Kriti Wadhwa is the Founder of Cica India. She is also an environment enthusiast and a design graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi. As a designer, she is well aware of the practices in the fashion and creative industry and how it is continuously exploiting our planet.
You advocate a mindful low-waste lifestyle in more ways than one. What does conscious living mean to you?
My personal implementation of a low-waste lifestyle is an intersection of what I am able to incorporate and what ideally should be done. I identify activities in my daily life that are wasteful and find alternatives to them. Of course, it is humanly impossible to rectify everything at once for various reasons, but I try to take one small step in the right direction and the rest follows.
For instance, I do sometimes find myself stepping into fast fashion stores, but when I eventually decide on making a purchase, it is only something that I can use for years, sturdy, versatile and will not wear off after a few washes. This is an initial step into making mindful fashion choices while on the other hand, I feel I’ve made more progress when it comes to wellness, beauty where I can say everything I ever buy is 100% animal cruelty-free, and brands preferably accepting empties after use.
What made you start Cica India?
A little backstory, I am a graduate in Leather design and we were mandatorily required to do a project at an export house. Every day, I witnessed heaps of paper, leather, fabric waste leave the factory while the karigars worked on making bags with perfection for renowned fast fashion brands. My first thought in response to what I saw was to work on a conscious fashion brand as soon as I could.
This is when the lockdown was announced and work at the export houses came to a halt. On further introspection during the lockdown, I realized creating another brand only adds to the many existing brands doing great work. After spending months digging out meaningful Indian brands and emerging designers, I noticed a gap between emerging brands working on great concepts and their consumers. This translated into the platform we've built since then and I hope the products and the curation are a bridge between that gap.
What measures do you take to ensure the brand's sourcing process stays ethical? How do you shortlist brands?
The founders and head designers are often the best storytellers of the brand. To get a better insight into their sourcing practices, I connect with founders personally to get a detailed insight into the brand’s philosophy, ethos, goals, etc. Each of them, unlike bigger retail brands, are themselves connected with sourcing vendors and have closely monitored the process. Each brand is able to track down its sources for procuring various materials and list them transparently.
The platform is built on 3 core principles: Made in India, Ethical, Single-Use Plastic Free, and every brand necessarily withstands these pillars before getting listed. Thereafter, to ensure product quality, we’ve set different quality check norms for various categories as a part of the selection process so the consumers can be ensured that each product is tried and tested for quality by a third party before it is available on the platform.
Any tips to help others choose better without falling for 'Greenwashing'?
Funny enough, one thing I’ve always noticed is- any brand that tries too hard to slap the fact that the product is ‘sustainable’ into our faces is usually not.
A common tip you hear to not fall for greenwashing is to do your research, while many may not understand what research is necessary, one tip that may help is - Before you make a purchase, pull out the tags and read, just like you read a food label before consuming. If it is made in synthetic fabrics, it is likely that the brand is greenwashing.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a socially conscious business?
I feel the concept of mindful consumerism is relatively new to the audiences. While many are making the shift, there is a majority of the audience that is yet to be introduced to the concept and the biggest challenge lies in convincing them to make a mindful shift without having to compromise on their needs.
One book that you go back to, for comfort or centering. And why?
One book that I love thoroughly is “The little book of comfort” by Ruskin Bond. I was not much of a reader until recently. The book is fewer words, and more impact, not too overwhelming- perfect for days when you really need comfort and centering.
One superpower you wish you had. What change would it bring?
I’d vaccinate the world with kindness and acceptance. If only every human was treated the exact way they treat other humans or animals, the world would be a lot kinder. It breaks my heart to see people mistreat animals.