Waste is not waste until it’s wasted, goes the popular adage of our times. With her label nece gene, denim designer Neha Celly is taking it a step further by turning the idea of waste on its head. She chats with us about her unique niche.
ELLE: Sustainability is at the core of nece gene. How did you arrive at the idea of upcycling denim scraps?
Neha Celly (NC): Having worked with denim mills and brands such as Bluehemia for many years, I know that this ubiquitous fabric has a serious downside. In the denim industry, waste is generated at every stage—cutting, stitching, washing and even excess production. The idea behind nece gene was to turn this waste into beautiful products, thereby diverting it from landfills. Circularity is one of the key ways to achieve sustainability in this industry. I, therefore, collaborated with one of the country’s largest denim manufacturer, Arvind Mills to create this line.
ELLE: Which elements work together to inspireyour design aesthetic?
NC: I’m endlessly inspired by our beautiful planet. Through denim, I have explored three-dimensional forms that borrow from swamps, hills, wetlands, and estuaries. The design process starts with the surplus we receive, which is segregated weightwise and colour-wise before we begin. The magic lies in the surface textures we are able to create.
ELLE: Why drew you towards discarded denim as a material to work with?
NC: Denim has so much to offer. And if produced to match global sustainability and quality standards, even denim discards are precious. Arvind Mills makes some beautiful denims including khadi, ikats, natural indigo selvedges and some great indigo twills for some of the best denim brands globally. And the scraps from these large rolls aren’t of much use to them.
ELLE: How do you marry sustainability and style?
NC: Sustainability doesn’t need to come at the cost of style. Design plays a central role at nece gene because only if the product looks and feels good, are people drawn to it. This leads to an increased demand for design-led sustainable brands on the whole. At nece gene, since our philosophy revolves around the fabric waste we can get our hands on, we don’t follow a seasonal catalogue.
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