saris With a little bit of help from Jane Birkin, the basket bag has become a sign of summer; one that conjures the Cote d’Azur, sunshine, and freedom. Many brands have given this classic their own spin; Sofia Mehrotra ups the ante with hers. Hand-woven of cane, each of her bucket bags is sustainable and one-of-a-kind.
The 27-year-old designer, who is Indian and Swedish, launched her line in 2017 after graduating from London College of Fashion where she studied fashion management. Mehrotra was skilled with a needle long before receiving her degree, though, having been taught to sew by her grandmother. “For me, being sustainable was a must when entering the fashion industry,” said the designer on a recent call. Her aim is two-fold: “We always want to connect our products to a story and a reason to be.”
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All of Mehrotra’s designs are made of natural and upcycled materials in India where she works in partnership with GreenKarma, a sourcing and production company focused on working with certified and conscious companies. The use of upcycled sari silks has become something of a brand signature. These fabrics are used to line her bags, as well as for a range of scarves both small and large. Smashing indeed is a 31 x 31 inch (80 x 80 cm) beach sari of cotton edged with upcycled sari silk.
“I’ve always had the Indian culture within my upbringing,” says Mehrotra, who has had great success with one of her earliest pieces, the sari-fabric Damyanti pouches that are named for her grandmother. “The strongest memory I have of her is when she moved from India to Sweden, she always wore her sari to special occasions and that made her stand out in the room in an incredible way. What I wanted to bring to the customer was this feeling of standing out in the room with a small accessory.”
This approach to accessory design—using small touches of colour to great effect—builds on the designer’s personal style, and can also be seen as a bridge between the two contrasting cultures that inform Mehrotra’s work: those of India and Sweden. She equates the former with vibrancy and warmth, and the latter with minimalism and attention to detail. That doesn’t mean Scandi style is cold, she says; “it’s rather subtle, [and] more a classic approach to a basic wardrobe.”
In a post-COVID world, it’s unclear when the next opportunity to dress up might present itself, but a patterned pouch or a basket bag are easy ways to access the dream of summer getaways. And there is no need to feel guilty, either. Mehrotra focused on accessories because they tie into her commitment to sustainability. Not only do scarves and bags have long shelf lives, they’re “perfect add-ons to an already existing outfit.” Think of them as the sartorial cherry on top.