By Aarti Betigeri
“India is a tremendously exciting place to be for entrepreneurs compared to 10 years ago. We now have stories of success, not just of big names but also in our own circles. That’s a great motivator.”
When Nishanth Chopra was doing an internship in his family’s textile production factory in regional southern India, he quickly realised that things were not always what they seemed. Fabric labelled “organic” was still being produced in an environment where chemical fumes would spew out of machines into the faces of factory workers, who were not always wearing protective gear. His father insisted that all chemicals complied with international organic regulations, but Chopra was unconvinced; so much so that he soon decided that, rather than join the 60-year-old family business, he would forge his own path.
“I’d discovered at university that my interests lay in sustainability, so when I came home, I realised that [the family business] was not for me. I had always wanted to do something ethical and environmentally friendly, but working with the chemicals and fumes didn’t appeal,” says Chopra, 22. After some thought, he settled on fashion: it was an industry that dovetailed nicely with the family trade, yet was something he could pursue in a sustainable way, and an industry that was exciting, interesting and would allow him to travel and meet people.
Fast forward to March this year and Oshadi (“essence of nature”) was born. It is a line that uses India’s unique textile heritage: natural dyes and handwoven fabrics, along with cutting-edge design. In just a few months and one small capsule collection in, Oshadi has exhibited at Paris Fashion Week and the Milan White Show. “I found a designer who has come out of Central St Martins and has also worked for some of the big fashion houses. He does the design while I focus on sourcing handloom textiles for it,” he says. It is a small capsule collection of dresses, pants, jackets and shirts, and the next one is due to drop in November.