Sustainable fashion often comes from travelling and making conscious choices in life. Sujata and Taniya Biswas, founders of SUTA, set one such example. Their travels have inspired their brand, and their journeys continue to make their approach towards mindful fashion sustainable. By Anushka Goel
T+L India: How has travel fuelled your creativity as fashion entrepreneurs?
Sujata and Taniya: Our inspirations come from things as simple as the shapes of clouds and the shades of sunsets, to the moments we spend with our loved ones, childhood dreams, et cetera. But one of the most important threads in our inspiration is travel! We end up experiencing the most magical moments and beautiful trips down memory lane when we travel.
We carry a notebook when we travel. At times, we end up having our most serious business discussions on trips that were meant to unwind, and make strategic decisions in the most unexpected places. Overall, the process of travelling is exciting, inspiring, and brings hope of new possibilities in our hearts.
T+L India: A lot of your product shoots are done outdoors. How do you zero down on shoot locations?
Sujata and Taniya: Whether we choose an outdoor location or indoors, our shoots focus on nature. We feel a frame comes alive with simple things such as bright natural light and greenery. We also love backdrops that have character. It could be an old gate, the middle of the street, or a beautiful door; backgrounds that tell a story are our favourites! We keep the aesthetics minimal and let the backdrops speak. We love places that get accentuated with sunlight.
T+L India: How did SUTA come into being?
Sujata and Taniya: SUTA is the coming together of both our passions. We did our respective Engineering and MBAs from reputed institutes and were working in corporate jobs. However, despite promotions and growth, there was something missing. We felt an unshakable urge to work towards bringing systemic positive impact through our work. We also wanted to build an organisation that brought together a non-judgemental, mutually empowering, supportive community of people through products and stories.
Meanwhile, whenever we went back to our hometown in West Bengal, we’d come across traditional weavers we used to chat with, and they would talk to us about lack of work and menial wages. Their amazing skills stunned us and we realised this was our calling. We quit our corporate jobs and leaped into a sector we had no formal education in. With me [Sujata] being inclined towards the business and financial side—and Taniya being the creative, artistic, innovative person—we brought our strengths together for our common vision of empowering weavers and craftsmen, and building a happy place for our customer community. That’s how SUTA was born!
T+L India: A city that has inspired SUTA’s ethos?
Sujata and Taniya: A lot of places inspire us. But, the biggest influence of our ethos is the vibe of Mumbai! We’ve observed so much about Mumbai. It truly never sleeps and has such a hardworking vibe, yet it has this beautiful vibe of enjoying life to its fullest. So, in all these ways and more, Mumbai reflects our ethos.
T+L India: Between the two of you, who likes impromptu trips?
Sujata and Taniya: It is definitely me [Taniya]. I plan meticulously for trips—right from research, reading about the local culture to planning the itinerary. Sujata is ever ready to just pack her bags and get going! She can get travel-ready in a jiffy and is the impromptu queen.
T+L India: Can you recall your most favourite childhood holiday?
Sujata and Taniya: We travelled a lot in our childhood, thanks to our father’s transferrable job. We were big fans of train journeys. Our favourite holiday was visiting our paternal grandmother in West Bengal. We’d climb the many trees around the house and play make-believe games. We would run around the freshly washed sarees that my grandmother would dry on a clothesline tied between two trees. The fragrance of that still tugs at our hearts. Although we used to visit from time to time, these visits are collectively our favourite vacations.
T+L India: Cut to the present day, where did you take your children for their first holidays?
Sujata and Taniya: We grew up making travel a part of our lives forever. So, the kids have been travelling with us as soon as it was safe for them. Kabir [Taniya’s son] was born during the lockdown and his first vacation was our yearly ritual in February to Mahabaleshwar. Ram’s [Sujata’s son] first big vacation was to Thailand, which happens to be our favourite destination.
T+L India: If you could work from anywhere, where would you like to set up your home office?
Sujata and Taniya: Thailand! It is one of those places where the vibes feel like ‘us’. It was also our first international vacation. We love the welcoming locals, the food, their massages, and of course, the beaches. It’s also a very inspiring place to be in. We feel it has a high-energy environment. It actually motivated us to work hard when we visited! The trip was not supposed to be about work, but we had the most strategic work discussions there on the beach. So, we imagine working from Thailand would be great.
T+L India: Working from a beach or hills?
Sujata and Taniya: Definitely the beach! It reminds us to be limitless; it inspires our imagination in so many ways.
T+L India: How do you incorporate tenets of sustainability into your brand?
Sujata and Taniya: We see sustainability as the outcome of an evolving process, a value that our brand reflects. We believe in mindful fashion. We don’t follow trends. We have longevity and timelessness of apparel in mind in every collection. In sarees, sustainability is inherently a part of its making. They’re also a sustainable choice for conscious consumers ‘s they are versatile fabrics that can work through changing seasons, bodies, styles and occasions.
Sustainability is a big part of communication and conversations with our SUTA community. We minimise plastic by reusing plastic bags internally for shipments. When our bags are damaged, we send them for recycling. We constantly analyse the waste we generate and re-organise to optimise our way of operation.
SUTA Earth is an up-cycling initiative of ours, rooted in the idea of circularity. We accept to-be-discarded sarees and make goodies out of them, while also making it financially worthy for people who send us their sarees.
T+L India: Similarly, how do you ensure to be a sustainable traveller?
Sujata and Taniya: Some of the things we ensure to make our trips waste-free and mindful are:
- We carry our sustainable kit—metal straw, handkerchiefs, loofah, needle and thread, buttons, scissors
- We optimise our itinerary to save unnecessary commuting
- We avoid AC Hotels, stay with locals, eat local produce, shop local
- We walk or cycle, or use public transport whenever possible
- We refill water in our bottles and pack food in our own lunch box
- We travel light (repeat clothes)
T+L India: Five things you cannot travel without.
Sujata and Taniya: Our top five travel must-haves are:
- Water bottles (to refill wherever we go)
- Lunch box (to use as takeaway boxes)
T+L India: Favourite holiday outfit.
Sujata: Any day turns special and any look becomes stunning with a saree! So, sarees all the way for me.
Taniya: Comfort and convenience is my priority, especially now that I’m with a toddler. So, I am not choosy, anything comfortable works. Just one condition – I need a million pockets!