From over 900 entries, leading to eight finalists, ‘I was a Sari’ emerged as the winner of the first sustainability award in fashion – the Circular Design Challenge, launched in partnership with “Fashion For Earth” initiative by Reliance Industries Limited’s (RIL) polyester brand R|Elan™, UN Environment and Lakmé Fashion Week – and won a chance to showcase its creations at The Studio during Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive 2019. The collection re-emphasised ‘I was a Sari’s’ values in circularity and sustainability – showcasing 18 upcycled looks, handcrafted by women artisans using pre-loved saris and other waste materials.

‘I was a Sari’ the brain child of Stefano Funari and Poornima Pande started in 2013 and reinvented the traditional concept of upcycling old saris and ensuring that a sustainable and ethical path could be taken that would finally turn old saris into stylised garments, accessories, footwear and bags.

Mr. Vipul Shah, COO – Petrochemicals, Reliance Industries Ltd., said: “The alliance of RIL’s R|Elan™ with the UN Environment and LFW is committed towards changing the path of fashion, reducing its negative environmental and social impacts and turning fashion into a driver for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. We were truly amazed to see the elegant creations from the showcased ‘I Was A Sari’ collection, which truly stands for circularity and sustainability. With the overwhelming response that the collection has received, we are confident that it will inspire many more talents to adopt circularity concepts.”

The Studio was turned into a fun presentation space. At the entrance, artisans’ hand embroidered different garments, moving forward was a display of saris’ bundles which had ‘I AM A SARI’ written on them depicting the raw material for the garments. Models were at the centre striking poses in the beautiful upcycled creations. The highlight was three models dressed as Vaghris, the Indian nomadic community that has been operating the informal old clothes recycling trade for centuries and surrounded by the utensils that they traditionally barter for old. At the exit was a display of embroidered products from the brand like footwear, bags, turbans and accessories.

Languid styles and exquisite prints blended with high-quality textures and surface ornamentation lent fresh appeal and gave new life to pre-loved saris that were now converted into chic designs.

The collection presented by the brand featured relaxed silhouettes, a rainbow of colours and prints as well as a season less fashion thrust that could make the garments ideal lounge or resort wear with mix and match options. India’s much-loved saris were transformed into stylish creations that would appeal to a wide spectrum of national and international buyers.

The men’s blue, printed, coordinate set of an anti-fit Cuban-collar shirt and pants, which had pops of teal and mustard was eye-catching. Vibrant colours of pink, purple and yellow stood out on the bell-sleeved V-neck top with a half-pleated midi skirt. Turbans, footwear, hats, scarves, bags and jewellery by ‘I was a Sari’ styled on all the models gave a cohesive look to the presentation.

This collection came alive through a unique and special engagement with Gucci employees. Thanks to the Gucci Changemakers initiative, 24 employees from the Gucci design office contributed ideas, knowledge and insight during a week of immersion with ‘I was a Sari’ women artisans in the company’s Roman studio.

 About R|Elan™

R|Elan™, the next-gen fabrics have been created from specially engineered fibres and yarns using the cutting-edge technological expertise, state-of-the-art R&D and the robust testing systems.  These smart fabrics have been designed to enhance comfort and aesthetics and it is the most sought-after fabric by renowned domestic and global brands, retailers and apparel manufacturers. In short, R|Elan™ is Fabric 2.0 – fabric of the future.


About UN Environment:

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.


About IMG Reliance:

IMG Reliance Pvt Ltd. is an equal joint venture between Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), India’s largest and most recognized private sector company, and IMG Worldwide (IMG), global leaders in sports, events, media and fashion.


The joint venture company develops, markets and manages sports, fashion and entertainment in India. Its current assets include India’s premier fashion event, Lakmé Fashion Week and the Maharashtra Open. IMGR, having recently ventured into Talent Management, represents Rohit Sharma and Hardik Pandya for worldwide management and marketing representation.