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The idea of Beauty isn’t superficial, it is deep rooted. In the common use of the word, beauty expresses externality. It is associated with consumption - we covet what we find beautiful. But here, we talk about a quest for a more deep rooted beauty, one that doesn’t make us feel inadequate, but instead makes us feel alive, be less self centered and celebrate the beautiful.
What an action-packed year 2021 has been so far. We're not even halfway through but we've already been treated to a presidential circus, farmer protests, racially-charged murder trials, border skirmishes, military coups and pro-democratic movements. Nothing, however, continues to shock development and infiltrate the macro market like the coronavirus. But almost a year to the day the pandemic was made official by the WHO, the world has now been offered enough time to slow down and catch its breath; this ubiquitous chain has not debilitated prevalent structures but instead deeply exposed already broken systems. Because of the combination of an inefficient health system, unsatisfactory institutional response and careless public attitude, India is witnessing, and struggling to cope with, the full resurgence of the global pandemic at a time when other badly-affected countries are looking to ease restrictions. One industry all set for an accelerated cyclical shakeup is the fashion pyramid. Some of the major areas of disruption have also been cited in "The State of Fashion 2021" - developed by McKinsey & Company in collaboration with the Business of Fashion. These findings are an effort to recognize certain trends that were in motion prior to the shakeup and advance the discussion beyond crisis management and immediate contingency planning to a distinctly outlined restructuring roadmap. "... the world has now been offered enough time to slow down and catch its breath; this ubiquitous chain has not debilitated prevalent structures but instead deeply exposed already broken systems." Image courtesy - Fast Company and Quartz 1. Profitability According to reports, the industry suffered its worst year on record with almost three quarters of listed companies losing money and most recording a decline in profits. The whole profitability conundrum has to be rethought; more products and more collections no longer necessitate higher profits. Organizations need to reduce complexity and increase flexibility and responsiveness. They need to find ways to increase sales at full price and reduce inventory. This kind of strategy will entail reshaping business models, streamlining operations and sharpening customer propositions. Less is more. 2. Digitization The primary driver of growth will continue to be online and it will accelerate as customers remain reluctant to gather in crowded spaces. The biggest impact will be felt by physical stores so most have already bit the bullet and leverage data and analytics through curated offerings, footfall predictions, inventory management and smart stores; flagships will soon primarily serve as discovery zones. Sophisticated customer-side digital adoption will also see human touch seamlessly integrated in social media shopping, AI-driven chatbots and targeted advertising for optimal experience. Digital is king. 3. Changing Consumer Behaviour Consumer behaviour shifted as supply chains were disrupted but they continue to, more vehemently, advocate for fairness and social justice. The situation has brought underpaid workers and vulnerable employees to the fore of catwalk culture; consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their plight and hence promote brands that champion the respect, safety and dignity of their people and campaigns that combat the exploitation of labor. There is also a growing ethical obligation for the big names to end midseason fashion collections and reduce the number of shows every year. The customer is always right. 4. Sustainability is magnified The importance of sustainability through the value chain has only been magnified. Investors are increasingly rewarding companies that treat the environment with respect, and the deeper relationships that emerge have improved agility and accountability. Businesses are starting to prioritize a new "green line" that factors in the concept of circularity between the traditional top and bottom line. Exhausting resources before regeneration has become the mandate. The three step process to maximize sustainability clout - design for zero waste, manage waste with reverse logistics and create a waste experience. Doing good equals doing better. 