Craft revivalist Kavita Parmar’s IOU Project champions sustainability

When Kavita Parmar left her home in New Delhi over what she now recounts as a “silly face-off with my father”, she was just another 16-year-old who dreamt of studying political science in London School of Economics. However, fate had other things in store for her. At 17, she ended up joining an established textile business in Hong Kong, paving the way to becoming the well- known craft revivalist she is today.

“To me pursuing fashion was the most banal thing ever. I wanted to study political science and change the world,” she smiles. After working as a product developer in Hong Kong with giants like GAP, Donna Karan, the Armani Group and Ralph Lauren, she took the leap of faith and started her own brand Raasta, in 2001, after moving to Madrid, Spain. But, by 2008, the retail sphere took a shot in the arm and Parmar decided to move to something more meaningful— sustainable fashion.

Kavita Parmar

It was during a trip to a natural dyeing facility in Aurovillle, Pondicherry, that she came up with the IOU Project, a digital platform which extends complete traceability from artisans to consumers while shopping. But, when high-end luxury brands refused to be a part of the project, Parmar launched her own brand called IOWEYOU to prove that garments can be traced back to its weavers without an intermediary. “I am really stubborn, which is a large part of my story”, she adds.

Kavita Parmar IOU

IOWEYOU Earth Matters Natural Dye collection

While IOU garnered global attention, Parmar was busy creating a Wikipedia-like registry of artisanal crafts facing extinction in the near future. In February, she took the next giant step of organising TEXTO in Mexico, a global gathering of 45 heritage craftspeople and designers from 23 countries, including the likes of Raw Mango and Injiri from India.

IOWEYOU Spring Summer 2020

IOWEYOU Spring Summer 2020 collection

Parmar’s journey to being a textile revivalist is reflective of how she hopes fashion to grow in the future—slow but sure, filled with mistakes, but never ignorant of them. “I know I am probably wrong in many of the things I do, but I still want to believe in utopia and work towards it. I don’t want to live my life thinking I don’t matter.”

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