This Textile Designer Makes Gorgeous Upcycled Bags From Discarded Sarees

upcycled bags

You’ve probably already done it, but didn’t know the term for it. In Indian households, clothes are worn, passed on to a sibling (ungrateful money who complains about getting hand me downs), gets used to dust the furniture and then the cloth reaches the end of its tether. Now, it’s used to wipe the floor. That is upcycling in its most simplistic form.

Upcycling isn’t an unfamiliar term to the fashion industry. Labels like I Was A Sari, Ahuluwali, Grandma Would Approve, Refash, among others, are already doing it, earning some major street cred for it and rightfully so. “The only difference is that traditionally, upcycling happened in various forms in each house. Today the amount of discards is so high due to the changing lifestyles, that it is necessary to come up with creative solutions which are aesthetically pleasing and durable to suit the modern lifestyle,” shares textile designer Tejal Keyur, a proud owner of her eponymous label Tejal Keyur Textiles that breathes life into discarded saris to give birth to beautiful, handcrafted upcycled bags.

upcycled bags

The Aha Moment

Having grown up in a middle-class family in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, repurposing is more of a lifestyle for Tejal. “I was always taught to respect and use my belongings carefully at home,” she shares. “My parents would come up with unconventional ways of reusing daily objects. We would never mindlessly throw anything away. The unconventional ways of preserving what has already been used stayed with me and Tejal Keyur Textiles was born out of it. The whole idea behind the label is to upcycle the available textile waste into aesthetic and durable products. The sight of dumped textiles in a huge landfill area was an eye-opener for me as a textile designer. I just could not bear to see the beautiful textiles–in which a lot of non-renewable resources have been invested–were being dumped or destroyed leaving a huge amount of carbon footprint,” she adds. This coupled with Tejal’s inclination towards art and design since childhood led her to create aesthetically-pleasing, eco-conscious products.

 

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A post shared by Tejal (@tejalkeyur.textiles)

The Art & The Artists

One glance at Tejal’s work and the first question that pops up in my head is the story behind its making. From where she sources the textiles to the artisans who spend hours handknitting the products, I was intrigued to know all about it. “I started collecting the available discarded textiles which mainly consisted of sarees in my hometown. I have been experimenting with reclaimed fabrics since my NID days and started exploring the possibilities with my skill sets to make the products. The discarded sarees are sourced from unorganised local sectors such as the Sunday Bazaar where a local community of women sells the discards collected from door to door,” Tejal says.

 

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A post shared by Tejal (@tejalkeyur.textiles)

“Each carefully curated fabric is checked for damage and stains and is cleaned and dried before upcycling. I have a small group of women who work with me in a small village in Kolhapur. They went through a 6-month long training program in which they learned hand knitting with discarded saree fabric. They work from their home at noon right after they are done with the household chores and small agricultural activities,” she adds.

upcycled bags
Artisans working on Tejal Keyur Textiles’ upcycled bags

Unlocking Creativity

We all know that the very first step in a design process is a mood board. And from there, designers explore their colours, fabrics, textures, etc. But in Tejal’s case where she gets a bunch of different sarees in varying designs and fabrics, how does one set a theme? “Each batch of materials is a surprise for us!” says Tejal. “We do plan some specific designs but we do not have the luxury to source the same fabric, same texture thus we end up improvising the designs according to the available set of discards. It is a challenging process and without any fixed mood board, I like to find connections between colours and textures of the fabrics with my surroundings,” she adds.

But even with a challenge like that, the young designer finds a way to bring an identity to her designs. If you see her Instagram, most of the bags are inspired by nature. “My designs borrow influences from the flora, fauna and my visual memories of the places I have visited. The ancient petroglyph (an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art) style fascinates me. I believe it was the very first form of visual art and I find those simplistic and raw forms really intriguing,” she shares.

 

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A post shared by Tejal (@tejalkeyur.textiles)

The Way Forward

Besides handbags and clutches, Tejal makes a lot of decor objects such as baskets, organisers, indoor pot covers and floor rugs out of discarded sarees. Her future plans though? “Expanding our artisan team and exploring other textile techniques with new approaches, more textile waste, and new designs,” the young designer concludes.

 

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A post shared by Tejal (@tejalkeyur.textiles)

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