The ancient wisdom of minimalism

October 15, 2019

The ancient wisdom of minimalism

The ancient wisdom of minimalism

On a recent trip home, I found my parents’ wedding album tucked deep inside one of the desk drawers. In the photos, I noticed my father’s black blazer and blue & red tie - the same attire he wore when he graduated from Imperial College and later, at my sister’s wedding. My mother’s standing next to him; her cheeks pink from excitement and the little rouge she applied herself that morning; the loose end of her golden yellow silk sari with a thick zari border gently draped over her head. 



That sari is still carefully kept in a plain white box amidst layers of parchment paper, bringing to life a time that’s otherwise hard to comprehend. On some days, when my mum is re-arranging her clothes, amidst a paraphernalia of delicate chiffons and silks, she tells me about her trips to Varanasi, Madras and Calcutta. 

Every handcrafted garment has a story. To me, it seems more like a treasure hunt. I imagine my mum walking through unknown lanes in unfamiliar cities, searching for that perfect sari to add to her collection. This is what sustainable fashion means to me. A portal that allows us to hold on to old memories and yet be able to create new ones. It’s a way to reminisce the old self while celebrating the new. Sustainable fashion isn’t just about clothes that are ethically sourced and meant to last, but it’s also about clothes that take on the shape and form of the people who use them; almost like an extension of who they are.



In The Velveteen Rabbit, the wise horse tells the velveteen rabbit that, “When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” Growing up with parents who treated their clothes not as inanimate objects but as things that are precious and worthy of reverence has helped me do the same. I’m sure Marie Kondo will be proud. 

Sustainable fashion isn’t a new concept in India. Growing up in the nineties, I remember getting new clothes only during special occasions - mostly birthdays and festivals. I reckon that’s why I treasured those things more and learned to live minimally.

Yes, there are other other reasons too. Sustainable fashion is good for the environment; the fashion industry being the second most polluting industry in the world after oil. Sustainable fashion also lets us answer important questions such as, “who made my clothes?” But buying locally and from sustainable sources also helps us appreciate the age-old tradition of homegrown Indian fabrics; the soft ikats from Orissa that almost never fade, rich brocades from Varanasi and textured jacquards from Uttar Pradesh, among many others. These fabrics link us to the weavers and artisans who’ve been practising this craft for generations, offering us a chance to take this tradition forward and to shop with care and purpose.


Liked this? Read How my mum taught me to live a clutter-free life

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