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SAP Seminar Series, "Indigenous Clothing and Sustainable Fashion" by Sabri Wable

Monday, May 7, 2018 at 12:15pm to 1:30pm

Uris Hall, G08

A global industry like the fashion industry has environmental and social implications. Today it is dominated by fast fashion which encourages overconsumption, is polluting and drives inequality. The craze for “new” has led to an industry which is energy intensive and uses toxic chemicals– particularly in cotton production by GMO seeds, pesticides and fertilizers, polluting water and giving rise to solid waste which quickly ends up on landfills and incinerators. The social consequence of the industry is also of concern. The industry workforce is largely made up of “low skilled” young women, often migrants, vulnerable and who may not always have access to rights.

On one hand we can criticize but on the other hand we also have to look for solutions. Can indigenous ways of making clothes offer answers? Before the industrial revolution clothing came from small, local, home based production systems. Mass production of fabric and clothing, made possible by industrial revolution, created production hubs that kept growing distant from the end-user and her environment. However, there still exists an alternate to this type of production system which is largely profit driven. An alternate that can support prosperity, not mere profits, and can stand up to measures of sustainability- economic, environmental and social

In India, the craft sector is the second largest employer after agriculture. A substantial number of craftspeople are self employed and work from home. They are an integral part of the Indian society and still play a major role in the visual identity of India’s many communities. Many forms of clothing evolved with each culture in response to a region’s climate and to a community’s aesthetics. The value chain is local and part of the society it caters, this ensures quality and sensitivity towards the ecosystem in which production thrives. Pieces of clothing are mended or repurposed, not discarded, even today in rural India. Clothes have many lives and keep changing form to address different needs of a household. Add to this the fact that durability is a valued factor which limits material flow. Inspired by this material culture I launched a line of clothing made using tailoring waste, hand-woven seconds, discarded clothing and hand-woven fabrics. These materials are upcycled in a village based network of tailors and hand-embroiderers using vernacular pattern making methods. Along with designs that are timeless and high on utility, I am also trying to establish production systems that leverage artisan skills and their time. This presentation shares my journey of starting up an alternate clothing brand.

Shabri Wable is an Indian fashion entrepreneur and curator of Indian handloom based in Kutch- the largest rural district in the state of Gujarat. In the past three years, she has worked closely with the artisans and pastoral community of Kutch to contribute to the movement of sustainable fashion, and build a brand that is ethically conscientious rather than fashion conscious.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Sustainability




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Valerie Foster Githinji

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Sabri Wable

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