The designers make the clothes using 100% rainwater and solar energy; Arrival in the US and UK

TTucked away in scenic Almora in the Kumaon district of Uttarakhand, is the bustling textile design studio – Peoli. Founded in 2015, by two alumni (and their colleagues) from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad – Abinav Dhundial and Vasanthi Vellori, Bioli is named after a yellow wildflower native to this region. Peoli blooms during spring and the duo believe it brings warmth and hope after a long, harsh winter. Just like what they hope their project will offer the locals.

Peoli is a great project for a number of reasons. It uses only natural fibers and dyes and revives traditional skills. It also follows many environmentally friendly practices and empowers local women by giving them comfortable livelihoods.
On display under the Peoli brand are coats, pullovers, cardigans, shawls, scarves and accessories such as socks, hats, gloves and bags. While Abhinav, who is affiliated with Almora, leads the design and production, Vasanthi focuses on marketing and sales.

slow fashion

Peoli employs slow fashion
Beauli wool sweater, knitted using a blend of genuine Uttarakhand wool and imported merino wool – a local and global contemporary adaptation, handcrafted and for the modern clientele.

“We believe in a slow way. How much is produced and how often a consumer buys something new are factors that have environmental impacts in terms of using natural resources and generating waste. That is why we ensure product durability as well as keep our designs classic so that they continue in terms of fashion trends.” We don’t come out with a new line of products every few months. We take a long time to develop our products. We dye and make products in small batches which helps us align our operations with often uncertain weather conditions,” explains Vasanthi.

Peoli has won two awards recently – one for design and one for being an eco-friendly enterprise. “AIACA (All India Craftsmen and Artisans Welfare Association) honored us with our first Shilp Udyam Samman for Best Green Enterprise in 2021. The award amount will enable us to further reduce our carbon footprint. It helped us increase rainwater harvesting capacity, natural dyeing efforts, expand and reach new international markets,” Abinav says with a smile.

green practices

Peoli uses dyes and natural ingredients
Using locally available raw materials such as seed covers of a local plant called Molotus Philippensis, also known as Kamala to extract the colour.

Both natural and local fibers are used to make their clothing and accessories. Cotton from Kutch (grows with less water and does not contain synthetic fertilizers), Harsel wool from Uttarakhand, Tibetan wool, Himalayan and hemp, Ahimsa silk from Assam (obtained without harming the silkworm) and Merino wool (imported from New Zealand). Raw materials.

In addition, only natural dyes and colorants are used. Locally available dyes such as walnut blossoms, Kamala, rhododendron (known locally as branache) and pomegranate peel, are used to extract hundreds of shades.

All operations are controlled manually. Knitting, weaving, embroidery, beading, and shibori (a Japanese technique of tie-dye) are done by hand. The fibers are spun into fine, supple yarns using a hand spindle or a ‘Bajshwari Sharkha’, an original-made foot-operated spinning wheel. Moreover, the yarn is woven, knitted and hand-stitched.

“At every stage we are replacing the use of machines with human energy, reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. Both materials and processes make the product unique and greatly distinguish it from the competition. Skill and sustenance are our top priorities. On many occasions, we have chosen manual production over automated production. Even if it means an increase in costs,” Abinav emphasizes.

“Since the last two years, we have made sure that all the water we use for dyeing and other treatment processes is 100 percent rainwater. We consider this an important achievement because mountains always run short of water. The average consumption of Beauli for harvested rainwater has increased from 30 One thousand liters/month in 2016 to 90 thousand liters/month now,” says Abhinav.

The water source is rainwater, and there is no mechanical energy used to purchase it. The energy source used during dyeing is renewable, as solar energy is used to heat the water. Using earth-friendly chemicals to process textile materials is another important environmentally friendly practice that has been adopted.

During dyeing, continuous dye baths are used to reduce wastage. Also, dyes are reused several times. This ensures that less effluent is released into the environment. Since dyes are not chemicals, effluents are also less harmful.

