I had the privilege of connecting with Sonya on Instagram (which is where I’ve been able to meet all these lovely #sustainababes!) and I’ve been struck by her commitment to honoring other women in this movement and the quality of her work. She was incredibly humble in her interview (a series of voice memos on WhatsApp I transcribed which Sonya graciously took time to record for me, thanks to a mysterious vanishing interview out of my inbox) and I did a little bit of extra research on her social media platforms and was completely overwhelmed by the amount she has accomplished in her life already! Sonya started her own brand at the age of twenty-one and has been featured in numerous high-end fashion publications and fashion shows, stepping into ethical fashion writing in recent years. She is a member of Ethical Influencers UK and has also been a Sustainable Styling Course Director in Fashion Schools in India and UAE. I’ve linked much of her work at the end of this article, including a feature piece from Eluxe Magazine, which completely blew me away.
Read on to be inspired by a woman who is not only preaching sustainability but living it out and making it possible to affect change in an industry that’s historically been driven by fast fashion.
Tell me a little about yourself, your background (personal, professional, whatever you feel comfortable sharing!) and your company!
“I was born and brought up in Mumbai, India and I studied at Istituto Europeo de Design in Milan, Italy. I studied fashion and textile design. Basically it was design, fashion writing, fashion photography, a mix of all that. I came back to India after that and made a raincoat on a whim for a friend, who ended up being a stylist. Her sister ended up working at Vogue and she asked me to make a couple of more raincoats, which then a store decided to keep. My journey basically started straight after school, I started my own brand in around 2009, and since then my brand has been sold all over the world.”
How did you first get into ethical / sustainable fashion?
“As I mentioned, it started with a raincoat so it was a lot of PVC, plastic being used. I then went into gowns and dresses. I started feeling slightly uncomfortable about the clothes I was making and switched into ethical and sustainable fashion. The purpose for that was that I started practicing Nichiren Buddhism around four years ago, which talks about the law of cause and effect. What we do is we chant and we say, “I devote my life to the mystic law of cause and effect” (Nam myoho renge kyo). As I started doing that, I started feeling lighter and better and I saw a lot of things change in my life. Through that process I started watching myself and the causes I was making. One day I was looking at my work room and it was flooded with fabric and scraps all over—I realized that I am part of the industry that is polluting the environment. From that day onwards I made sure that every scrap on the floor was used. I started a zero waste policy and made sure that my tailors who worked for me were paid fairly well and I started slowing down.”
Tell us about your creative process? How do you create your pieces? Do you partner with any other companies or organizations?
“I usually create all my pieces myself, and I collaborate with jewelry and accessory designers for fashion shows. We’ve done shows in Singapore, Dubai, Norway, London, India and a few other places as well.”
Why is it important to you to be an ethical company?
“At this point it’s so important to be ethical. We use clothes and throw them away like there’s nothing wrong with that—the awareness needs to arise in people so they are aware of what they’re buying, that clothes last longer than they think they do and to take care of their clothes.”
Who are your inspirations (ethical fashion or otherwise)?
“About a year and a half ago I started writing for different ethical magazines and I shifted my focus from designing to actually promoting sustainable fashion and sustainable beauty to people all over the world. That is my call in at this point, to influence people to by fresh and slow fashion instead of fast fashion. I think it’s a huge industry and people are beginning to listen, but it is also slow process because we’ve been conditioned to something our whole lives and we have to open up to something new.”
What is one of your most favorite pieces you’ve created?
“One of my favorite pieces I’ve created is a black corset dress because it has 130 roses made out of organic jersey, which was basically cuttings on the floor from the first organic collection I made. I made sure each piece was collected and made into roses and put onto the skirt, and it was a very satisfying feeling to see the workroom clean but a great creation as well.”
What are you reading, listening to and/or watching right now?
“I’m currently reading a book called ‘Destiny of the Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives by Michael Newton’. I’m also reading another book by ‘Blue Deeper Than Indigo’ by Daisaku Ikeda. I feel like my life is going in a more spiritual and eco-friendly environment and I want to know more and read more about that. I’m listening 90s music since me and a couple of friends have really gone back in time and now those tunes are stuck in my life.”
Where can we find you?
I was so honored for the time that Sonya gave for my interview for my blog and I would encourage you all to check out the links below to see more of her beautiful, world changing work!
Press featuring Sonya:
J Spring – Skywalk at Gardens by the Bay (2014)
Collaboration with Tanishq (2015)
ELLE – Rainwear for Dogs (2015)
Eluxe Magazine – INDIAN INTRICACY: THE ECO COUTURE OF SONYA VAJIFDAR