SUSTAINABILITY MEANS INTEGRATING LOCAL CULTURE INTO FASHION: Suja


Delhi-based Pala Designs founded by Suja Ayers in 2020 is one of the visionary brands that thrive on creating slow fashion.

In 2021, sustainability is no longer just a buzzword – it’s a mantra that must permeate all aspects of life in order to live up to its true intention. A recent charity event in Delhi celebrated this change of mind by promoting four designers whose job it was to create fashion that was both beautiful and sustainable. Delhi-based Pala Designs, founded by Suja Ayers in 2020, was one of the visionary labels featured.
His background in the hospitality industry has allowed Ayers to learn various aspects of design in this field, whether it is the creation of uniforms or interiors. The most enjoyable part for her has been integrating the local culture into every aspect of the design. When designing uniforms for a resort in Oman in 2006, she drew inspiration from Arab door carvings to create the embroidery.
She shares: “The arts and crafts classes at school have always been my favorite. I learned to sew, embroider and crochet as a child and even made lace. While living in Oman in 2016, I participated in the sourcing of sustainable and eco-friendly clothing and accessories for the Alila Living boutique. For that, I would work and collaborate with local artisans and designers across the country. When I returned to India, I knew that I wanted to continue this work in an Indian context. This led to Pala Designs, which debuted in September 2020. ”

Suja Ayers.

Describing itself as a small business, Pala Designs strives to create slow fashion. Artisans are encouraged to work at their own pace, to create unique pieces that reflect their personal histories as well as the stories of their art forms. The pandemic has only reinforced their belief that working slowly is the best way to revive traditional methods of weaving and embroidery – an art that until recently was considered dying.
Ayers’ vision was noticed by Esther David who was responsible for overseeing the events of the Union Jack Club – a club for members of the British High Commission, in New Delhi. David wanted to create an impactful and positive event to support the high commission’s charities before she moved on to her next assignment in another part of the world and approached Ayers to be a part of it.
“She was very clear that only sustainable designers who support local arts and crafts would be included in this event. It was then that I contacted Sonam Dubal who is known for his sustainable label Sanskar. In turn, he got in touch with Madhu Jain and Sunita Shanker, and we quickly put together a full-fledged fashion presentation with four designers! I really appreciate that Esther took the time to listen to the story of our travels and our artistic vision to put on the final show, ”Ayers said of this momentous collaboration.
With COP 26 (Conference of the Parties on Climate Change) in the news, Club members felt that a showcase of eco-conscious, tradition-driven brands would be a great way to spread the message of sustainability throughout. by fundraising for the charities they support. Therefore, every aspect of the event was planned with this theme in mind.

Suja Ayers dresses a model.

On a cool and clear fall evening in November this year, the four talented designers presented eight pieces each. Ayers focused on her designs in Kala cotton, a naturally sustainable fabric native to the Rann of Kutch. She bought the fabric from the Sarli region in Gujarat and combined it with recycled antique Kutch embroidered panels to create kurtas and dresses. Two Shibori (Japanese tie-dye technique) kaftans, which have become the signature of Pala Designs, were also presented, along with two dresses made from recycled sarees. The centerpiece of Pala Designs was a flowy dress created in a Sufi style, which had been hand-printed by a local Delhi artisan. Each piece was accessorized with recycled jewelry made from sari scraps. “The models who paraded for me came from all walks of life: lawyers, communications managers, doctors, journalists and even a student,” Ayers smiles, adding: “It took me over a month to put together the collection. . I started by using my basic designs and then added some additional embroidery and details to create a punchy show.
Other designers have brought their own creativity. Sonam Dubal is best known for recycling old silks and making extensive use of elements unique to the northeast region of the country, to create vintage outfits. Sunita Shanker collaborates with artisan communities to bring contemporary relevance to traditional Indian craftsmanship. His collection in this show featured Bandhini from Kutch and Kantha from Bengal. Madhu Jain is a renowned Indian textile designer and bamboo fabric advocate. She is known for her ikat weavings inspired by various parts of the world including Uzbekistan, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
The show was choreographed by singer, actor and choreographer Gilles Chuyen, who also performed contemporary Sufi dances between fashion sets. A raffle was organized to support charities, and the evening ended with a dinner and a dance, to the delight of the engaged public. “The show was so successful and well received that we are talking about it becoming an annual event! shines Ayers.
Her happy feelings are echoed by other participants. “I was happy to see designers like Suja Ayers and Sonam Dubal present an amalgam of style, culture and sustainability through their bespoke clothing, to a savvy crowd at the charity event. While the ubiquity of fast fashion has made all of us consumers, designers like them help us make local, eco-friendly and ethical fashion choices, ”explains Nima Chodon, communications officer for the program. intensification of the sustainability of CIMMYT.
Another participant, Jannika Borresen, who is a diplomat at the Norwegian Embassy, ​​said: “I have already bought models from Suja and I really like her style. It was so much fun to see all of the designs staged during the sustainable fashion show. I describe her clothes as comfortable clothes to wear everyday but always glamorous, with a touch of Indianness. Overall the event was a great evening with a wonderful theme.
Ayers remains resolutely sustainable by maintaining transparency on its source of fabrics, the working conditions of its workshop and the maintenance and remuneration of its craftsmen. She also uses a lot of recycled fabrics in her designs, including the packaging. Its recycled sari bag packaging is particularly popular with its customers.
The next collection for the summer will consist of hand-woven textiles from the Phulia region of West Bengal and will follow a theme of flowing, easy-to-wear silhouettes. Pala Design apparel can be accessed through their designsbypala.com website and Instagram page @designs_by_pala.
The writer writes lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached at [email protected]


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