“Sustainability is about making the least damaging choice every step of the way”: In Conversation with Shivangini Padhiyar and Rekha Datla of The Summer House

Image credit: The Summer House

The Summer House was founded by Shivangini Padhiyar and Rekha Datla with a single aim—to take sustainable luxury to masses.  Since it’s inception in 2015, the label has set a strong tone for the changing Indian fashion scene. 

For both Shivangini and Rekha, The Summer House was a result of their career change. Having worked in advertising for almost a decade, Shivangini was aware of the essentials of a corporate counter. While Rekha was always into fashion retail. She ran her own curated boutique store in Bangalore before joining hands with Shivangini. 

The genesis of Summer House, as Shivangini informs,  lies in ‘nostalgia’. The charm of the handcrafted and high-quality products, reminiscent of their childhood helped them in carving out an identity for their label. “Both of us grew up in an environment where quality and purity of product in our daily lives trumped all else. I think it is how our entire generation grew up. We wanted to build something that was in tune with our current lifestyle” she adds.

Hailing from a small village in Gujarat called Miyagam, Shivangini used to visit her grandmother’s summer house in Mount Abu. It became a creative haven for her. She used to spend her holidays in her granny’s garden full of medicinal herbs and roses. This led to Shivangini naming the label ‘Summer House’.  

 Rekha’s mother, on the other hand, was an architect and had a knack for landscaping. Rekha too was brought up surrounded by charming gardens and this is how the creative bug crept in her veins.

They both wanted to create a business model with sustainability at its core. And have explored different aspects of responsible fashion over the years. They function through a studio built from rescued windows of a defunct workshop. To minimize and regulate energy consumption, they measure their energy use and find ways to minimize its use.  They ensure nothing in their studio goes waste, even the fabrics. Therefore, they donate all the leftover fabric to NGO’s they closely work with. As a part of their process of creating responsible fashion, they are constantly exploring the usage of eco-friendly fabrics such as Tencel.The creative duo is also an advocate of dye-free fabrics, as natural dyes also leave some amount of carbon footprint. Therefore, the label prefers creamy white hue of undyed fabric. 

Today, sustainability is being interpreted in a variety of ways. But, The Summer House has a clear vision for its future. For them, it’s all about performing the balancing act, where the craft, craftsmen, the clients all three are in a win -win situation. 

Here is everything you need to know about this one of a kind label which is taking sustainable fashion to new heights. 

 

 

 

Image credit: The Summer House

1. Tell us about your formative years. What are your earliest memories of fashion/design?

The earliest memories are of my grandmother drafting designs, sewing, accessorizing the most exquisite hand-tailored leather bags.

2. You both switched your careers to pursue design, what prompted you to do so?

Rekha was always into fashion retail. Before she took a break to raise her young kids, she ran a pretty little boutique store in Bangalore that had beautifully curated clothes and accessories. I worked in advertising for almost a decade before finally finding the courage to give up the security of a well-paid job to start something I was dreaming of for a few years.

The Summer House is born from nostalgia. Both of us grew up in an environment where quality and purity of product in our daily lives trumped all else. I think it is how our entire generation grew up. We wanted to build something that was in tune with our current lifestyle.

Image credit: The Summer House

3. What’s the story /philosophy behind your label? How do you come up with such unique names for all your collections?

Our philosophy is what we put in our tagline too – Pure is Beautiful.

The names are born from the idea. We always think of an idea, a story we want to tell, before we design a collection and not vice versa. Plus, I think years in advertising helps come up with creative names.

Image credit: The Summer House

4. What inspires your creative process?

Everything from writing to architecture to just a colour can inspire a new idea for a collection. This is then married with our one big love and chief inspiration – India’s vast treasure box of crafts and weaves and skill. More often than not we succeed, in cases we don’t we turn to organic or responsibly sourced fabrics.

Image credit: The Summer House

5. What sets your label apart? How would your define your signature style?

Our signature style is distinctly modern and global. I think that is what sets us apart. While we work closely with craftsmen and the popular craft processes we don’t indulge in the bohemian or even what is popularly known as indo-fusion.

The other thing that sets us apart is quality. We are not a designer brand, and yet we provide great designer quality. Once a customer buys from us, they know the difference and, fingers crossed, almost always come back.

Image credit: The Summer House

6. A lot of brands are becoming sustainably conscious lately. Tell us a little about your efforts in that direction. Any specific fabric/product or initiative that you have come up to support the cause of sustainability?

Sustainability is not about fabric or product, it really is about making the least damaging choice every step of the way. And we are doing that. Our studio is built from rescued windows of a now defunct workshop. We measure energy used and find ways to reduce its consumption. We are not big enough to afford solar energy for all our production yet but we plan to do so in a few years. The same plastic bags we used to store our stitched clothing in two years ago when we started are still being used. We are constantly exploring new age fabrics like tencel which is considered among the most eco-friendly fabrics in the world. We donate all the leftover fabric to NGOs like Swavlambi so that there is almost zero wastage in that aspect. Our fabric reaches us via rail and not air. We never negotiate prices with our craftsmen and we pay our production team better than market rates. Our clothes are great in quality which means the customer can wear them for long. None of our clothes are dry clean, so no unnecessary harmful chemicals are used in clothing care (sadly we can’t avoid detergent for wash). We recommend hand wash for all clothes instead of machine wash. Our clothing is well priced so customers can buy more often from us which means we can give more work to the craftsmen. We don’t use harmful chemicals to clean our studio but have chosen organic options. These are a few of the many small things we do for the cause of sustainability.

The process has to be sustainable for the weavers/printers which means they get good prices and constant work, it has to be sustainable for us as a business which means we price correctly while incorporating responsible processes in our day to day working, and it has to be sustainable for the customer which means she must be able to wear it for longer. If all of this comes together, it will be sustainable for the planet as well.

Image credit: The Summer House

7. How would you define your muse?

Intelligent, understated, brave

8. Future plans?

Simply to reach out to more people.

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