Devyani Kapoor is known for her minimalistic style that makes ethical fashion look absolutely alluring. Ever since she started journaling her own fashion aesthetic in 2014 for her blog Breviloquent, she realised she couldn’t get herself to flaunt the dominant fast fashion styles that are most popular in the blogging space. She was bias towards sustainable indie brands who were transparent enough to share the story of each garment. Understanding the need for this shift and having worked with numerous such brands, Devyani thought of revolutionising the flea market trend by creating a slow fashion pop-up - Shuffling Suitcases
Two years and many successful pop-ups later, Devyani shares with us the need for her slow fashion influencing and all that she’s learnt from the reception of her Shuffling Suitcases pop-ups.
How did you first discover your passion for ethical fashion?
I have been in the industry for more than 5 years now. Which started for me as a full time personal style blogger where I was exploring my own sense of style and at the same time inspiring so many people around me. I found my bent towards garments made by artisans directly and not H&M, Zara etc where I knew nothing about the story of the clothes I was buying, it was then that I knew I was not cut for fast fashion. I was only working with homegrown brands for my blog called "Breviloquent" which was a creative platform for me and a space to talk about the stories of these ethical brands. I knew I had found my niche and held onto it from then. I have said maximum no's to fast fashion brands who were ready to pay as much as I asked to promote them. My blog let me discover this about myself and that's where things got real.
Why are ethical fashion influencers important?
Honestly, there are very few in India and the ones who call themselves so are also promoting fast fashion at the same time. Influencers are the ones running the fashion industry at the moment and there is a big requirement for ethical fashion influencers who could use their voice to let the world know where we are messing up. These brands are too small to make a big noise and thus if ethical fashion influencers took it upon themselves to change the situation, a lot can be done when it comes to fashion which is the 2nd most polluting industry. It all needs to start from awareness, which can be achieved on a mass level with the help of ethical fashion influencers.
What are a few things you did not know about ethical fashion but learnt on the job?
I have learnt everything on the go specially the amount of disaster that we have created because of our practices. Every day on my job is a learning curve where I get to learn something new each day be it from the number of items that are made each year globally, to how many of them end up in landfills every week, to the amount of water it requires to make 1 t-shirt (2500 litres) to how the artisans who are at the centre of the industry are paid unfair.
These are things I had no idea about and have learnt about while working. All this and more makes me want to delve deeper into the big issue and find ways of solving the problem at my end to start with.
Do you practise what you preach? How much so?
I have sustained only because I practise what I preach.
Followers are smart and they notice each and every thing. From how much I consume to what I consume to if I use plastic straws. I try and be as slow when it comes to fashion but every day living is where I struggle the most. I am trying to remove plastic as much as possible from my life and also give my (fast fashion) clothes to friends (since they are as good as new) so that they don't buy and the life of the clothes is increased.
I AM 60% THERE, 40% is what I am struggling with.
What was the biggest hurdle for you to transition into an ethical lifestyle?
The extensive use of plastic everywhere as well as polyester in our garments. it is still a struggle but I try doing my bit. I try and use it only in case of emergency but that is also changing since I carry a cloth bag and a glass bottle along with a bamboo straw everywhere I go. But the condition is worse internationally and it gets very difficult to try and stop them from doing it, that's where I struggle the most.
What are some exceptions you make to your ethical and sustainable life, if any?
I am still finding alternatives for my jeans, so I have given up on them till I find a more sustainable option. But rest everything looks great from my shoes to make up to garments to bags to travel essentials.
How did you think of shuffling suitcases?
Shuffling Suitcases was an extension of Breviloquent (reason why it says - curated by Breviloquent).
It was started with an aim of creating a platform for homegrown ethical and sustainable brands and underground artists. While blogging I learnt that these brands were struggling due to the lack of funds since the investment was high and the ROI was less also they could not afford big names to help them be seen or sell more. With this thought I wanted to use my influencer status to bring a change and create a conscious community where people know about them at the same time about sustainability. Today, after 12 editions in 6 cities and 2 countries we are an online community of more 1 lakh people both in india and internationally (total) also happen to be the first ever slow fashion platform by a slow fashion influencer. We also work with Fashion Revolution to host awareness workshops where people can come and learn and ask anything. Transparency is key for me.
Was it difficult to educate people in the beginning about a sustainable pop-up?
A little, yes.
But I was lucky since I had already been in the industry. Having worked with more than 300 brands, people had faith in me and my work but the first year was difficult. Anything new takes time to settle in and so did we. But we were welcomed very warmly and thus these 2 years have been smooth for us. We still struggle to educate people since fast fashion has taken over and how but the journey is long and tough and we are very much ready to do whatever it takes to create that awareness.
With fleas happening on larger scale, taking any and every brand, our model has been very clear from day 0. We are an invite only curation which takes only 15-18 brands at a time, all of which are different. We love telling real stories and that is what we do when we bring these brands on board, tell their stories and build a connection than just plain hoarding.
What has been the most challenging aspect of shuffling suitcases?
For the first year, getting brands who were actually ethical was the toughest part since every one today is joining the bandwagon of calling themselves sustainable without knowing what it means. Then came the footfall, thankfully our social media is our biggest strength but we wanted to only have serious conscious buyers visit us and not the window-shopping-zara-buying-crowd. We have been able to nail that and now the only thing we look at as a challenge is adding more and more conscious people to our community. That is one happy challenge we'll always want to deal with.
How do you pick the brands to be featured in SS?
There are certain things we look at before a brand becomes a part of our curation. The selection is a 2 month process where we ask brands a lot of questions about their production, their workshops, their processes and also at times pay a surprise visit to see how open are they to let us in and being transparent. Not every brand that gets in touch makes it to our edit.
The sustainable price points are usually higher than unethical fast fashion. How do you justify those to the skeptical customers?
With the kind of targeting we do, we hardly get such people. In fact bargaining is something that never happens at any of our curations.
But if at all we have someone who wants to know why are the garments expensive, the brand owners are always present to let them know what goes behind making of that garment and how much they spend at each level so that the final garment can be produced. I myself am present though out to have conversations with the customers.
Define a badass woman
A badass woman knows her worth and looks at taking over any and every challenge head on.
Name some badass women who inspire you
I look up to so many.
Every single woman out there is badass in her own way and I try to look upto all of them. But I wake up every morning inspiring my own self to do better than I did yesterday so this woman has to be ME.
What is your advice to people who want to begin an ethical and sustainable life but find it difficult to transition?
Every small step counts. Start from realising and taking the responsibility of doing your bit. Be it from not buying a bottle of water every time but carrying a glass bottle to refill. If all of us do this, we'll lead to a big change. And know that you cannot change someone else but you can change yourself right at this moment.