• Prerna Singh Butalia

The Sustainable Fashion Icon We Need: Alia Bhatt

Updated: May 8

When Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor tied the knot, on April 14th, the world waited, with baited breaths, for pictures to emerge. As did we. For our own reasons. The dreaminess of a celeb wedding aside, what we, at Pretty As You Please, love most is zero waste. And a celeb who walks her talk.

Alia Bhatt has long been a voice for sustainable fashion. But when a celebrity chooses to pipe down on their wedding frills, you know they really mean business. Alia and Ranbir’s small-scale, intimate wedding ceremony with little that we could point at and say ‘what a waste!’, including the interiors of their home standing in for décor, was really the stuff of fairytales, in a world hurtling towards a climate disaster!

While we wish Alia had gone beyond Bollywood favourites, Sabyasachi and Manish Malhotra, we’ll take heart in her choice of clothing. Her ivory wedding sari is sure to see her through many wears, if she chooses to, which we hope she does. But what we love most is her mehendi outfit, made of 180 textile patches, many of them scraps from other brides’ outfits, and included pieces of brocade, jacquard, Kanjivaram silk and bandhani. “Inscribed through Kashmiri and Chikankari threads, the passionate 3000-hour intricate handwork of Mijwan women features a fuchsia pink lehenga and a blouse embellished in real gold and silver nakshi and kora flowers, and vintage gold metal sequins from Kutchh,” described designer Manish Malhotra, through his Instagram. “The patches are woven together using a couture technique of cross-stitches with three tar and six tar anchors.”

Alia’s wedding outfits were a fitting tribute to her activism. In 2019, she launched a wardrobe sharing initiative called Mi Wardrobe is Su Wardrobe, through which celebrities like Anushka Sharma, Ranbir Kapoor (of course!), Varun Dhawan and Sonakshi Sinha have sold part of their wardrobes to raise money towards various causes. She launched her own sustainable kidswear label, Ed-A-Mamma, in 2020, and invested in Phool.co on their latest innovation, Fleather, a faux leather created from upcycled flowers, for which she was also named 2021’s Person of the Year by PETA. Extremely vocal about fashion sustainability, Sustainablebai… erm... we mean the Gangubai star, has been supporting brands that have been striving to do the good work, even on the red carpet. It’s hard to forget her metallic Bloni Atelier sari, made of recycled nylon, and her numerous outings in breezy Summer Somewhere dresses.

Image courtesy: Madhurya Creations

But our favourite was the pink lehenga she wore for Diwali 2020, from Madhurya Creations. The ‘My Beautiful Planet’ lehenga was created from textile waste, and used 250 motifs that were originally artworks created by children from the Art of Living free school in Bangalore. A lockdown project, it nothing to do with the Bollywood star, from the time of conception through the 4 months that it took to execute and complete. ‘At the time, we didn’t know how long the lockdown would go on, and there was no business really—no couriers, the store was shut, but we had our karigars with us, and since our proceeds go towards the education of the kids the Art of Living school, we thought to include them in a project,’ elaborates Bharathy Harish, partner at Madhurya. ‘This was the time all those stories about nature healing were coming out, and we thought it would be a good place to get the kids to learn about nature and different aspects of the planet. On the other hand, we wanted to do something with our karigars that would send out the message of sustenance—hence, the use of waste material.’ And so, the kids were divided into groups and given the task to learn about the various ecosystems—underwater, polar regions, deserts, etc.—and make drawings. “It was supposed to be fun,” says Harish. “They learnt about jellyfish, octopuses, seahorses, flamingos, what have you.” And then, the karigars got to work. They created applique patchwork for all 250 motifs, playing around with colours and techniques. They worked out details and placements on individual panels. “There was an air of creativity, and the karigars were busy and happy through what were otherwise four very tough months for everybody,” she adds. Alia’s endorsement of the lehenga has led to sales of the #alialehenga, and other customised variations (frocks, kurtas, kids’ lehengas, saris that you can customise as per your budget—it takes three weeks and eight karigars, now that the colours and techniques have been established) that have afforded the education of 100 kids for over a year. Now that’s what we call impact!