Did you know that manufacturing one pair of jeans, takes up around 8,000 litres of water?
Every year millions of pairs are discarded by households across India and taking into account the country’s overall recycling percentage (27 per cent), it is safe to assume that most of them end up in dumpsites, like other dry waste.
This is incredibly unfortunate because denim is a sturdy material, and it is quite possible that most of these pairs are in a somewhat usable condition.
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Thankfully, other people feel the same and are coming forward to repurpose discarded textiles, including denim.
One such group is Jodhpur-based Solecraft, which was incubated and accelerated by Marwari Catalyst,an incubation centre located the city.
Founded by Mrinalini Rajpurohit, Atul Mehta and Nikhil Gehlot (CEO, COO AND CTO) a year ago, Solecraft is a social enterprise that is upcycling old jeans into bags, footwear and pencil cases.
Once upcycled, the items are distributed for free to marginal school children in Jodhpur and the villages on the outskirts of the city with help of donations or sponsorships.
The pilot project which was started to reach out to 100 children, gradually increased to 1,200, thus impacting several lives.
Before quitting his job to work for Solecraft full time, Atul (26) worked in the textile industry.
“Textile waste is the third-largest contributor to dry waste in several Indian states and is a massive environmental problem. So, if a pair of denim jeans is upcycled, the electricity or water needed to make a new product can be saved,” says Atul.
When he discussed this problem with his friends, Nikhil and Mrinalini, the trio decided to investigate the issue further and come up with a model to solve this problem.
However, they were clear that they wanted to go beyond a profit-making business and make a social impact, and that is how the idea of helping the school children from lower economic backgrounds came up.
“After talking to our domestic helpers and people living in slum areas, we learnt that many children prefer to stay at home out of embarrassment because they do not have footwear or bags. To you and me, this may seem like a small issue but it can seriously affect their education,” says Nikhil.
The trio dipped into their savings and invested over a lakh in the upcycling project. They also started a media campaign to begin a collection drive of denims.
Once a sufficient amount had been collected, they hired local artisans marginal to upcycle the material into footwear and bags. These artisans earn up to 20,000 per month.
So far, the social enterprise has upcycled 1,500 discarded pieces of denim, and they hope to reach out to one million children through the project.
“Our motto is to make everyday resources available for the needy section of the society in the form of sustainable fashion, and utilise denim to its fullest potential,” Mrinalini told us.
Their customer base is also expanding beyond Jodhpur. For instance, some of their customers purchased the school kit (Rs 400) in bulk and distributed them in cities like Mumbai, and Bengaluru.
To make the mission self-sustainable, Solecraft is making merchandise consisting of travel kits, duffel bags, laptop bags, iPad covers, etc. which it plans to gift to people who donate clothes. They are also collaborating with local shops in the city to sell their products.
After the success of their first phase, the company is now raising a crowdfunding campaign to equip another 1200 children in government schools.
So far, they have raised Rs 65,000 as against the goal of five lakhs. If their story inspires you, please click here to make a donation.
You can also reach out to Atul Mehta at: 8559840605
All the images are sourced from Solecraft
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)