Karishma Gupta on restoring the planet, one stitch at a time
We caught up with MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation graduate and 2022 Financial Times Tech Champion Karishma Gupta who, since graduating from LCF, has gone on to found her own sustainable and circular fashion brand Satatland.
A cutting-edge womenswear brand, Satatland adopts a circular fashion model which aims to create fashion that restores the planet for you without the hassle of owning it. The idea is simple; based on how often you repeat your outfits, you can choose to rent it on a temporary basis or buy and keep a product for as long as you like. When you’re ready to move on from your outfit, you can return it for guaranteed store credit. Once the outfit is worn out, Satatland takes responsibility for recycling it.
This isn’t the only thing that makes Satatland stand out from the crowd, however, as Karishma, a Fashion Technologist for 10 years, very innovatively employs the use of computer-aided design and virtual stitching to reduce textile waste in the production process. Satatland translates to ‘sustainable land’, a utopia that Karishma will stop at nothing to achieve.
I know you have a very interesting story so far, so please tell us, what inspired Satatland?
In my 10 years as a fashion technologist, I have worked with textile and apparel manufacturers in the east and retailers in the west. I have seen with my own eyes the devastating effect producing way more clothes than we consume can have on our land and rivers. I have also worked with sustainable brands and found myself becoming disillusioned when I saw all those clothes still piling up in landfills.
The motivation behind starting Satatland was to create a fashion company that works for both the customers and the environment. Since the dawn of time fashion has been a constant part of our existence, each person on the planet expresses their individuality through what they choose to wear. Clothes touch 8 billion people everyday. And to serve these needs over 100 billion clothes are produced annually out of which 30% are never worn and less than 1% are recycled back into new clothing.
Each of these clothes comes from our natural resources and creates pollution, fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet. The way the industry currently operates has become a threat to our future, which, I have experienced first-hand. I grew up in Agra, India, I saw the river that runs behind the Taj Mahal has become lifeless due to years of toxic chemical and dye dumping. I have also seen a landfill as high as the Taj Mahal in New Delhi. I just grew tired of seeing it and set myself on the mission to solve fashion’s environmental problem, all while enabling women to continue to express themselves with what they wear (obviously, at a lower cost without compromising on quality).
Since Satatland’s inception, have there been any issues you have identified with the circular fashion model?
Launching Satatland was an evolution of my own personal values. In 2018 I completed my Master's from London College of Fashion in Fashion Entrepreneurship with a specialisation in circular fashion business models. But I couldn’t put the benefits of the circular economy into practice, as I was only looking at the rental or resale of already existing products. In my project, I found that rental and resale by themselves won’t make a dent in the destructive fashion industry.
I realised that ultimately, the crux of circularity isn't take-back or rental programs, but rethinking product & service conception from the ground up. In order to achieve true circularity, we are implementing infrastructure that allows us to create a credible upcycling stream instead of relying on other platforms. Therefore, we are going to market as a circular fashion brand and introduce our recyclable products that consumers can rent or buy as well as take-back incentives.
What you have achieved so far with Satatland is really exciting, what are your hopes and aims for the future?
With Satatland I aim to create a closed-loop system for fashion production and consumption. Which simply means: a system in which no waste is generated; everything is shared, repaired, reused, or recycled. We don’t need to further exploit our planet for more resources. This will be one big success for us as a circular fashion startup. Once we have created and excelled with this system, I want to help other brands in the industry make this transition.
Are there any other sustainable fashion brands you would love to work with in the future?
Yes, I’d love to work with Christopher Raeburn. I would also love to work with Nike and Adidas, I know they are not really sustainable brands, but they make great innovations within sportswear and an aim of mine is to help as many sustainable and non-sustainable fashion brands transition into circular.
You were named the Financial Times Retail Tech Champion in 2022. As a Fashion Technologist, what does it mean to you to receive awards like this?
Being named as Financial Times Retail Tech Champion 2022 as a fashion technologist is a significant achievement that brought validation and recognition to the hard work and dedication I have put into building a successful circular fashion business. It served as a morale boost for my team, mentors and advisors and attracted more attention and interest from investors, customers, and potential partners.
Winning this prestigious title also helped increase visibility and credibility in the industry, which opens up new opportunities for Satatland Circular Fashion. I also feel, winning this title can inspire and motivate other impact founders to pursue their dreams and strive for excellence in the circular economy field. I hope this can be a source of inspiration and proof of the concept that success is attainable through hard work, innovation, and perseverance.
LCF’s new building in Stratford due to open later this year has received high praise for its focus on environmental sustainability whilst also featuring top-class facilities for students to access. How much does the move to Stratford excite you in terms of the future of sustainable fashion?
LCF’s move to Stratford is very exciting. During my time, I had to move between Holborn and Oxford circus to visit the library, and different classes and find collaborators. It was truly a challenge.
A central hub where all students and teachers are under same building will open doors to new opportunities, collaborations and innovations is very crucial for the future of sustainable fashion as these upcoming pioneers will be in place and innovate together to make the planet’s second most polluting industry better for generations to come.
During your time with LCF, how did LCF and particularly the Graduate Futures department help with your career ambition?
During my time at LCF I had an incredible amount of support from the Graduate Futures team, especially Frances Odell. I think it used to be called the Student Enterprise team then. Frances was very encouraging and always gave me advice on how to take my startup forward. She connected me with various stakeholders with whom I could discuss my ideas and get advice. I remember being on hackathons and startup industry visits where I got introduced to co-working spaces, fundraising sessions and more. I feel the bigger support from the GF team was that they gave me the ability to dream.
What three tips would you give to LCF students and alumni who are looking to start their own sustainable fashion brand?
- Get your foot in the start-up ecosystem ASAP. Jump on accelerators or venture builders very early on and connect with as many stakeholders as you can.
- Don’t be scared of sharing your ideas and getting critical feedback from listeners.
- Dream big. If you want to make an impact on our planet you have to understand that you have to dream big with an even bigger ambition.