On top of this, there is an attempt to preserve every piece of yarn and fabric, sort and recycle it into accessories such as bags or scarves. Peoli products are packaged in bags using yarn. Raw materials are rarely rejected due to defects. In these ways, the motto of reduce, reuse and recycle is practiced at Beoli.

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The use of natural textile materials and natural dyeing materials is soothing for the wearer’s skin as well as for artisans who work with textiles. Many natural dyes such as indigo, madder, and harda, which are vegetable-based, have antimicrobial properties.

make choices

Bewley Artisans
Craftsman Vimla Joshi (in the foreground). Peoli engages around sixty artisan women who are looking for opportunities to support their families economically.

Mira Goradia, a former director of Khmer, is the founder of the creative craft community Creative Dignity that provides relief to artisans affected by the pandemic. She visited Peoli and closely observed the design and production processes. Her opinion of Peoli: “The special feature of Peoli is that Abhinav and Vasanthi have successfully combined the skill sets of the women of Almora with their design expertise and together created a contemporary language. It is a partnership of designers, artisans, and of course materials!”
“This duo really walks the talk,” says Mira. They made some important choices. They did not allow the market to determine their options. They decided to rise intelligently, patiently and gradually. They let the material define the look and design.”
Social Empowerment

Swasti Singh Ghai, Senior Faculty Member in the Department of Textile Design at NID, Ahmedabad, taught the duo. According to her, “Through their project Beauli, Abinav and Vasanthi have shown how design can become a tool for social empowerment while being committed to the four pillars of sustainability – people, planet, profit and culture. In Beauli, there is a celebration of the countryside.”

“The founders have stuck firmly to their core values ​​without making any compromises. Bewley is evidence of how appropriate design can help decentralized, localized and culturally rooted livelihoods, yet bring in sterling and dollar returns,” says Swasti.
Peoli has 11 regular employees (all women) who come to the design studio and work. In addition, there are 40-50 women who work from home and visit the studio when needed.

Hemani Bisht takes 15 minutes to get to the studio from home every day. She lives with her husband, son and mother-in-law. Her husband runs a store. The fun artisan says, “I’ve been at Peoli for five years. I enjoy working here because I’m learning something new. I knew how to sew, but learned to yarn after joining Peoli.”

Vasanthi says, “Many working women in Beoli are the sole breadwinners of their family. Depending on their skill level and ability, they earn Rs 5,000-12,000 per month, which is 50-100 percent more than they could earn anywhere else. When a craftswoman says Proud that now she is the one who makes the decisions in the house and not her husband – because she brings money to the table – it gives me such ecstasy!”
“The retail price range of our knitted wool sweaters ranges from 8,000 to 20,000 rupees, coats from 20,000 to 30,000 rupees, scarves and shawls from 4,000 to 7,000 rupees, socks, gloves and hats range from 2,000 to 4,000 rupees. Bags are priced at 2,000 to 4,000 rupees. Between 4,000 and 5,000 rupees,” says Vasanthi.
“We have an exclusive and limited range of designs that we release every year. We sell to around 50 premium clients during our selling season every year – from November to February. Over the past six years we have built a small but loyal customer base spending over Rs. 1 lakh. on every purchase. Currently, we have approximately five to six Indian and international brands that we work with at the wholesale level in the US, Australia and China which gives us the bulk of our revenue and helps us ensure a continuous flow of work to artisans,” she explained.

Peoli’s market presence has grown to buyers in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia, China and South Korea. Peoli now has seven stores in India and five stores abroad.

The next roadmap? “Going forward, we want to shift our focus to reaching overseas markets (through agents and boutique stores) and growing our B2B business with bigger brands and through wholesale platforms. This has helped us get consistent business during the pandemic. We are also aiming for the three years The next step is to provide job opportunities for 250 women in our region,” Abinav said.

“We have the Bioli Flower, which has grown out of a strong philosophy rooted in conscious design practices, and we hope to continue to nurture it with our efforts,” says designer Vasanthi.

(Written by Aruna Raghuram, Edited by Yoshita Rao)

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