An avid animal rights activist and passionate entrepreneur, designer Sheena Uppal founded her label Renge in 2016 which not only pledges of producing luxe, sustainable and ethical everyday clothing for women but is also involved with the welfare of the local street animals. Renge has taken the initiative to donate and raise funds for the spaying of 228 street dogs and aims to sterilize and improve the lives of 500 street dogs before the end of 2019. Uppal, who graduated from London College of Fashion before moving to Delhi, uses surplus fabrics to create the outfits. In an interview with IANSlife, she shares more about herself and her brand.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q) How did you get into the fashion world?
My family has been into the garment manufacturing and textile business for over 40 years, and fashion is something I've loved and been particular about since tender age.
Q) What is Renge all about?
Renge means lotus flower in Japanese. A lotus flower is beautiful, yet it grows through muddy waters. This is the essence of every woman I've ever known. We're strong, resilient and gorgeous and that is exactly what Renge stands for. I love bringing fabrics to life, and seeing women of all shapes and sizes wearing our designs and feeling confident of them. That was one of the reasons we started made to measure orders at the beginning of this year. Every single woman should be able to buy something she loves from Renge.
Q) Tell us about your latest collection? What's is it inspired of?
Our Winter 2019 collection is a small collection of party outfits. In this collection, we've used imported fabrics and focused heavily on velvets. I love working with velvets, as they're timeless and classic fabrics that have a long lifespan if taken care of properly. We've kept the focus mainly on the fabric we're using. We've done a mix of romantic, feminine silhouettes that are formal and can be worn to weddings, as well as sexy little numbers for a night out with your friends!
Q) Using surplus fabrics, how do you conceptualize it?
Our Winter 2019 collection is not made from surplus fabrics. This is the only collection in the year where we tend to use imported fabrics. In all our other collections, conceptualization starts with first looking at fabrics, textures and colours. We work backwards. Once we have a fabric palette in mind, we start our designing process. I'd say as a designer, I work best that way! To see, touch and feel a fabric and then envision it coming to life is the most exciting part of my job.
Q) There is a lot of talk going on sustainability. What are your views on this?
Sustainability is an important yet tricky topic. As a conscious brand, we strive towards being sustainable and ethical, yet we too face limitations. So as a brand we are constantly asking ourselves how to improve our manufacturing processes. Currently, we only work with facilities that follow stringent international environmental standards. We are also looking to work not only with surplus, but also organic fabrics in 2020. I don't think you can reach a point as a brand and say we are now as sustainable as we can be. It's an ongoing process that needs understanding and dedication. Personally, my focus has also been to improve the lives of people that work with us, and the animals that live around our factory. Renge started an initiative to spay and vaccinate 500 dogs in 2019 and so far we've reached 401 dogs!
Q) How sustainable do you think a high end label can be?
I can't speak for other brands, but one of the first things a brand needs to think about is how much they're manufacturing and what do you do with your surplus stock? One of the most shocking practices of high end brands is the burning of surplus garments. There are however brands that have come up in the past few years in India and internationally that focus heavily on sustainability and I really admire those brands!
Q) Who are you personal favourites?
I really admire Pero and Bodice for not only their design aesthetics but also their brand values. Internationally, brands like Everlane, Sezane and Reformation are really setting the path for the future.
Q) What is your idea of fashion?
Fashion is something you should have fun with! For me, it is the greatest personal expression. It isn't something that should be daunting and overwhelming. I have never been one to follow trends. Having said that of course there have been trends that have caught my eye but fashion is a creative expression of my personality and I love dressing for my mood!
Q) Who is your muse?
I'd say my muse is the little girl in me. I know this sounds crazy, but at 16 I could never ever imagine being an entrepreneur, and running my own business. I never had that confidence and self-worth, but I always had an eye for fashion and I was quite a little badass in the way I would experiment with fashion.
Q) What next are you working on?
The next step for us is to really focus on doing research for the kind of fabrics we will use in 2020, and truly bringing forth our sustainable activities as a brand.
Q) Any fashion tip that you would like to give to the readers?
I think the simplest and most important message is to always be yourself. I find that when I dress for my mood, I feel most confident. If there are days when I want to wear track pants and a t shirt, I'll wear it and own it! Once you start listening to yourself you'll realize how much fun you can have with dressing up or down!