Meet the Maker: Roopika Rastogi Gupta – I Wear Khadi

We catch up with Roopika, founder of I Wear Khadi (IWK), a Lucknow based brand that utilizes khadi fabric from weavers of different Indian states to produce garments. It exists to popularise and advance the cause of Khadi among today's youth.

“A true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” As a founder, I’am inspired by the statement and I want to make significant contribution to the cause of handspun khadi through my start up. Khadi inspired me, making me completely change the domain of my work. Holding a master’s degree from Kings College, London, in Commercial law from the University of London, my last stint with the ministry of MSME as Advisor in the NIESBUD motivated me to become a social entrepreneur” – Ms. Roopika Rastogi Gupta

 

 

I Wear Khadi (IWK) is an Indian, Lucknow based brand and on-line garment store. IWK utilizes khadi fabric from weavers of different Indian states to produce garments. It exists to popularise and advance the cause of Khadi among the young. The clothing is pocket-friendly. The cause is noble – the promotion of khadi fabric gives employment to women, as the majority of those involved in the weaving are women.

Our clothes are made up of khadi cotton, khadi silk and khadi linen. The cotton used in the khadi fabric is grown with almost zero pesticides and no chemical treatment is given to the fabric, keeping it skin friendly. The fabric is woven by hand using naturally dyed yarns to ensure zero carbon footprint. Most fabrics available in the market today are produced from synthetic man made fibers that are chemically derived. Synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon and acetate not only irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions, they also worsen skin disorders like acne and eczema.

IWK’s natural, eco-friendly clothing aims at promoting a healthy, toxin-free lifestyle. Woven from natural fibres like cotton and silk, the inherent characteristics of khadi offer breath-ability, superior durability, natural temperature regulation and superior absorption. Remember to buy clothes that not only look good but also feel good!

We chatted with IWK in order to get to know their brand and vision better. You are cordially invited to the conversation. Welcome.

 

What were you doing before you started doing this?

“A true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” As a founder, I’am inspired by the statement and I want to make significant contribution to the cause of handspun khadi through my start up. Khadi inspired me, making me completely change the domain of my work. Holding a master’s degree from Kings College, London, in Commercial law from the University of London, my last stint with the ministry of MSME as Advisor in the NIESBUD motivated me to become a social entrepreneur – Ms Roopika Rastogi Gupta

Why did you choose to do what you do?

Roopika Rastogi Gupta had a thriving legal career after finishing her Masters from the University of London. She had been practising for 4-5 years and one day, she decided to give it all up. Why? For preserving the true heritage of our country – Khadi.

Her “love affair”, as she calls it, with khadi began when she was researching about a report that she was preparing. She was looking at the Khadi and Village Industries and on going in depth, she saw the legacy of the fabric and how modern India was missing out on one of the most versatile fabrics known to us.

Thus began the journey of I Wear Khadi, aptly starting operations on October 2nd, the birthday of the great man who brought about a revolution through khadi, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Following in his footsteps, I Wear Khadi now procures fabric, stitches, finishes and delivers khadi products all over the globe.

One of the main shortfalls Roopika saw during her research was the state of the weavers. “They have so much skill but no way to earn a livelihood out of it” says Roopika. I Wear Khadi works mainly with weavers from Zaidpur village in Barabanki and Hardoi, both in remote Uttar Pradesh, India providing them not just the fabric and technology but also raw material.

 

We are fascinated by names. What’s the story behind your brand name?

I myself believe in sustainable living for the future. The brand name, ‘I wear khadi’, holds inspiration to promote khadi. I wear khadi in it’s name is inciting enough to promote what we produce.

 

Which are your best selling products?

We offer comfortable and simple styles in kurtas and tunics. Our USP is that we work on casual and daily wear, keeping in mind comfort and style. Our fashionwear is styled with pockets as we wish to enhance the utility aspect of every garment we produce. Our sarees come in khadi silk, khadi cotton, khadi linen, most of which are styled with pom poms and tassels.

 

What kind of people do you create your products for?

Our target audience are khadi lovers and those who love Indian textile and believers in fashionable and yet sustainable clothing.

What are the challenges you face in connection with achieving your goals?

Of course there were challenges! Every day has brought something new with it. The prime challenge was, and still is, to make the consumer more aware about the benefits of khadi. Khadi is still looked on as a coarse and “uncool” fabric used to make kurtas and jackets that politicians wear or maybe a saree that you may spot someone in. But at I Wear Khadi, the team believes in making khadi “cool” and create designs that are not just get for the weaver economy but also modern and appealing to the consumer. One of the key challenges has been to make the consumer realise the true worth and value of khadi.

Another big challenge had been the administration and logistics of the entire operations. Many times, the weavers do not even have thread to stitch. Procuring and providing the fabric and raw material, ensuring that the designing happens in time and collecting the finished products from remote Uttar Pradesh is no small task. But the team at I Wear Khadi does it on a daily basis and the efficiency is improving each day. There is no electricity mostly in the village. So Our red and their red doesn’t match!

But despite these challenges, the journey so far has been very fulfilling. Working at the grassroots level with weavers and bringing this beautiful fabric to the common people has been a strong driving force for the brand. Every day is a new learning experience and they are growing steadily in terms of marketing insights, more weavers wanting to join in, improving customer base and upliftment of the weaver communities. We have had a lot of NGOs approach us.

 

Where do you see your brand three years from now?

Right now we are producing 350 units and we intend to increase it to at least 3 times more.

 

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

I would have been practicing commercial law in a corporate law firm.

Visit the I Wear Khadi Shop on Engrave.in

Avinash Subramaniam

Avinash has been an advertising writer, fiction writer, poetry writer, freelance writer and serial wronger. Other roles he has been in include those of an editor, brand builder, and teacher. His interests include advertising, scrabble, body building, chess, cinema, making money, reading, internet culture, cricket, photography. To hear him air his thoughts, follow him on Twitter @armchairexpert.

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