The founder of Nasheman Studio, Waqar J Khan, gained his expertise in fashion design from various art institutions in Pakistan with ambitions that were similar to that of any other fashion designer, wanting to produce avant-garde collections and lead a glamorous lifestyle. Once he became aware of the impact that fashion has on our natural resources, he decided to break into the untapped market of sustainable fashion in Pakistan through the preservation of crafts. At the Lahooti Melo 2020 that took place between February 14 to 16 under the theme of “Eco not Ego”, Waqar gives a panel and talks about how Nasheman Studio aims to highlight the socio-cultural landscape of Pakistan by working with skilled artisans from various communities.
In essence, sustainability is defined as the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. However, in a traditional, linear fashion supply chain, synthetic textiles are highly damaging to the environment with cotton, denim and leather being some of the most polluting materials, working conditions are unsafe and poor where garment workers don’t get paid a living wage (75% of them are women), and there’s a lack of transparency in the supply chain.
It isn’t just black or white, as there are many complexities and possibilities in the sustainability sector that can allow a business to operate successfully. In Pakistan specifically, there is a huge potential for sustainable fashion through the preservation of handicrafts and artisanal work, as it’s a model that already exists but simply needs to be sustained to avoid extinction. This is due to the fact that the newer generation is not interested in carrying on traditions and skills of their older generations, and would rather move to developed cities to work in corporate jobs. Moreover, the best thing a designer can do to reduce carbon footprint is either choose to use recycled materials or materials that can biodegrade, which means that a garment can be disposed of and decompose in soil without harming the environment.
Nasheman Studio does the latter, and produces home textiles, apparel and accessories in collaboration with various international and local NGO’s or organisations. Firstly, the apparel uses GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton, which is free of any pesticides and is ethically grown. Also working closely with Olive Ridley Project, an organisation that retrieves ghost (fishing) nets from our oceans to protect marine life, which we use to design jewelry, like necklaces that were worn by the attendees of Lahooti Melo. In collaboration with Hunar Ghar Welfare Organization, Nasheman is able to empower home-based women by sourcing tote bags that are stitched by them. A community of artisans in Bhit Shah are responsible for upcycling bori (rice sacks), which are made of jute fibres, into home textiles and tote bags, that are hand-dyed in natural dyes and beautified with hand block-printing techniques. Another community of textile-weavers in Khairpur use organic cotton threads to handloom into fabrics that are also dyed naturally.
When compared to the mass-market industry where fast-fashion takes the largest share of the market, it makes much more sense to shop responsibly and ethically from brands and designer labels that are not only working towards preserving natural resources, but also traditional techniques and skills. Nasheman Studio hopes to maintain its position as the nest for craft preservation & sustainable fashion in Pakistan over the years to come and attract a Western audience as well.