No Nasties - the most ethical fashion you can think of
About 15 years ago, genetically modified crops made a grand entrance in Indian farming. These crops, it was said, would double the yield of farming land. Everyone was getting on the bandwagon. Fast forward a couple of years, and many farmers realised their soil was depleted and stripped of its fertility from the monoculture farming associated with those same miracle crops.
More importantly, their farming input costs had increased significantly. Seed and pesticide costs had forced them to take loans — initially from government banks, but when they needed more money, from local lenders who charged them as much as 2% a day.
As there is no irrigation in most farming areas, they were completely dependent on the rains. Climate change and rain delays had repeatedly destroyed valuable crops, forcing farmers to buy more seeds and pesticides, take more loans and get into more debt.
More than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves in India since 1995. Plenty of people have covered the crisis, most recently the Guardian.
A Movement Starts
Over in New York, a young and talented engineer was living the high life, putting his talents to good use and travelling the world to explore all its riches. It was the gold rush of the digital era, and people like him were in high demand.
But like many in our generations, Apu Kothari felt there was something missing. A hole in his chest that seemed to expand with every website built, every client call, every cocktail and hangover. A lack of purpose. What was all this code being put to use doing?
Meanwhile, Apu was reading about the growing farmer suicide crisis back home in India. The more he read, the more incredulous he became. One day, he took the plunge and travelled back to India to start No Nasties, a fashion label created reverse the trend and create a market in India for fashion produced via sustainable means.
He believed people all over India would help, if there was an easy and positive thing they could do. If instead of bad news and more crises that needed solving, there was a stylish and modern solution to get behind. They could simply shift their spending to a better alternative.
Since its inception, No Nasties has sold 50,000 items of organic and fair trade clothing, sourced directly from troubled farmers. They did this by creating clothing that compete on style as much as anything. Striking, contemporary but simple designs that appeal to young generations. Quality is high and the fabrics soft.
In Apu’s words -
The supply chain existed already but it was only catering to Western demands, no one was using them for the Indian market. What we’ve done is create a movement for this in India itself and getting Indian consumers to help Indian farmers.
No Nasties buy only from farmers who produce in the right, sustainable way, using no genetically modified seeds and only natural pesticides and fertilisers. Importantly, farmers get paid fair prices and a premium (20%) is paid for community development projects. This money is managed by the farmers themselves who decide what they need most and where to allocate funds.
As a direct result of their actions, many more ethical fashion brands are springing up in India, and more and more farmers are switching to organic, fair trade cotton practices. A local market has opened up.
Farmers are weaning themselves off bad debt, energising their soil as well as building healthier, happier communities.
No Nasties now works with farmer cooperatives in India, and several ethical fashion movements like Fashion Revolution Day and Fairtrade India.
They just launched Once Upon a Doug, which provide a secondary income stream to the women farmers who have been hit the worst by the crisis. It uses the scraps left over from the clothing production, and ensure a source of revenue for those left in the wake of disaster.
Here’s what you can do to support both No Nasties and the Once Upon A Doug project:
Buy the products (worldwide shipping) - https://www.nonasties.in/
Share their story
Understand where your clothing comes from
In their words -
“We vote with our wallets. And this time, the vote is literally for a man’s life. It’s easy, it’s within our reach, and it’s impactful. So choose sustainable, choose life. Wear organic, wear fair trade. With so many brands offering this now, it’s as easily done as said.”
What No Nasties teaches us —
Sometimes the easiest way to make impact is to piggy-back on existing consumer behaviour & simply provide a better alternative
We can build businesses that have substantial positive impact in a for-profit model, where financial & impact growth are wholly aligned
Happy, positive messages are much easier for us to get behind. We want to feel good, and we’re drawn to those who help us do so.
General advice, Brand Strategy, Storytelling, Ideation