5. Marketplaces are booming The marketplace boom is no surprise. The influence of platform propositions and surge in organic traffic is escalating with renewed appetite among both brands and consumers for fixated, local engagement. Clever positioning and omnichannel perspective has systemically helped such sellers navigate supply-side backlash especially in the textile and apparel sector. Sleek and focussed offerings that combine the best of human and automated services are setting up truly bionic experiences. Allocating media spend across key channels and optimizing ad types will be key differentiators in this space. Personal touch needs universal priority. Image courtesy - McKinsey & Company The fashion industry will never be the same; the vogue beast entered and will exit the pandemic in very different forms. The catalytic nature of COVID-19 has presented every player with the opportunity to reshape the intrinsic value chain and reassess every measure of action. Business owners, brands, suppliers, logistics partners, real estate associates and other contractors will feel the social responsibility to share useful data, strategy and sentiment in a collective attempt to restore normalcy. Big names such as Nike, H&M, Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Chanel are already pitching in with relief efforts. We're all in this together. The eruption continues to reverberate throughout commerce and the tremors prove that it simply was not built for agility. But it has also simultaneously divulged clear guidelines - guidelines that balance and maximise spotlight on the triple bottom line - People, Profits and Planet. In such a distorted environment, though, decision makers need to act boldly. Amidst increasing pressure on performance, evolving consumer behavior and accelerating demand for digital, they must develop novel strategies that focus on value, simplicity and scaled-down collections, rather than the traditional ways of discounting and volume business. There need to be clear lines of communication with employees as well as transparent practices on display to customers; these are vital steps towards a more sustainable future. Uncertainty looms as more high-profile cases of insolvency, store closures and furloughs hit the news and waves of further outbreaks hit the metaphorical shore. It was never gone but it feels like it's here again. And it's here with a vengeance. Tough days undoubtedly lie ahead so future-proofing has to be square one. Times of change are also inherently rich with opportunity so doubling down on the aforementioned silver linings, aligning with key trends and adapting to an evolving landscape is the name of the game. There is hope in the post-pandemic world; lockdowns, vaccinations and, of course, competent action can secure a definitively stronger, leaner and prosperous operation in the new normal. "Times of change are also inherently rich with opportunity so doubling down on silver linings, aligning with key trends and adapting to an evolving landscape is the name of the game."
The issue of environment and climate change is amorphous, difficult to understand, too complex to fix and frustrating for people to consider all the time. The United Nations describes climate change as "one of the most pervasive and threatening issues of our time", but the broader public have grown frustrated with the inability to understand the nuances of the issue, the inability to individually do anything concrete to solve it and the seeming lack of progress made by elected politicians to implement better laws. One of the challenges with communicating climate change is that it occurs at such a slow pace that it is often very difficult to "see". Data about climate change must be compared across centuries to see evidence clearly and intelligibly. Politicians and decision makers therefore have a myopic view and are too distracted by self/party interests to make decisions holistically. "Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee - I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!" — Donald Trump, Dec. 6, 2013 One of the challenges with communicating climate change is that it occurs at such a slow pace that it is often very difficult to "see". This frustration has caused a myriad of contemporary artists who have found their voice promoting positive environmental causes to the wider public through provocative and engaging work. The creative sector is playing an increasingly significant role in raising awareness and leading discussions about climate change and encouraging sustainable social, economic and environmental practices worldwide. By occupying galleries, event venues, social media and public spaces, these artists have become important voices of change. Some prominent voices in this category are: By occupying galleries, event venues, social media and public spaces, these artists have become important voices of change. Olafur Elliason - Ice Watch, 2014 Elliason literally transported 12 large blocks of ice that melted off the Greenland ice sheet and arranged them in a circle or a clock formation in prominent public spaces, to present very tangibly and dramatically the effects of climate change and melting ice. The images below communicate just how powerful it was to make people feel, react and begin to ask important questions about this phenomenon. Edward Burtynsky - Salt Pans Burtynsky travels around the world to photograph how nature is affected by industry and vice versa. His photographs are rich in colour, texture and serve as metaphors to the dilemma of modern existence. The images below are taken from 800 ft above the Little Rann of Kutch, a region that is home to at least 1lakh salt workers. They