Along with the Pochampally and Maheshwari sarees already part of your wardrobe, how about adding a saree made from ‘waste’ to your collection? While this may sound fantastical, Bimlesh ji does exactly this—create a range of unique products, including wearable goods, from leftover fabric.
Growing up in the 1960s, upcycling was deeply rooted in Bimlesh ji's family and neighbourhood. With little spending money available, she would use each leftover textile piece in her tailoring business, disposing of only the unsalvageable. “During those times, every textile was cherished and lasted more than anyone hoped,” she said.
In her early days working with an NGO for women empowerment, Bimlesh ji realised the immense potential of women and the innate tailoring skills they possess, which only need to be coaxed out of their shell with a little training. A turning point in her career emerged later when she began working with a fashion designer in Delhi, primarily engaged in upcycling textiles
Bimlesh ji makes one-of-a-kind goods with the bare minimum, working with what is discarded by the textile industry as ‘waste’—known as katran in tailoring parlance. The process begins by segregating usable material from the pile of waste fabric and deciding how best to put it to use. Employing her traditional tailoring techniques, Bimlesh Ji creates the final product—whether a bag, jewellery or even a saree. Her tools are those commonly used in any tailoring business—crochet hooks, seam ripper, scissors, sewing needle and of course, the sewing machine.
The journey from segregating to finally piecing together the end result is rife with uncertainty. However, the outcome never ceases to astonish Bimlesh ji. “I get surprised after every product is finished, as one side there is a pile of fabric, and another side is the finished product, and that makes me happy.” Working full time, she realised that the more you practice a particular craft as a profession, the more ideas come to mind. Comparing upcycled products to their regular counterparts in the market, Bimlesh Ji explained that people are still inclined to purchase mass-produced goods over upcycled products. “People who value the concept of upcycling only tend to buy these products and use them in their routine.” With sustainability becoming a hot topic of conversation today, a certain shift can be detected in people’s perspective towards upcycled goods. However, even this shift is limited and fairly minuscule, Bimlesh ji explained.