It is the winter of 1999. My dad, a lieutenant colonel in the Indian Army, is newly posted to one of the wettest parts of the country – a charming and lush little town called Missamari in Assam. The 9-year-old me is thrilled. Moving to a new place comes with its fair share of surprises – new friends, a new school, and an entirely new habitat to explore. By now, having already been through the drill of changing towns and schools a couple of times, all of this still does excite me, sure, but what I am far more enthusiastic about is something rather unlikely to catch a kid’s fancy – the process of unpacking baksas – aluminium storage trunks that those with an Army upbringing have grown up seeing in plenty.
These baksas contain a lot of history – essentials, handpicked collectibles from each of the towns that my family has travelled to over the years, hand-me-downs from my parents’ parents, and some “please-throw-the-damn-thing-away”s (as my dad would put it) that my hoarder mom hasn’t had the heart to part with. It’s these throwaways that I am interested in. You see, to me, they aren’t useless. They’re treasure! What myriad possibilities could a slightly broken jute fruit basket offer? It could be a bed for my Barbie dolls, a storage basket for my kitchen set, or a boat that I could line up with Taro leaves and set afloat in the torrential rains of Missamari. It could be just anything in my magical world, only with a little bit of tweaking.
This memory is a part of my childhood that still remains very special to me. Going over drawers and boxes all around the house in the hope of chancing upon some kind of treasure that perhaps was treasure in my eyes alone…
Fast-forward fifteen years, the working 24-year-old me has metamorphosed into a quintessential fast-fashion-loving, city-residing girl whose superpowers include being able to smell a sale from miles afar and interests include buying things just for the sake of buying them. I hoard and hoard until it becomes a problem. My Twitter handle is ‘Shopaholic_Me’ (makes me cringe hard now), for God’s sake! I own shoes that I cannot dare to walk in and clothes that I will, at best, wear twice, and never look at again. My mom thinks it’s a lack of self-control, but I blame my genes. When asked why I shop for things I don’t need, my answer is simple and standard – “It’s for the sake of art. I love fashion, and this is me investing in my art.”
At age 26, I decide to join fashion school for my postgraduate studies after three and a half years of working across jobs I am really not into. Fashion being a space I have always loved and been fascinated by, I reckon this to be a decision both logically and creatively sound.
Two years of being schooled in fashion gives me a whole new perspective on a multitude of facets that make the industry. I begin to appreciate the creative process more than the outcome itself, garner newfound respect for those who work relentlessly towards breaking stereotypes in an inward-looking industry, learn that there’s so much abuse and exploitation that the workers toiling in sweatshops have to go through to mass produce clothing sold under labels of the world’s biggest fast fashion giants. It is truly eye-opening and necessarily so.
In today’s appearance-driven world where there’s so much madness of materialism, it is easy to get caught into the web of buying more and more, regardless of whether or not there is a need for it. I am guilty of it, and I can say with conviction that must be many others like me. Today, the barrage of Instagram influencers sharing posts about their impeccably put-together #OOTDs may compel you to go on a mindless shopping spree, but it is really important to think about the repercussions of the same. Somebody has to pay the price of making low-cost (fast) fashion available to you and, more often than not, that somebody is already struggling to make ends meet. To add to that are the environmental concerns of water pollution, toxic chemical use, and textile waste that the fashion industry is hugely responsible for. Fashion is among the world’s top ten highest polluting industries!
This awareness, coupled with my longing to reconnect with my past are the driving forces behind the conception of The Baksa Project.
The Baksa Project is a personal project where my aim is to repurpose what I already own; what my mother and my grandmother have owned for decades. Rummage through extraordinary pieces of fabrics and scraps that have been lying away in boxes for years – not being used, not being given away for sentimental reasons, and work with them to create something new and unique, while trying to minimise waste as much as possible by reusing what’s left of the materials in the process. It is to rekindle the joy of creating. To not let myself drown in the sea of sameness that exists today, and cultivate a style that is my own. To be conscious of the history of my clothes: what they mean and where they come from, and to tell the stories associated with them. Lastly and most importantly, it is to make a mindful effort to break ties with fast fashion.
So this is me – a former fast-fashion-loving girl trying to embrace a more meaningful and sustainable approach to my art. With that, I have decided to give up fast fashion for good and work towards personalising what I wear by (re)using what I have.
I welcome you all to join me on my journey. 🙂