Eco-conscious, eclectic and rooted – the three words that define Mrunalini Rao’s vision when creating her sustainable label – URI. Creating comfortable and fashionable pieces that amp up every wardrobe was Mrunalini’s aim when Uri came about. Her first ever prêt line is painted with ethical sourcing and responsible production . With a keen eye for detailing, she makes sure that as a brand Uri is completely transparent to its audiences and proud to own it’s wings in sustainability. While each piece is handmade, it is embellished with a playful colour palette, fancy patterns and utmost comfort. In this interview, Mrunalini Rao gives ELLE India a peek into her world of Uri and her vision for the future.
ELLE: How did the idea of starting your own label come out?
Mrunalini Rao (MR): Since my early twenties I had a desire to launch a label. My focus was on festive and bridal collections and I had experiences as an assistant designer at an export house and later with a budding designer label. I declined my admission at University of Arts London, and so I could start my label. I outsourced work and displayed my designs at exhibitions. Eventually, I opened a small unit of my own. A few stores agreed to stock my collection and later I took part in fashion week stalls and got to retail with the largest stores in India and other countries. This has been a beautiful journey and it also motivated me to begin my pret line Urī.
ELLE: How would you describe your label?
MR: Urī is our promise, our commitment made for the sustenance of craft and livelihoods, and a responsibility towards a thoughtful garment. This collection has the ethos of zero waste production, biodegradability and ethical employment. With soft, rested hues and deeper colours, we make a statement but are still rooted in our core. Emphasizing on a ‘benefit-for-all’ nature of this project, with our faith vested in our hand craftspeople, weavers and embroiderers—we wish to provide more employment as well as uplift our already existing employees. The prêt collection is designed for muses of all ages—a mother, a grandmother and a grandchild can all feel the same by resting the numbers that define their style.
ELLE: What does sustainability mean to you and how do you incorporate it in your brand?
MR: Ethical approach to producing the garments has always been my concern which is the reason we consciously chose silhouettes that were either zero waste or those that reduced waste majorly. We also reused and upcycled the leftover fabrics to make Urī carry bags and tassels to make sure no fabric was wasted. Each garment was organically made from Soy, Bamboo, Orange, Milk, Cotton, etc. and biodegradable starch packaging is used. This was our way of making timeless and ageless repeatable garments.
ELLE: Tell us about your latest collection.
MR: My recent latest collection has been with all natural white fabrics called Amala – meaning clean, most pure, without impurity in Sanskrit. This collection offers a range of pure natural fiber garments where the textile itself becomes the design. With no other design element except the texture of the fabric, we are showcasing the grandeur of organic fibers. We enhanced the beauty of textiles with new silhouettes and crochet lace details. It was designed to provide comfort clothing to women from all walks of life, all sizes and all age groups.
ELLE: What has been your proudest moment as a brand?
MR: The main idea of starting this label was sustainable living. So it really moves me when I see the label is being recognized by women from different age groups who genuinely promote or believe in sustainability. Through Urī living, I wanted to showcase people being themselves and their routine in comfort clothing and it’s really a proud moment to see it achieved.
ELLE: Where do you see your label in the next 5 years?
MR: I would like to explore handlooms and develop our own textiles for Urī and sell it internationally. We are keen on expanding and have our own exclusive retail space in other capital cities too. We want to continue inspiring people who appreciate our aesthetics and appreciate being associated with the same.