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Posted at: Sep 8, 2018, 1:22 AM; last updated: Sep 8, 2018, 2:30 AM (IST)

Wear, re-wear

Seerat Virdi is the first Indian to reach the finals of ReDress Design Awards

Arushi Chaudhary

Fashion is one of the most pollution-intense industries in the world. In 2016, fashion tycoon Eileen Fisher stunned the world with her statement, “The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world, second only to the oil industry.” While the jury is out on whether the fashion industry qualifies as the second biggest polluter of our environment, there is no denying that byproducts of fast fashion — water pollution, increasing textile waster and the use of toxic chemicals — negatively impact an already crumbling environment. 

It was this revelation that led 26-year-old Seerat Virdi to charter into the territory of sustainable fashion with ReDress Design Awards, part of a global movement to bring textile waste back into fashion to prevent it from ending up in our already over-burdened landfills.

The young designer from Ludhiana has become the first-ever Indian finalist at this prestigious platform dedicated to making fashion waste-free. Seerat is one of the 11 finalists showcasing their collections created exclusively from waste textiles to an international audience and the who’s who of fashion world in Hong Kong this week.

For Seerat, who started out in the world of fashion with a quintessential mainstream job, this journey has been one of finding her passion. Fresh out of fashion school, Seerat started her career with an online platform where her role entailed acquisition of new designer labels and cross-selling brand opportunities. “I always wanted to start something of my own. While I understood the aesthetics and was totally in sync with the creative aspect of the fashion world, I needed to learn the ropes of doing business and my first job helped me do just that,” she says.

With that experience to back her up, Seerat went on to launch her own fashion label, Miesu Design House in December 2016, and gradually expanded it with an online presence in Dubai and New York, apart from India. It was this exposure to the international fashion scene that led Seerat to the concept of sustainable fashion and stirred in her a desire to try a completely recycled collection with zero-waste.

Earlier this year, while applying for a chance to showcase her work at the coveted Lakme Fashion Week 2018, she learnt about the ReDress Design Awards platform and found it to be in perfect harmony with her own desire to pursue sustainable fashion. “I applied in April this year and got selected as one of the 30 semi-finalists,” says Seerat.

“Once my entry was accepted, it was time to work on my collection. Since the entire concept revolves around sustainable fashion and zero-waste designs, I knew every participating designer would bring these elements into their creations. That’s when I started toying with ideas to make mine different. I decided to add an extra dimension to the zero-waste concept by making my designs versatile, so that each piece can be worn in different ways, thus putting off the need to discard outfits,” she explains. 

“I did a total of five pieces for this collection and each of it comprises detachable garments that can be mixed and matched, and worn in three or four different ways,” she adds.

Seerat worked on the entire collection single-handedly, trying to source reusable materials and fabrics for her collection and then working backwards to weave them into stylish, classy designs. “I started out by leveraging the wealth of fabric in my hometown, Ludhiana. I shopped for rejected fabrics and surplus threads from a wholesale market on the outskirts of the city, sourced cuts and pieces from my own boutique and even went to other boutiques to procure discarded fabric pieces, or katran as it is called colloquially, and used these to create designs that were versatile yet synchronised.”

Australian designer Tess Whitfort won the award on Thursday evening. What does Seerat hope to take away from the experience? “From the time I submitted my entry in April to turning in my designs sometime mid-July, these four months have been creatively gratifying. To win on a platform like ReDress would definitely have been the perfect cherry on the cake, but I just consider myself lucky to be surrounded by such creative minds and to be mentored by some of the finest names in the fashion world, and that experience in itself is a huge victory,” she says.

“The exposure has changed my entire outlook toward fashion. I have paused work at Miesu for now to re-assess my design strategy and make sustainable fashion an integral part of my work in the future,” she concludes. 

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