A strange uneasiness in the stomach,
I question, if I worked hard enough?
Wonder how my clock ran out of hours,
How to earn a guilt-free sleep today?
Producing more, consuming more,
How else to satiate the weary soul?
Obataimu is a subversive creative movement to slow down time. Creating a sustainable society, shifting away from the era of mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal to make our life in the new century more human, more natural, and more simple.
Locked in the creative space of Obataimu, we experienced environmental meditation. We slowed down our thoughts, embraced the creative gods at the door steps and urged peace, be still.
1. What inspired you to create Obataimu?
Behind Obataimu is a story of iteration, it has built slowly to take the form that we see now : two collections — one androgynous, one an experiment on the female body — a bookstore, an open atelier that explores tailoring techniques (sometimes deemed too complex for mass-production), a no inventory, made-just-for-you model that allows us to play with color experimentation through hand-dying and fabric treatments in a way that ready-to-wear cannot.
It is a story of iteration, but its also good to note that these iterations are inspired by life and social conditions : The Shibui line (an unisex minimalist research on japanese tailoring techniques) has sprung from looking at the Tokyoïtes’ instinct to fall asleep in public spaces. It is a technical and artistic response to a sociological stimulus – All our designs comes from observing the world now and questioning it.
Obataimu is designed to constantly evolve, popping up in new forms, playing out new obsessions, but also questioning established industry and consumer patterns and choices.
2. I feel Obataimu is an experience over fashion, can you tell us about this unique process?
Something that is quite clear is that Obataimu to us is as much artistic outlet and experiment as it is a potentially new business model in fashion.
In keeping with the Takumi tradition in Japan, our production process is designed around the passing on of knowledge. Skills are taught by masters to our tailors through practical learning and imaginative workshops on site at our boutique in Bombay where everything is produced live, like an open kitchen, (farm to table for clothes). Each individual piece is hand-dyed following traditional techniques, and each of our artisans create each piece from start to finish, a choice that is moving us away from the traditional and alienating production line assembly method.
In addition each of our ten fabrics — aero-mul, cloud-cotton, prismatic waffle, womb waffle, naked-slub, imitation linen, vaporized viscose, liquid silk, teaser silk and yoganomic modal — has taken almost two years of experimentation to perfect using in-house steam treatments, bio-washes, enzyme dips and more to achieve different experiences in touch. Each of them focused on bringing the comfort of sleep into outer-wear.
3. How do you make your label sustainable?
Up until this point our primary focus has been human sustainability; something that has been missed from the traditional sustainability discourse for years.
Our tailors came from mass-production backgrounds and now each one is a sampling tailor is his/her own right with cutting and pattern-making knowledge that hugely elevates their market worth. They grow yearly in their pay as their skill-sets grow and they are very involved with our entrepreneurial struggles. Furthermore, they are close to their customer and to the design studio, by being in the shop with us there is less of a gap in our conversation.
In term of environmental responsibility, water re-cycling and effective disposal of the dye stuff using a shared effluent plant in Gujarat was our first step of setting up Obataimu. We use local Indian materials only and then add the fabric treatments ourselves, again using the effluent plant. We buy from bigger mills that supply top-end international clients as they are in the limelight and comply with the prescribed environmental standards. However, this year we are deeply investigating, researching and experimenting with natural dye and organic fabric options. However, when one digs into these topics deeply, one finds that there are not as many true alternatives as one would imagine: simply buying organic cotton is not enough, one has to make sure the cotton is not being mono-cropped or it is even worse for the environment, etc. As for natural dyes, on knit fabrics in particular which is our primary focus they are not the most efficient and we cannot provide a product that does not age well, so for the moment we are responsibly using chemical dyes. However we are hoping to find adequate alternatives soon.
4. You have a well-thought-out space in Kala Ghoda bylane. What else does it offer?
We do no formal marketing. All our marketing budget goes into events or design interventions that are communal. The space transforms from shop to tiny lecture venue, to tiny music venue, to mini-cinema-hall, to pop-up restaurant. We have created two guides for our clients instead of giving out look-books, one is a gritty-guide to Bombay sharing old-school Colaba architectural gems with our foreign clients who rely on us for recommendations and the other is a green guide for our local clients, sharing tips we have accumulated about living greener in Bombay from experts and friends.
5. Could you describe an Obataimu person?
Obataimu has brought more fond characters into our lives than we ever imagined, locally and around the world, within our organization and our Obataimu family that has grown outside of it. The shop is a vortex of magic that has brought the most random fascinating mix of people to our doorstep. There is no exact superficial profile or sketch (which is the best part) but one could say the core Obataimu people have ended up being people who work and play, love and explore, have time for a coffee or a neighbourhood drink, pay attention to how they are sleeping and eating, each designing their own lives artfully, and in their own ways — big or small— are actively shaping their communities.
6. What message do you have for the dreamers?
Don’t trade sleep for work. You cannot put a price-tag on dreaming.
Styling and creative direction by Ashima Gandhi| Photography and editing by Prerna Nainwal
Faces – Merenla Imsong and Damini Suniti Rahul |