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Ōshadi Collective may be best known as an Indian farming cooperative, highly valued in sustainable fashion circles for not just talking about regenerative agriculture but practising and scaling it. However, Ōshadi is also a fashion brand with a vision and design aesthetic of its own.
That side of the business went dormant back in 2017 when the fashion industry took an interest in “developing mindful textiles” with Ōshadi, says founder Nishanth Chopra. The company’s profile was elevated thanks in large part to a project with British designer Stella McCartney, which prompted other brands to reach out. Ōshadi also received support from the non-profit Fibershed to expand its regenerative cotton initiative.
The result, says Chopra, was that the business had little bandwidth to focus on the brand side of things. Neither agriculture nor manufacturing is an easy lift for a small business with limited access to capital — staying on top of both left no room to focus on design and brand development and management.
Now, Ōshadi is back on the fashion scene. A new collection launching on its e-commerce site on Saturday, named Mind, Body and Soil, is made entirely from cotton grown by farmers using regenerative practices. It was then ginned, spun, woven and sewn by local partners — spinners, weavers, dressmakers and tailors. Hand-quilted jackets, shirts, trousers and shorts come in monochrome as well as bold patterns in earthy toned — but not drab — colourways, from red clay to yellow ochre, some made with traditional ikat weaving and block-printing techniques. The lookbook was photographed on the farm where the cotton was grown, with the clothes modelled by cotton farmer Virak Sha and Ōshadi logistics manager (and former farmer) Kumutha in addition to Tamil models Anugraha Natarajan and Bharath.
Chopra started Ōshadi for many reasons; helping poor farmers in India was not one of them. “People look at things from Italy or France, the same thing in a different setting in a different country and they’re like, ‘Wow, it was made in Italy’. Then you see the same thing in India and people are like, ‘Oh, I’m trying to help the poor farmer’,” he says. “Every time a brown person is looked at as a cobbler or a weaver, people are always feeling sorry [for them]. Empathy is not what that person deserves. What that person deserves is respect for his craftsmanship and skills.”