Anupama and I believe that we will see, as Khadi became a symbol of resistance in its time, Jute will become a symbol of strength for our time. Khadi has over recent years gone from a fabric of austerity through a rebirth of sumptuous designs and embroideries giving it a luxurious spin. The result is a newfound interest both nationally and internationally for its use. We know the same can be the case for jute and en Inde is actively educating about this through manifestation. The fibre’s core qualities resonate with the personal values of us as the founders and those of the brand. Through all our visual experiences from installation work, photography and individual pieces of jewelry made of jute, en Inde wishes to move this once humble fibre into a new golden age.’