With female representation in leadership roles across various industries on the rise, one male-dominated field in specific which has hardly any female representation at the top is fashion. Women working within this proverbial boys’ club are trying to bring about a paradigm shift in order to foster a larger sense of inclusiveness and a balanced definition of sustainable and slow fashion. Sujata Biswas and Taniya Biswas are two such women who have lifted the veil while carving out her own niche in the field of fashion with their enterprise Suta.
An alumna of IIFT Delhi, Sujata always felt something was missing in her job. Whenever she went back to visit her parents, she came across a lot of traditional weavers with whom she used to end up chatting and they used to pour their hearts out about lack of work and menial wages. Their amazing skills were awe-inspiring but she came to know that their livelihoods were a question mark in many cases. These conversations were etched deeply in her heart and prodded her on to a path of working to improve the livelihood of these disempowered communities. Taking a plunge into an industry with no prior experience or knowledge was one of the biggest risks she took in her career. But what drove her to do the same was her passion and belief in the weavers and the urge to make a difference in the lives of many such communities across India. ‘The idea isn’t about working with a single weaver or a couple of weavers but adopting the entire family of weaver and empowering them. Thereby, making our own family bigger, one weaver at a time’, says Sujata Biswas.
Taniya, an engineer from NIT Rourkela and IIM Lucknow post graduate, worked for almost three years with the Tata group and IBM. A voice within her drove her towards entrepreneurship and she took the bold step of listening to it. She calls herself an observer and loves to watch how everything in life is so beautifully intertwined with nature and the world around us. This kindled the creative streak in her to paint and to take photographs. After quitting her cushy corporate jobs, she grappled with many ideas, even tried her hands at product photo-shoots, before realizing that her true potential was not in the pictures but in the products itself. “I had designed a few clothes and had posted them, but instead of getting requests for shoot we were asked about the products,” Taniya says. She found that her affinity for simple, minimalistic, nostalgic sarees that reminded her of a bygone decade, which were very rare to find in the market, was loved by people. What followed next was a quick pivot where she went on a hunt for the right fabric and skilled weavers across the nooks and crannies of rural India. The search took her to the remote villages of Madhya Pradesh; Meghalaya; the home of Banarasi sarees – Varanasi; Maniabandha in Odisha etc. There has been no turning back for her since then.
The sisters take pride in complementing each other’s skill-sets while having the same vision. From playing games in childhood, where they brought their cousins together to make products out of waste fabric and selling it on carts, to creating a Suta family today, theirs has been a heartwarming story. Suta is an extension of their strong intention to make a positive impact on the society and spread love and warmth to create a happy little world.