When the universe gives the clarion call, one must embark on the journey of the soul. It is a lonely journey but you know you are not alone. For Namrata Bhutoria, the journey from a materialistic consumer to a conscientious consumer was a journey inward to connect to the universe outside and to discover the essential unity and harmony of existence.
Namrata has had a typical upbringing in an affluent Marwari family, educated in a private school and college, married and is a mother of two grown-up children. But her turning point came when she realized that there was a purpose to life. In an attempt to discover her purpose, she started experimenting with natural dyes and fabrics. Today she is the founder and executive of Biome, a clothesline that she describes as being ‘sustainable’. She is also the co-founder of Colour Ashram that focuses on creating awareness and training people to be familiar with natural dye.
1. What was your turning point from a materialistic consumer to a conscientious consumer?
My turning point from a materialistic consumer to a conscientious consumer was immediately after my marriage. After marriage you are supposed to wear new clothes, new jewellery and go to these parties as the new daughter-in-law of the family. This I felt there was no sense in this. I knew I wanted to change myself rather than change my wardrobe all the time to connect to people. I started doing classes on various subjects like finance, theatre and also working with an NGO. As soon as I touched nature because of my work with natural dye I immediately found my drive to do something. Natural dyes and organic fabrics spoke to me. It is like they chose me. Since then there was no turning back. Now I am interested in natural cosmetics, farming, minimalistic lifestyle etc.
2. How difficult or easy was it to change your attitude and lifestyle?
It was not easy in the beginning because my family were little unhappy. But it was not so difficult. The drive in me made in easier. When your mind and heart is set on something, people do not stop you. They will try to put doubt in you because it is an unfamiliar territory for them. But slowly when they see you on your path and you are not ready to give up people start respecting you and they leave you alone. I edited a lot of things from my life. I stopped demanding and consuming lot of things. It was a conscious choice of mine.
3. How was Biome born?
When I began my work with natural dye fabrics I was selling my friend’s products. I was so motivated to share such wonderful work of this person that I started to meet clients for him. Most importantly I started making clothes for myself. People were not so intrigued by them because the colours were so subtle; they were not as bright and varied as the chemical dyes. But when they saw me wearing these fabrics they asked me to make clothes for them. That was the beginning of Biome. Before that I was just a franchise. Then I realized it was time to take another leap of faith and build a brand. My son who was 12 at that time named it Biome. It means a place where everything is natural. When you say Biome you pronounce the most powerful mantra OM. It made sense to me. I started a small shop on rent and I started making dresses for people with natural fabric.
4. What was your main thrust of work?
We are nature. Whatever we do unto nature we do unto ourselves. I explain how the water system, land and the air blanket is one and our lives are so connected. My thrust is to show people that if we are doing any nature friendly activity then we are only doing good to ourselves.
5. How do you reconcile business and profit making which is essentially exploitative and conservation of nature?
This is the most challenging aspect to reconcile business and profit making which is essentially exploitative. Fashion is crazy. We make clothes and before it is ready you are asked to throw away the previous collection and get a new collection. The whole thrust is on buying new, cheap clothes. This has made this industry really polluting. In this space where such a variety is available, I make things on order. If I customize clothes for the people, then I will not create waste. I was always talking about conscious fashion. I would work with my waste fabric. I have tried to remain small, be an on-order clothing line. When you are small all the costs are high and that is a challenge to maintain a team. It requires a lot of creative thinking.
6. How do you think you can sensitize people about conservation and preservation when the world-mantra is 'use and throw'?
Fashion is more about visual appeal. So at Biome I introduced the concept of the tactile impact of the fabric on your skin. How do the clothes feel on your skin? What do the colours make you feel? I try to make people realize the impact buying or to throwing away would make on our environment and if it was possible to make a different choice.
7. How do you deal when people don't understand you or your work?
It’s a difficult question. I have asked this question to myself many times. I thought I know something wonderful and I want to share it with people. Now I realize that I am doing this because it makes sense to me and because I want to do it. There is no ultimate goal. So when people don't understand my work I do not feel de-motivated. I don’t even feel sad. I feel angry if I have spent a lot of time with someone and the person did not have any intention of understanding. I have learnt to filter people.
8. For those who want to develop a sustainable lifestyle, what baby steps can they take on a day to day basis to make the shift? What is your advice to us?
Try and make change in your lifestyle especially when you are buying something or you are throwing something. You should thing about what impact your choice is making. Maybe you can make a better choice. This you have to do it yourself as you want to be in harmony. There is no one to give you any reward. Whenever you get time try to read and follow people who are creating awareness about sustainability. Ignorance is not the best thing in consumerism.