Do you have old, worn-out T-shirts that you absolutely love and don’t wear, but can’t bear the thought of parting with them either? Mumbai-born siblings Manisha and Ayesha Desai transform your old and used T-shirts, kurtas, dupattas, saris or anything that’s in your loft, into quilts, bedcovers, cushion covers and bags. The aim is to provide sustainable alternatives to everyday utility items by working on the principles of sustainability and environmentally safe alternatives to plastic.
The idea stemmed from their efforts to reduce waste as social activists, shares Ayesha. “While working on recycled products, we realised the potential for old clothes. We started re-purposing old clothes at a household level for our friends. It was when people started approaching us often that we realised there is a scope to have a wider reach.”
The foundation of their entire organisation— Cornucopia — rests on the core concept of sustainability. All the material is sourced locally to ensure that there should be little or zero carbon footprint. They also have pick-up facilities in Mumbai, Pune and Gurugram. “They are made with love and care by a bunch of women in Maharashtra and Haryana. We have tied-up with local NGOs and migrant workers in these places, who manually stitch these pieces for us,” Ayesha shares.
The concept isn’t new, they remind us. It was a common practice among the older generations to stitch together old items of clothing to make a quilt or bed sheet. There was little then, that wasn’t put to re-use.
So how do they decide which cloth is worthy of being turned into a quilt or a bedcover? “We tell people to do a quick tear test to see the quality of the material they are sending us. If it is completely frayed out, it is difficult to work on such a cloth.”
But mostly, the decision is driven by the people’s fondness for the materials. Shares Ayesha, “Some people are so attached to their clothes that they don’t want to cut them. This often happens when we make baby quilts. In such occassions, we try to change the design in a way that there is no cutting required.”
From conceptualising the design to shipping the re-purposed clothes, the drill takes about eight to 10 days.
“We recently had a customer who wanted cushion covers made out of his deceased dogs’ clothes. There’s too much nostalgia associated with these clothes and we have to be careful with it. There are rounds of design approvals before the final product is made, the clothes are keepsakes, so we ensure everything’s just perfect,” she adds.