A TALK with ISHA PUNJA, Founder of HUT MENTALITY

Hut Mentality took wings on the soul of a restless college sophomore with a deep longing to find purpose. How else can life be led? What are the different ways in which humans find purpose? What is the common thread that binds us despite our differences?

These questions fueled a restless desire to travel to the remote corners of India, like the tribal villages in the Raan of Kutch where despite utter poverty, people delighted in painting their mud huts with artwork. They adorned themselves from head to toe in colorful, exquisitely embroidered clothes which they had painstakingly embroidered themselves. Every day looked like a festival! They reveled in creating.

Life is it’s own purpose. Simply expressing our innate creative potential may be our purpose. We are, after all, supposed to be made in the image of the creator. So, we must create!

Unfortunately, in the hundreds of years of colonial rule that India endured, Indian artisans and weavers were suppressed from pursuing their creativity. In the interest of bolstering their own profits, the British colonial rulers passed laws that essentially disempowered the weavers and artisans. They were forced to sell their products only to the British at prices their colonial masters set. This exploitation led to hordes of artisans and weavers suffering huge losses,  eventually being forced to give us their craft. Handloom industries were replaced by machines and mass production of textiles and fast fashion became the norm.    

The mission of Hut Mentality is to bring back the artisan and the art into textiles and fashion. After all, fashion is nothing, if not a form of creative expression. Their customers are women who are people lovers, not people pleasers. They are independent thinking, intelligent, educated  women who care about the world and choose to make an impact. They are the change makers, the thinkers, the ones who appreciate diversity, the ones who stand by their convictions, the ones you will admire, the ones you will remember, the one you will perhaps read about, the ones who are indelible.

Their clothes are handmade in small shops by tailors whose names we know and not in large factories by machines. Their textiles showcase a craft of weaving, dyeing, embroidering, or pattern making that has been passed down through generations of artisans. There may be slight imperfections in our clothes that is the beauty of the human imprint. Hut Mentality has limited quantities of products though they will try to replenish what is in demand if it can be procured. If not, they will provide another equally interesting piece.

So, if you like something, you best buy it, cause chances are… there’s not plenty more where that came from – https://www.hutmentality.com.

 

Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com
Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com

A TALK with ISHA PUNJA, Founder of HUT MENTALITY

33: Does your brand position itself as a SUSTAINABLE brand? 

Yes, we position ourselves as a sustainable brand. Sustainable fashion is a broad term that is used to describe fashion that created consciously to support an environmental and/or economic balance in the world. We create fashion from artisanal textiles, with the hope of creating greater demand for these textile arts which will sustain both the artisan communities, and their arts. To us, their art is not just art, it is a tradition that has been passed down through centuries. Additionally, our fabrics are often crafted by hand or in handlooms that use little or no electricity, and therefore leave a low carbon footprint. 

 

Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com
Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com

 

33: How the brand was born and how many people are involved in the team now?

The team that leads Hut Mentality is comprised of three people. I primarily monitor our brand identity, vision, publicity, and advertising. Next, my mother handles the operations and production. And we have a head of business development, Manasa Kothapalli, who looks for new opportunities of growth in terms of sales and profit, as well as brand recognition.  

 

Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com
Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com

 

33: How do you want to achieve the long-lasting concept for your brand? 

I interpret the long-lasting concept for my brand as how I aim to keep my brand alive in the long run. This means creating an impact that stretches further than passing trends and fads. In terms of design, I really try to create silhouettes that are lasting and timeless. We also believe that having timeless silhouettes helps the environment, because people rarely dispose of timeless pieces. In terms of branding, this means creating a brand identity and philosophy that digs deeper than fashion – one that conveys deeper values which are rooted self-fulfillment and self-actualization. I want to achieve long lasting success for my brand by being true to the brand identity and philosophy. I think we have something of substance and value, and if we stick to it, the brand will remain successful in the long run. 

33: How do you determine what is durable design?

When I design, I think about what my mother might’ve worn thirty years ago, and ask myself would I wear it today? Would others wear it today? If so, that is a timeless design. I think the hallmark of durable design is one that transcends time and trend. 

 

Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com
Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com

 

33: What happens to that part of a production that does not get sold?

Unsold inventory is used in creative ways. Some of it is repurposed, as some of our pieces have beautiful embroidery of artisan work, which we recreate into new pieces. Other pieces are sold at artisan flea markets at lower prices, to help a particular cause. The funds often go to support a cause that we believe in. We also sometimes send our unsold pieces to photographers and content creators who use these pieces for styling in shoots. 

33: How far do you go in terms of sustainability? 

Presently, we source our fabrics from artisans directly, rural markets where artisans sell their textiles, or small manufacturers who have workshops where artisans create the textiles. We go to great lengths to ensure that the places we source our textiles from provide us with authentic textile art. Sometimes, the fabric is only available as fabric patches or borders, as in the case of tribal embroidery. In these cases, we incorporate these pieces into non-artisanal fabrics such as cotton, silk or wool to create a wearable piece. Our brand hopes to showcase the beauty of the artisanal work through the piece to revive these artisanal communities by sustaining their craft. We hope to reinvest the profits of our brand in building indigenous artisan communities that have been left behind in the wake of globalization. 

 

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Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com

 

33: Where could you serve as a role model for others?

This being a brand that started in a college dorm room, a lot of young people have seen us transition from a very amateur startup, to debuting our collection on an elite platform such as New York Fashion Week. By observing us, a lot of young people have told us that we have inspired them to pursue their passions, and that makes us truly happy. As a person coming from a background that is not in fashion, I would also like to tell others that you do not contain yourself in a box – boxes do not define us. You may be working in one field, while pursuing something else creatively on the side which may end up becoming your main occupation someday. By daring to create fashion that is actually quite unconventional to the mainstream eye, I think that we are a role model for others to break the mold. I want Hut Mentality to inspire people to do the things that don’t necessarily follow convention and expectation. Through our brand, I would hope for others to hopefully understand that each one of us has the freedom to be radically different.

 

Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com
Photo: Steven Lee https://www.stevenoclock.com

 

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