Embroidery, practiced all across India from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir, is one of India’s traditional and under-appreciated professions— and it’s a centerpoint of this New Delhi based sustainable fashion label. Sui, translated needle in Hindi has goal of bridging the gap between nature & fashion with thoughtful details.
You come from a family with a background in the textile business— tell more about that and how that affected your line of work?
That’s correct. My maternal side of the family has been in the garment manufacturing business for over 55 years, and their focus is Indian pret and couture clothing. It was started by my grandmother in the 1960’s as a small tailoring business which grew to become a brand we call “Sue Mue”. Today, the brand is managed by my mother! They made all the lovely clothes for my wedding and of course, are the only brand I have in my wardrobe for Indian clothing. What I love about them is that they work on a bespoke model, where all their designs can be customized and made exactly to your size.
Growing up, Mum’s store was a big part of my life. We spent evenings after school hanging at the store, eating our favorite food from the neighborhood, losing ourselves in the textiles as kids and of course celebrating the big days with the work family such as Diwali. Her entire team including the tailors, vendors –they’ve seen me grow up because that is how the business was built, a big strong work family.
So I guess it was no surprise to many when I decided to study the business of fashion for my bachelors. I always say that all the values I picked up from watching my family operate their business, is what pushed me to learn more about the impact of the industry.
So when I became aware of the issues that the fashion industry was dealing with, and also that unknowingly I was contributing to them by purchasing fast fashion – the first thought apart from being a nature lover, that came to my mind was how I’d imagined a healthy garment business to be and how I’d grown up seeing it. I immediately knew that the road ahead for me was going to look very different but it made all the sense, I always say that the day I found the purpose behind clothing – I felt like I’d found my missing puzzle.
Tell us a bit more about the conception story being the brand name “Sui.”
Funny story though, initially the name was chosen because it was a play on my family’s brand “Sue Mue’ however as I pondered over it more – I realized that the name stood for so much more. Sui as in needle in Hindi, is an essential part of the garment making process without which the thread would never connect to the garment, and so the name for us as we always say stands for that connection, between the thread and needle, between nature and fashion and between clothing and the people behind the craft.
Embroidery plays a large part in your brand’s identity— tell me more about this.
I guess I’ve always known that a piece of Sui would hold close to all the crafts I’ve grown up admiring, hand and machine embroidery being one of them. With the use of technology in garment making and computerized embroidery becoming a big part of how clothing is made faster – it was important for us to incorporate these techniques into our ethos. The story began with us wanted to find a way to tell our “nature story” and give our clothes that “sui” touch. Slowly it grew into a stronger part of identity. I always say that Sui merges nature with textiles and crafts – every motif we embroider has a story behind it and was inspired by a piece of nature we love.
I love that you produce in-house and manage your own team of tailors — you call them your ‘threadspellers.”
Thank you! It was a word we came up with back in 2018 because we truly do believe that they bring form to all our ideas.
Going back to the influence my family’s business had on me, I guess this was a key factor for us as we were building the brand. It allowed us to not only have control on the workspace, the environment and how much we pay them but also build this brand together. Our tailors are as much a part of our team as the rest of us, customer feedback and design ideas are shared with them – and they’re also well aware of our low waste goal when it comes to our fabrics and fabric scrap. It’s just the way I’ve known our value chain to be.
One of our pillars at SUI is worker welfare – which is one of our key pillars alongside responsibility towards the planet, supporting craft and community, and education.