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The Summer House: Ethically-made Fashion

Hello CICLO readers!

This is Melisa writing to you today about a recent contact we received from a brand based in India called, The Summer House. Swathi, who is an employee at The Summer House, mentioned that they had seen CICLO’s work to introduce several sustainable fashion brands and wanted to see if we could also support their business and cause to our audience in Japan. Once I took look at their website and their products, I was convinced that this company was doing things right and was happy to help spread the word about them here in Japan. Today, I would like to introduce more about The Summer House so keep reading to find out more!

The Summer House- “Pure is Beautiful”

The Abeer dress at The Summer House

This brand reminded me a lot of Motherhouse, who is also another ethically-based company in Bangladesh, with a basis to run a business giving fair wages to their workers and utilizing locally-sourced materials. However, I think The Summer House takes it a step further by utilizing raw materials that are environmental-friendly such as tencel (cellulose-based fiber from wood) and econyl (regenerated nylon from plastic waste) and organic cotton, all sustainably made. Not only that, but their style is very chic yet simple and clean (like something you may see at Muji but with a more classy feeling) and I think that this style really suits a Japanese-based audience. I had the pleasure to learn more about this small company from Swathi by asking her a few questions about The Summer House listed below.

Q1. Would you be able to give us a bit more detailed information about your brand?

The Summer House is a small and honest company based out of Bangalore, India. We design and handcraft clothing and homewares for the cerebral chic woman across the globe. At The Summer House, we have made a choice to question every process and ask if we can do it better. We have made a choice to say no to the easy way of sourcing materials. All our fabrics come from an environment that does not abuse the earth. All our clothing is made in our own production studio. Each edit we produce has a story and heart and uses responsible processes and old fashioned techniques to create products that will outlast the seasons. We design and manufacture in small batches, keeping in mind ethical production, quality and affordability. We have made a choice to be inclusive, fair and responsible. At The Summer House, we believe Pure is Beautiful.

Q2. Who founded The Summer House? When and why was it established?

The Summer House founders, Shivangini (left) and Rekha (right)

The Summer House was founded by Rekha Datla and Shivangini Padhiyar in 2005. One of our founders, Shivangini talks about the establishment of her brand, “When you move from a smaller town to a big city and life becomes a blur of activities, you start missing the simplicity and celebration, awareness actually, of everyday life. We say this often but it’s true, and The Summer House was born from nostalgia. It was when we missed the purity in our food and the comfort in our clothes and the sturdiness in the wares we bought is when we started noticing that there are more people like us who crave for these little joys of simplicity and  functionality. I had already quit advertising to fulfil the dream to start a brand that believed in design that was beautiful, functional and sustainable (or at least give it a shot) and had been travelling across the country for over a year with my then 9-month old daughter, spending time with craftsmen and studying responsible techniques that can be used to make wares for the modern woman and her home. By pure chance, Rekha and I met in 2014 for a completely unrelated project. But as they say, some things are meant to be. We instantly trusted each other and became partners in work. For us The Summer House is both, a memory of how things were and a plan for how we want life to be.”

Q3. Can you talk a bit about your production process and why your products are considered sustainable?

The Rosalind dress at The Summer House

Our production process works in two ways: either we have the designs and we figure out what kind of fabrics would bring these designs to life or we find a craft cluster that really fascinates us and then design garments based on the fall and flow of that handcrafted fabric. This is the starting point. All our fibers are either locally-grown, organic or in rare cases we use leftover fabrics from larger company factories. We are also working with new age fibers like econyl, orange fibers and even tencel. Once the fiber is ready, it undergoes dyeing for which we use a set up that utilizes a wastewater management facility and we use only azo-free dyes. After this, the fiber is woven and then delivered to us. All of our garments in made in our own production studio. Our team is paid above industry standards. We have one dedicated member who makes the entire garment. We ship all orders in a sustainable packaging bag and send them to the customer.

With regard to why we call our products sustainable – there are three things to sustainability: impact on the earth, on the people making it and the people wearing it. For the earth, we’re making sure all our fibers are clean, have minimal carbon footprint, our dyeing processes are as eco-friendly as possible, garments are getting made in our studio where energy is not wasted and by using natural light. People who make it are respected and well paid; it’s not a sweatshop. And the people wearing it get a good quality garment that they can wear for a long period of time that doesn’t need dry cleaning. All of our clothes can very easily be hand-washed or machine-washed. So in all three aspects, pre-production, production and post-production, we make sure to take steps to reduce the impact on all parties involved.

Q4. Could you share a couple of your most popular items?

Rosalind is an in-house favourite. We’re great lovers of words, literature and Shakespeare. The entire collection of which Rosalind was a part of was called “The Bard’s Lover” and what we did was imagine the clothing that Shakespeare’s characters would wear in a modern age. We wanted to incorporate his most famous lines and hence, the print on the dress reads, “Oh Romeo, My Romeo”. We got it block printed by hand on handwoven chanderi fabric which is a mix of silk and cotton thread. It has the sheen of silk and the comfort of cotton. It flows beautifully, it’s translucent and very pretty. When we were designing the silhouette, we wanted it to be flattering on all body types. While it is still a statement dress that you can wear to cocktails, parties and even casual weddings, you are still able to feel extremely comfortable because it is eventually a Summer House garment.

The Abeer dress is something we must talk about. It is our biggest best-seller, a fantastic statement dress at a great price point. It’s made from soft cotton and flows beautifully. You can pair it with your keds and just go around for a brunch with your friends or pair it with fancy heels and chunky jewelry and wear it to a party. It’s very versatile and that’s why it’s an extremely popular item.

The last garment we’d like to introduce you to is the River shirt. It’s made from zero-dye cotton that is hand-spun and hand-woven. So there’s no machinery involved to make the fiber or the fabric. What you see is the natural color of cotton and it feels beautiful on the skin. Again, the silhouette is such that it can be worn casually or dressed up. You can wear it everyday of the week and feel like you’re wearing something fabulous.

Learn more about The Summer House

That’s it for today’s post! I hope you enjoyed learning about this wonderful brand based in India. Please check out their website and Instagram link to learn more about their collection of sustainable fashion items!


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