The world of sustainable fashion has been growing at a heartening rate over the last few years, from bigger brands that focus solely on basics to smaller businesses that handcraft all of their wares. In fact, there are now so many fantastic designers working with the planet in mind that we’ve been blessed with our very own fashion treasure troves in the form of online marketplaces. Just ask Debby Wong, founder of Indiigo Culture – a platform that celebrates, supports, and represents Asian designers and makers creating with a conscience. We sat down with Debby to talk about the world of slow fashion.
What inspired you to start Indiigo Culture?
I’ve always loved fashion – from playing dress-up as a child to shopping in vintage and charity stores in London and Paris during my university days. In my first job, I travelled Asia extensively and was exposed to a myriad of Asian cultures. I felt that there needed to be greater diversity and Asian representation in the fashion industry, so in 2018 I took a leap of faith, left my job, and started Indiigo Culture.
Can you tell us a little bit about Indiigo Culture?
Indiigo Culture is a space where Asian designers, cultures, and crafting methods can be represented. Our philosophy is: ‘People and Planet First’. Instead of giving our consumers a faceless exchange of goods, we offer them the story and meaning behind each product. We also aim to grow alongside our makers and designers on their craft and green journeys. I envision Indiigo Culture eventually becoming the go-to platform for conscious fashion.
What was your experience of creating the brand?
I took on the challenge of starting out as a conscious fashion entrepreneur head on. From the get-go, I was supported by family and friends who proofread copy, posed as models, handled operations, and helped find designers and makers with a similar ethos. It was definitely difficult breaking into the sustainable world, but with a lot of love, a bit of luck, and sheer stubborn will, Indiigo Culture is still here today.
How do you select the designers you work with?
We look for a point of difference and an aspect of sustainability. We partner with designers and makers who want to be part of the slow fashion movement, which means that the items they make are sustainable, ethical, artisanal, or eco-friendly. We believe becoming sustainable is a process, so we work with people who are at any point in their sustainable journey and are willing to change their mindsets and methods.
Have you always been interested in sustainability and taking action for the planet?
Yes! My mother is a huge influence. Growing up, she took reusable bags to the supermarket before it was de rigueur, and installed water restrictors in the taps around the house. Small acts like these were normal for me as a child.
What are your thoughts on the fashion industry’s progress towards slow fashion?
I believe that sustainability and diversity are fast becoming cornerstones of the fashion industry. It has become trendy to be part of the slow fashion movement and, while ‘greenwashing’ by brands could be a concern, such push creates necessary pressure for change. The onus is on larger, well-known brands to examine their methods, uplift their makers, and share information with consumers. COVID-19 has also given us pause to rethink our impact on the planet and how we can do better.
Why is it important for fashion brands to be transparent?
Knowledge is power! Many younger consumers in particular see their purchases as a reflection of who they are as a person. I believe that, given a choice, most people would rather have their shopping make a positive difference. With freer access to information, it would be easier to nip poor practices and working conditions in the bud. Transparency is a goal for Indiigo Culture. Currently, we visit our designers’ and makers’ studios and factories when we’re able to, and ask them to share certificates, information, and photos to remain accountable.
In your opinion, what is slow fashion’s biggest challenge?
Accessibility. It’s generally widely accepted that consumers are willing to pay a premium on slow fashion items to account for better quality, production costs, fair wages and living conditions etc., but this may not be manageable for conscious consumers on a budget.
Which of your partner brands is your favourite?
This question is like asking which child is your favourite – impossible to answer! The older fashionistas seem to love Singapore clothing label Ja.Socha for the loose fit, breathable linen, and interesting patterns. The younger crowd tends to favour the fun, Balinese-made jewellery line, Oaksva, with its rice grain and chilli flake accessories.
Does Indiigo Culture have anything new in the works?
On 26 June, we launched our Sarus collection of earrings, created with SFA Studio. SFA Studio, started by Sachin and Aarti of Delhi, provides crafts-people and homemakers who have little or no education with artisanal skills training and employment opportunities for a fair wage and sustainable stream of income. The collection is handcrafted in Uttar Pradesh’s villages and is inspired by its cities. The name ‘Sarus’ refers to the Sarus Crane, the state bird of Uttar Pradesh – a symbol of eternal love, devotion, and good fortune. We’re also working with the Cham people of Vietnam to produce a collection slated for the end of the year. Stay tuned!
Can you share one #LittleGreenStep you think everyone can take to live more consciously?
I would suggest cutting meat out of some meals. I started with #meatlessmondays at the start of 2020 and now most of the meals I cook at home are meat-free. Livestock is estimated to be responsible for around 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a small step that’s accessible to most people.
Pssssst… exclusive offer alert! Shop the new Indiigo Culture Sarus earring collection and use our code GITNBSARUS25 for a 25% discount. Be quick, it’s only valid until 31 July.
Lead image: Debby wearing Renge
This article is brought to you in collaboration with Indiigo Culture