Runjhun is not new to the world of up-cycling and recycling. A few years back she launched her own start-up to create conscious consumption by giving women the opportunity to buy preowned clothes from each other. After having done a lot of research into the resources that go into producing cotton, in addition to the clothing production process and the chemicals that often go into it, Runjhun was keen to seek out other options for herself and provide the same for others. It was with this frame of mind that she kept an eye out for sustainable brands and stumbled across Pomogrenade.
Runjhun is keenly aware of the constraints for customers who want to lead a sustainable lifestyle. Buying organic and handmade is often more expensive than brands that aren’t explicitly “sustainable” and/or “ethical”. “A lot of customer want to buy from ethical brands but can’t because of the pricing. So there is a need for sensible pricing” shared Runjhun. She also acknowledged that for many small brands, for whom costs and scale of production are often limited, figuring out ‘sustainable’ elements to their supply chain can be tricky.
Another point off tension for consumers Runjhun noted, is between cultural traditions and the realities of economic liberalization in India. Prior to economic liberalization people would visit their local tailor to have clothing made. The consumer chose the fabric and clothing was made to their specifications in size and often in style too. With economic liberalization came the opportunity to purchase clothing (accessories etc.) from a variety of brands that were now more accessible to the mainstream than they had been in the past. While providing economic access to mainstream consumers, the flip-side often is that an industry that use to provide goods and services often see their livelihoods diminish, as in the case of those that provided tailoring services. However as is often the case, people are re-discovering the benefits of having clothes tailored made vs. mass produced clothing!
“This need for consumption seems to be a new phenomenon”, reflected Runjhun. “We use to lead more sustainable lives. For example, a younger child in a family would start by wearing the older sibling’s clothes and when the clothes became really threadbare, it was turned into a mop or cut into pieces to stuff a pillow. Everything seemed to be reused.”
While value for money seems to be such a big driver for consumers in India, Runjhun believes that brands like Pomogrenade provide a viable option for consumers. In addition to using surplus fabric and employing women from marginalized communities, their pricing structure is accessible too. “They are doing good and you don’t have to pay through your nose for their products”, said Runjhun.
Though turning the tide on mainstream consumption patterns might be a ways away yet, it is encouraging to know of people like Runjhun who are engaging in these conversations and habits with those closest to them.