The beginning of it all...
Having worked in the fashion industry for over 10 years in Spain, Indoi Founder Mallika experienced the negative effects of the industry first hand. She always knew that she wanted to re focus her work and had always wanted to start her own label, but it was never the right time.
This changed when she became a mother and moved from Barcelona to London with her 3 month old; both pushed Mallika out of her comfort zone, forcing her to reevaluate her purpose, life values and reinvent herself. This marked the beginning of a long personal journey that ended in Indoi - in her own words, “a brand that would tell the story of crafts, of cultures and of the people I have long admired”.
Central to the brand is inspiration rooted in Mallika’s desire to catalyse change. However, none of that would have been possible without the inspiration that came from those closest to her. Undoubtedly, Mallika’s family - the women in particular, for example her mother, her aunts, her grandmothers - along with her heritage and the notion of “belonging” have all been a huge driving force and source of inspiration for the brand. "Coming from a mixed heritage background yet growing up in the UK can cause many internal and external conflicts. Through Indoi I have found a way to embrace all of it in a more harmonious way".
The tale behind the name
Indoi is an ancient word meaning “the people of the Indus Valley”, an area which occupied parts of today’s Pakistan, Northern India and Afghanistan. The Indus Valley Civilisation were the largest of the ancient civilisations and used to trade in cotton. The fact that Mallika comes from a mixed heritage background - she is Bangladeshi, Iranian with roots in Burma and Pakistan - meant that she wanted to “reconnect with this heritage and celebrate the people there”. One way of doing so was to give the brand a name which tapped into these colourful cultures and traditions.
Why does Indoi advocate for sustainability, ethical practices and artisan processes?
For Mallika and Indoi, sustainable and ethical practices combined with artisan skills is the only way forward. “Our industry has created such a massive problem on so many levels, most notably socially and environmentally. I have seen these issues first hand and once you see it you can't turn a blind eye.”
At Indoi, we don’t use the term “sustainable” fashion - it is impossible for it to be so. That said, Indoi certainly champions sustainable consumption and production - the world definitely doesn't need any more clothes but creativity & craft is intrinsic to human nature and culture. People connect to clothing on a very emotional level. Clothing speaks silently of our identity. With regard to craft and artisan processes, these are directly tied to tradition, to culture, to family and to people- without these crafts, societies and communities fall apart. This is something that we can do ethically and something we do need to preserve.
Where are we now?
First and foremost, we are a brand that champions timeless, versatile and conscious clothing. Initial designs are made by Mallika, before she goes to Pakistan where she further developed the patterns with her aunt, Maheen, who has been “an integral part of the brand”. We source the textiles which then tells the story of the collection and of the craftsmanship.
The first samples and final pieces are made in Maheen’s small factory in Karachi, with every element of each piece made in one place. This allows us to minimise our carbon footprint as much as possible when producing overseas. We should also point out that we keep order quantities to a minimum, stocking a maximum of five pieces per garment, in order to avoid waste. When we see that a product is popular we can make more. We try to keep the business as lean and agile as possible.
Where to next?
The events over the past nine months have made for a really confusing and strange time. The last thing you want to do during a global pandemic - in which lives are being lost and there is a general lack of stability - is to push fashion items. However times like these also makes for real contemplation and change.
It has made Mallika pause and think more about how she wants to proceed with the business going forward. “For example, we are pushing for a Made to Order model, in which we produce to demand. This requires the customer to wait two or three weeks - something which we, as a society, are not accustomed to anymore but we believe it creates a stronger connection to the product which hopefully will lead to a careful aftercare.
We also plan to showcase the work of other artisans in the Indus region and really promote the crafts and "forgotten jewels" of the region. We want to create an Indoi lifestyle. We have some really exciting collaborations in store. At the end of the day, it is all about the little steps." And of course, slowing down has made for more time with her two daughters outside of work.
Speaking about her career prior to Indoi, Mallika recognises the importance of her experiences in the fast fashion world - despite the negativity surrounding the industry. “I don't think that Indoi would have been born without the career I have behind me. It has informed every part of the brand from team building to design and development to marketing. Inditex was in fact a great school and learning curve. It has also taught me what not to do!”. We all have something to learn from the clothing industry, and we are so excited to see where such lessons take not only Indoi but also our supporters, followers and other brands with similar values.
Photography by Demelza Lightfoot