From being a shopaholic who scoffed at the term sustainability, to becoming someone who evaluates her daily choices, to then going on a journey of discovering and learning about hemp, and building a mindful brand and an entire community around it, Surbhi discovered herself and her core values in the process.
She delves into her beautiful journey of creating Pravaah, which started with a small change within her that led her to a whole new world.
What led you to create Pravaah?
I was what you would call a shopaholic. During my masters in Milan, the exposure to the fashion and luxury industry led me to raise questions about the underbelly of the alluring industry. The word ‘sustainability’ is overused and has become a marketing gimmick. I really felt cheated as a consumer when I would buy so called ‘sustainable’ products, that are made in conditions detrimental to the environment. It didn’t sit well with me and I took a step back to evaluate my choices and lifestyle. I started consuming less and reading more. That's when I discovered hemp and took upon reading and learning about it. It is one of the oldest, most versatile and low maintenance plants, but the negative publicity and red tapism around it has prevented awareness. Also, India currently doesn’t have the infrastructure to produce sufficient yarns.
I knew I wanted to do something that combined my creative thinking and had real sustainability at the core, no matter what. So, the products are all 100% hemp, no compromises.
"The word 'sustainability' is overused and has become a marketing gimmick. I felt cheated a s a consumer when I would buy so called 'sustainable' products."
What made you start a lifestyle brand and not a fashion brand?
To be completely honest, this was a journey for me. When I started on this journey, I just knew that whatever I did, I needed it to be sustainable. Discovering hemp led me to hemp linen and then home linen. Home linens/ decor was a space where very few brands were innovating or experimenting with organic materials. Starting with the idea of just home linen, today that idea has grown as we work daily to develop new products for living spaces.
There are so many people who already do fashion better, so I really wanted to experiment and build better alternatives for home living. Having been in the service industry, this is the first time I am working with a product and it has been an incredible learning experience.
" Having been in the service industry, this is the first time I am working with a product and it has been an incredible learning experience."
Tell me more about the inspiration behind the products and their names.
The brand really is inspired from everything in nature. The 3 collections are an ode to 3 of the 5 elements in nature.
Bhumi = Earth, Nadee = Water, Bhor (Dawn) = Space. The products within each collection are named after either a synonym of the collection name (example: Bhor and Vihaan both mean dawn) or an element present within the ecosystem that the collection is derived from (example: Ashm - meaning stone is a part of the Nadee collection).
You really went through a process of transformation! What are the conscious changes you have made in your immediate environment and lifestyle?
It is not possible to change everything around us entirely, but we can do our bit, make better choices everyday in our own way. For me the changes came gradually and rather unknowingly. From carrying a bottle of water in my bag to not shopping from fast fashion brands, shifting to bamboo toothbrushes and shopping from small local businesses, it's not about the size of the change but the consistency in it. To continue to choose to maintain these even when it's a little uncomfortable to us. I have been getting my clothes stitched by a local tailor whenever possible and I absolutely love this because they are all one-of-a-kind and made to measure. Educating our own circle to make small sustainable shifts adds up to make a difference in the grander scheme of things.
"Educating our own circle to make small sustainable shifts adds up to make a difference in the grander scheme of things."
What is your mission with Pravaah?
We hope to create everything that is in your home but in a perfect blend of luxury and sustainability. We believe in being entirely transparent with our customers, hence the product journey and certifications can be tracked on our website by anyone. We promote quality over quantity and I mean that not only for our customers but also for us in terms of the people and practices that we employ. We are happier paying a higher cost of production for small batches of products if it means better wages and healthy working environment for our artisans.
There are 14 fibres, indigenous to Uttarakhand, where I am from, and I hope to revive and work with each of these beauties to achieve a sustainable socio-economic development.
What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury for me is in anything that is created painstakingly to make something unique. Making such products accessible to people who appreciate and value it is important. A higher price tag for me does not automatically translate to luxury. It is an experience that the customer needs to have. That experience could be based on the brand story, product journey or even just how the product makes you feel. Luxury is not taken on face value anymore, a brand has to prove that enough time, effort, high quality ingredients and the genius of the brand has gone into the product or service.
"A higher price tag for me does not automatically translate to luxury. It is an experience that the consumer needs to have."
Born in a small town nestled in the stunning Himalayas, Surbhi lived in different cities across India, and now lives in Delhi. Her love for luxury took her to Milan where she did a Masters in Fashion, Experience and Design Management. It was here that she really learnt how small we are in the fabric of this earth and that there is so much to constantly learn.