extract around a million tons of salt from the floodwaters of the Arabian Sea each year; salt has been the main industry in this region for centuries. However receding ground water and changing markets is making this way of life obsolete. Burtynsky photographs this unusual landscape to beautifully capture the delicate balance between natural and human processes. Tree - VR Experience This virtual-reality project transforms you into a rainforest tree. With your arms as branches and your body as the trunk, you'll experience the tree's growth from a seedling into its fullest form and witness its fate firsthand. It would have been wild to be there at the live event, but for now, you can watch the videos on their website. You, the reader, is surely aware that forests are critical to the survival of every living thing on earth. They're our source of air, water, shelter and medicine. Forests are also our best defense against climate change. The Rainforest Alliance often partners with artists to spread this word. Follow their instagram to see the brilliant work they do. There are several artists with noteworthy work in this area - in India and beyond. We have gathered some of their work on our Instagram page. Related Links: World Science Festival - Amazing Art Makes Climate Change Conceivable Luxiders - The Role of Art in Climate Change UX Collective - 8 Principles for Impactful Visual Communication of Climate Change
Mined diamonds have the obvious pitfalls associated with unethical labor practices and environmental devastation. Inequality, instability and conflict have all been cited as consequences of this natural treasure instead of steady resource-based development. These traditionally sourced diamonds have assumed the position of a metaphorical punching bag and endure the sole responsibility for everything that is wrong with the industry; any advancements in traceability, sustainability and socio-economic empowerment are often overlooked because of this crisis of reputation. It's no surprise that the conscious shift in consumer culture has finally made its way to the financially driven and emotionally significant world of diamonds. Lab-grown, carbon-neutral and even carbon-negative alternatives are now being developed with the same physical, chemical and optical characteristics as their natural counterparts. But with all the benefits of technological advancements dominating marketing material, it is important to first remember the intrinsic value that new-age mining practices bring to the table: Inequality, instability and conflict have all been cited as consequences of this natural treasure instead of steady resource-based development. Mined diamonds in Africa Let's take Botswana for example, corporate mammoths like De Beers have been the primary reason for the country's recent uptick in fortune; they have gone from the third poorest country in Africa to one of the most successful mid-sized economies after their independence. One of the main reasons - more than three quarters of their mineral revenue is routed back to a central Government fund that targets the overall development of the country. This development entails leveraging current progress to move towards renewable energy sources and setting up carbon-neutral mines. Most mining happens in remote areas so working with the local communities and sharing the benefits with those on the ground becomes imperative. Many companies are now actively involving themselves in programs like funding community gardens that provide essential food, building health facilities and schools, developing cultural tourism and even operating recreational facilities to protect the land and endangered species. The partnership between the Government and foreign direct investment involves a third stakeholder - the people of Botswana - and thats why this blueprint of vigilance, integrity and excellence can be leveraged by other mining-dependent countries moving forward. Artisanal and small-scale mining done in unsafe conditions by non-unionised workers, however, continue to pose a huge problem to human rights and the environment. A lack of rights, tools, training and safety equipment compounded with destruction of ecosystems are issues that the following diamonds hope to solve: Canadian Diamonds Diamonds weren't discovered in Canada until the 1990s but they have since emerged as a source for high quality minerals that are often completely traceable to their source with a unique identification number. These new age diamonds have conflict-free origins, fully respect every step of the value chain and are mined in line with the country's strict environmental and fair labor laws. Recycled Diamonds Because diamonds, like Catbird Diamonds, can be removed from their original setting and expertly re-cut, re-polished and even re-certified to be repurposed for another piece of jewellery, the recycled route is one that is proving to be increasingly popular. They are the hardest naturally occurring substance and hence avoid traces of wear. These new age diamonds have conflict-free origins, fully respect every step of the value chain and are mined in line with the country's