From fringe to mainstream: Conversations on sustainability with Apurva Kothari

Apurva founded ‘No Nasties’, India’s first 100% organic, fair trade, carbon-neutral and vegan clothing company. And he started this at a time when sustainable fashion was still a largely unknown topic in India. By working with a farmers’ cooperative, Apurva  wanted his Goa-based brand to kick-start a consumer movement and in the process help farmers reduce their dependence on conventional farming. Starting with just t-shirts, they have expanded their range. Their commitment to a greener future goes beyond certifications and labels. Even their packaging is carbon-neutral and plastic-free.
Now, this topic is right up our alley at The ReFashion Hub. So, we put some questions together for Apurva and got insights that we’re sure will be of great use for both consumers and businesses looking to make a change.

How long has No Nasties been around for? And how do you perceive the industry to have changed since you first started?

We’ve been around since 2011 – almost coming up to our 10 year anniversary!

When we started, “sustainable fashion” was in its nascent stages. People didn’t know what organic meant, and fairtrade was practically unheard of. We’re glad to see that has changed and all these terminologies and solutions have become mainstream now.

What are the main problems you see in the fashion sector today vis-a-vis sustainability? 

Since the sector is growing rapidly, a lot of brands are engaging in greenwashing – claiming to do more than they actually are. This is creating confusion and scepticism in the customer mindset while doing little to solve the real problems on the ground.

Farmers and factory workers are still exploited, child labour is prevalent in the country still, and modern-day slavery is wide-spread. The lack of transparency and accountability in the supply chain is staggering.

Given that many brands are now being accused of greenwashing, how are the more conscious brands like No Nasties implementing change within the sector?

We need to earn TRUST.

That’s earned either by you monitoring the supply chain directly OR from someone you trust to tell you it’s authentic OR to have an independent third party you trust to tell you what’s what.

We do all three –

  • We have a transparent supply chain from Day 1 that we share openly on our website.
  • We work with a direct supply chain that we’ve known for 10 years – farm to factory to us.
  • We work only with certified factories that are audited regularly by third-party certification bodies.

In the end though, the customer still needs to trust you are doing what you are saying, and that takes time and consistency and continuity of direct communication with your audience. It’s still an uphill battle.

How do you inspire your customers to continue to invest in sustainable wear?

We try to take away any reason they may have to not purchase sustainable clothes from us. We believe that if we can match the design sensibility as well as the price points and convince them it’s a sustainable alternative, they won’t look elsewhere.

Which brands would you recommend in India to imbibe the truest form of sustainability?

We love the work of Upasana, Boheco, Tula, Doodlage, Thela, The Initiative (to name a few).

And lastly, how do you envision the sector evolving? Are you hopeful? How can we as consumers drive more pressure for sustainability in fashion?

The sector will move forward only with greater awareness and empathy of the ground realities. We don’t believe anyone truly aware of the situation in the farms and factories would support such an industry. So as more brands enter the space, more articles are written by the press on the topic, the awareness will increase exponentially, creating a movement where customers will DEMAND sustainability, transparency and fairness in fashion (and all other sectors too).

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