Fashion is one of the highest polluting industries in the world. According to several reports, studies conducted on buying habits suggest 39 million tonnes of clothing waste is generated every year. While a majority of the waste will go to landfills and incinerators, only one-fifth will be separated for recycling, upcycling, and to make second-hand clothes.
Apart from the waste generated post-buying, during manufacturing processes, immense cloth-waste is generated by factories. For a garment that requires only four metres of cloth, the cuttings will be made from a 6-meter cloth. The two metres are disposed of as waste.
15-year-old Tanay Jain, a class X student of St James school in Kolkata, witnessed this first-hand at his father’s textile manufacturing factory.
“In 2018, when I visited my father’s factory, I saw big machines, many labourers, and a lot of small pieces of clothes thrown around the floor and stocked inside boxes. When I asked him what would happen to all that fabric, he said it was waste and would be thrown out. Immediately, I asked if it could be used to stitch clothes for small children,” says Tanay, adding that his father, Sandeep Jain, thought it was a brilliant idea.
Bringing smiles to little children
He started the Katran Foundation, and with help from his family and friends, Tanay has upcycled 3,500 meters of cloth, donated 2,500 dresses to underprivileged children in Kolkata and other cities such as Guwahati, and provided employment to 68 karigars (craftsmen) across Kolkata.
A few weeks after Katran was established, tailors who needed jobs were identified across the city. They were invited to the factory and briefed on why they would stitch using scrap cloth. After a few days, the clothes were packed individually and distributed among various local orphanages in Kolkata. The logistical work, including identifying karigars and orphanages, as well as keeping track of deliveries was taken up by Tanay’s aunt, Vandana Jain.
“Soon, through word-of-mouth, many family members and friends became aware of the initiative. They wanted to step forward to offer their support. So, we requested they donate Rs 200, which would cover all the expenses for one garment, from stitching to delivery,” Tanay says.
On the day the donations are being handed over to the children, Tanay organises a video call with the donors so that the children can thank them. “Some donors purchased the upcycled clothes in bulk and distributed them across orphanages outside Kolkata,” says Tanay.
Haat Baralei Bondhu, an NGO that works for the development of underprivileged people across West Bengal, received 30 garments from Katran Foundation in January 2021. A volunteer of the NGO, Mousoumi Ghosh says, “The clothes looked very attractive and were of good quality. The girls that received them were extremely happy.”
To reach more underprivileged children and donors, Tanay, along with three of his classmates — Raunak Seksaria, Pratham Madhogaria, and Raunak Sarawagi — started an Instagram page called Katran Foundation. Here, they explain the work they do, who they impact, and how you can help too.
In the coming months, Tanay hopes to help more orphanages, karigars, and partner with more factories to collect waste cloth from them. If you wish to help an underprivileged child, you can fill out this google form and donate Rs 200.
Edited by Divya Sethu