One of the biggest challenges to date has been changing the way consumers see responsible fashion, asserted Draupadie Weerapperuma, the founder of majä – a new story, in an interview with the EthicalX team.
“While people are beginning to understand how their purchases and consumption impact the environment and the future, it’s a message that needs to constantly be shared, if possible in more innovative ways, so that more people hear us,” she added.
majä is a sustainable and ethical fashion brand made from high quality, preloved sarees, operating with the vision that promoting slow fashion and reversible and convertible outfits can delay the process of clothes ending up in landfills.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
1. What does climate-friendly business and ethical fashion mean to you?
Ethical fashion, to me, means creating a good future for everyone. It means that the raw material sourced comes from the right kind of place or a place that has not exploited its workers, and that the people making the clothes are actually able to make a living from the wages they earn.
The clothing produced may eventually be recycled or made further use of and/or be of good quality with a prolonged lifecycle. What this means is that it will have a lesser negative impact in the long term on the environment.
2. What measures have you taken to make your business more sustainable, ethical, and climate friendly?
Our raw material is post-consumer waste fabric, best explained as used/preloved sarees. Our sourcing process is through the community, where we request anyone to drop off their old sarees in exchange for a nominal fee or dead stocks. We purchase from second-hand sellers as well.
Everything else in our supply chain such as packaging is 100% biodegradable and/or made from recycled material. Anyone who partners with us will also share the similar ethos as majä.
Our team comprises 99% women, most of whom are from Colombo and some areas in Kekirawa and Dambulla. The artisans are a small group from these areas looking to build skills and earn an income for financial independence. Most women have never worked before, while some have worked but are no longer able to due to familial obligations. Working as a part of our team gives them the flexibility to work from their homes.
3. What are the key challenges that you have faced in your journey and how did you overcome them?
‘Sustainability,’ ‘conscious,’ and ‘upcycling,’ may be buzzwords we often hear, but still comprise a new concept for some. It’s not just in fashion but a lifestyle choice. One of the biggest challenges to date has been changing the way consumers see responsible fashion.
I initially started on majä alone. I worked with one team member out of my place while trying to work out the best ways possible to communicate what ‘conscious fashion’ was about; I wanted the brand to be a message as well. While people are beginning to understand how their purchases and consumption impact the environment and the future, it’s a message that needs to constantly be shared, if possible in more innovative ways, so that more people hear us.
Moreover, the past two years have thrown multiple curveballs at small enterprises like us, so we have had to get creative with ways we approached each challenge.
I tackle each of these by getting creative with the ways we work. Using different tools and methods to do our work, learning as we go and as we grow. I don’t think I have overcome any of the challenges as there’s always a newer version of each challenge every day, but it’s a part of this entrepreneurial journey.
4. How does EthicalX help enhance your knowledge and skills on ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly business enterprise?
The concept of sustainable and climate-friendly enterprise is still a new concept in Sri Lanka.
EthicalX is an immense resource to enhance our knowledge and help achieve our goal of creating the best version of majä – a new story.
SLYCAN Trust launched the EthicalX programme in January 2022 to enhance Sri Lanka's start-up ecosystem and strengthen ethical, sustainable, and climate-friendly entrepreneurship on all levels. Through Climate & Innovation Hubs, EthicalX provides capacity-building and technical support for entrepreneurs at various stages of their business development.
The EthicalX Fashion Cell comprises talented and well-rounded entrepreneurs with a common interest in enhancing their capacities, expanding their network, and promoting sustainable practices through their enterprises.
SLYCAN Trust is a non-profit think tank. It has been a registered legal entity in the form of a trust since 2016, and a guarantee limited company since 2019. The entities focus on the thematic areas of climate change, adaptation and resilience, sustainable development, environmental conservation and restoration, social justice, and animal welfare. SLYCAN Trust’s activities include legal and policy research, education and awareness creation, capacity building and training, and implementation of ground level action. SLYCAN Trust aims to facilitate and contribute to multi-stakeholder driven, inclusive and participatory actions for a sustainable and resilient future for all.