strict environmental and fair labor laws. Lab-Grown Diamonds One intriguing option that side-steps the issues associated with lax labor laws are lab-grown diamonds. These man-made, synthetic replicas of natural diamonds, like Anantaa Diamonds, are created using extreme pressure and heat inside a machine without any risk to miners or the environment and are easier on the pockets. Carbon neutral diamonds do not necessarily stem climate change but entail significantly less travel and energy usage. Modern fine jewellery companies, like Aether Diamonds for example, however, combine clean energy, proprietary technology and a carbon-negative process to alchemize diamonds literally from the carbon found in air. The only way to do good and also earn customer trust is by demonstrating open and transparent stewardship at every stage of the diamond making process. Today's consumers want to know more. They want to know the what, when, where and why of every diamond to make them feel confident about one of the most important decisions of their life. Ultimately though they are at the mercy of a marketing war - with the mined side backing campaigns like "Real is Rare" to promote values of authenticity, uniqueness and exclusivity and emphasize the scale of job creation and the laboratory-backed opposition reiterating the contentious need to reevaluate and restructure the fundamental ideologies of the institution. There are several initiatives like the Diamond Development Initiative and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, however, that are looking to improve access to information, establish fair prices, formalize the industry and connect the future of mining with next generation societal and ethical values. The aim is for everyone involved to comprehend their environmental impact, reduce it, and protect the sector as a whole. Will these cumulative efforts be enough to re-establish diamonds as a girl's best friend? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure though - actually buying a diamond will boil down to which company, country or consequence most aligns with your personal ideals. There is no categorical best or worst. To help you get started these Indian brands have made significant strides in the recycled, lab-grown and carbon-neutral diamonds space over the past few years. From refined statement pieces to everyday minimalism, we have a lovely collection of eco jewellery in our shop and we hope to add homegrown diamonds to the mix very soon. The aim is for everyone involved to comprehend their environmental impact, reduce it, and protect the sector as a whole.
TedxCubbonPark’s Countdown Initiative in collaboration with Bare Necessities this month was just the pick-me-up we all needed during these uncertain times. By curating an amazing lineup of experts from specific niches of energy, food, art and design, they were able to spark a dialogue around the all-encompassing concept of sustainability. More specifically - they were able to deep dive into different entry points, personal connections to the cause and just ensuring everyone does their bit. We are so glad that we were able to virtually attend but we made a trip down to the park anyway to get the complete experience. Here's what we learned: ADITI MAYER - Diving deeper than consumption The tragedy of Rana Plaza exposed the politics of labour, colonial patterns of exploitation and the true environmental impact of fashion. The toll on human lives was the manifestation of a system that predicated on low costs, quick production and malicious practices. The larger fashion narrative has since changed course. The new sustainability roadmap necessitates reducing consumption, addressing wealth inequality, improving accessibility, propagating symbiotic relationships with people and nature, re-orienting metrics of success beyond linear monetary growth and exploring models rooted in circularity. Sustainability has been rebranded, recontextualised and reintroduced as a consumer act but it's important to look beyond the narrow purview of consumption. The ethical onus cannot fall entirely on unlearning; the entire industry must instead be held accountable for normalising cannibalistic practices. Long-overdue changes like localised textile production, ethical supply chains and fair labour systems, however, demand an intersectional approach to race, gender and class. The journey to align ourselves with ancestral roots and decolonize the industry begins at home. From buying local and banning plastic to encouraging hand-me-downs and mending clothes - sustainability needs to be a lifestyle and cultural standard, not just a consumptive preference. Instagram: @aditimayer MANSOOR GOUS - Vocal for local initiatives Waste entrepreneurs like Mansoor 'Bhai' are now eligible for loans and hence better livelihoods. Hasiru Dala - a social enterprise that works with marginalised waste pickers - provides Mansoor and his team of 12 with identity cards for such official purposes and they in turn provide the organisation with over 200 tonnes and 35 categories of ready recyclable material that would have otherwise been discarded to landfills. If waste generation cannot be avoided, waste segregation is the next best alternative. Mansoor has channeled his humble background, unparalleled work ethic and 15+ years of experience to found a recycling association that provides relevant data to the government and helps them better understand the impact of waste and plight of workers. His achievements have seen him invited to the Paris United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCC) but snubbed by the BBMP despite the direct benefit to their organisation. The waste pickers unfortunately continue to only earn from what they sell and not from the collection itself. Visit your local collection centre to get a better understanding of dry waste management. The solutions to global environmental issues, including climate change, already exist; we just need to be more proactive as a community and identify and support these great initiatives. Instagram: @mansoorgous ADITI VEENA - Music as a tool for change Musicians such as Aditi "Ditty" Veena are spearheading the music-for-change initiative with folk-tinged songs that reflect an organic and earthy quality. She is a true wildchild and grew up outdoors; 'Daddy's Little Girl' and 'Earth' are a few of her songs rooted in personal struggle and despair about the plight of our planet. Using music as a tool for change is activism in its purest form. We aren't separate from nature; we are one. The boundaries we have created with other living beings are unfounded. Our actions are causing severe disturbances to the natural ecosystem and we are in danger of losing several precious resources forever. We aren't separate from nature; we are one. The boundaries we have created with other living beings are unfounded. Instagram: @heyyditty NIRUPA RAO - Finding solace in a changing landscape Changes to Bangalore's natural landscape in the recent past have been blindly accepted as the inevitable consequence of development. From 70% vegetative cover a few decades ago to just over 10% today, 'The Garden City' has had an industrial makeover to say the least. Cubbon Park's 300 acres of pure greenery in the heart of the city and the beautiful peaks of the Western Ghats have, however, stood the test of time and served as inspiration for botanical illustration - the practice of painting plants or trees using water colours in an aesthetically pleasing and scientifically accurate manner - for Nirupa Rao and many others. Because of the long life cycles of most trees, Nirupa's paintings of the 30 most fantastical indigenous species in the Ghats took over 2 years and had to be done in close collaboration with expert ecologists Divya and Sridhar. Illustrations like myristica swamp, elephant yam and sundews have become her means of self-learning and rediscovering her childhood. Funding from a National Geographic grant has helped her tell plant stories and help others understand their value. These stories reaffirm the importance and hidden beauty of our local biodiversity. Instagram: @niruparao PRANOY THIPAIAH - a day in the life of a producer Producers like Pranoy Thipaiah are incorporating modern farming techniques to build transparent farm to table communities and elevate undervalued local produce to hero ingredients at some of the top kitchens in the country. For him, speciality coffee, rugby-sized avocados and pungent pomelos have been the standout. What's even more interesting is seeing such producers dive deeper into the natural ecosystem and a less-consumer facing world. Pranoy, for example, propagates three F's that exist within the Kerehaklu boundaries - the rich Flora, robust Fauna and rare Fungi. Every species, however, is tied together by their adaptation to the microclimatic conditions of Chikmagalur. The overarching plantation is also subject to an abundance of fallen wood so every unit out of the workshop furthers a search for meaning in design. Successfully bridging the gap between producers and consumers and plugging holes across agricultural value chains have proven that it is possible to coexist with local biodiversity. This progressive movement has also subsequently re-emphasised the innate value of a fully-functional ecosystem and communicating every story. Successfully bridging the gap between producers and consumers and plugging holes across agricultural value chains have proven that it is possible to coexist with local biodiversity. Instagram: @kerehaklu Conclusion The way we produce, consume and dispose needs to be re-contextualised - this much is clear. Sustainability is a constant learning process and these pathbreakers are paving the way with their respective takes on climate change. The underlying message was to champion authenticity while being the change that we want to see. With the year coming to an end, RO is going full circle - we are re-tracing our sustainable roots and re-defining what that means in the current climate. We’re working on creating a code that de-glamourises sustainability and negates the inflexion of buzzwords. The onus of being responsible and mindful is not just on the consumer and we want our platform to reflect that.
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