In an era where the fashion industry stands at crossroads, seeking sustainable alternatives and mindful practices have emerged as the need of the hour. With an eye on the environmental impact and a heart deeply committed to responsible consumerism, Supriya Shirsat Satam, Founder, CEO and Creative Director of FOReT, a trailblazing sustainable fashion brand, has ventured into the space to create a niche and make a difference.
During her early experience, Supriya became acutely conscious of the detrimental environmental impact associated with conventional products. This awareness significantly influenced her personal preferences and convictions, instilling in her a belief that fashion holds the power of self-expression while also bearing a responsibility toward the planet and the wider community.
With a solid foundation in Electronics and Telecommunications from her engineering studies, she further honed her expertise through a master’s degree in marketing, which was enriched with her understanding of sustainable fashion by an online program affiliated to the esteemed Copenhagen Business School.
With a background in Aviation, Supriya led Mobile Commerce, In“A notable aspect of ounovations and Marketing and her professional journey encompasses a blend of techno-commercial experiences, ranging from Advertising, Brand Building, UI/UX, Project Management to Digital Product Development.
“I believe that fashion is a medium of self-expression and we should have adequate choices to make decisions that are not only good for us but also for the planet and our community at large. This consciousness aligned with my family’s long-standing passion for art and craftsmanship, which instilled in me a lifelong quest to contribute towards the empowerment of artisans and the preservation of their crafts,” Supriya Shirsat Satam told Apparel Resources (AR) in an exclusive interview.
Through her brainchild, FOReT, Supriya introduces an array of distinct and refined accessories that are characterised by their versatility and are crafted using earth- friendly and conscious materials. Beyond the aesthetics, FOReT’s initiatives also extend to community support, aiming for a more promising future where fashion seamlessly converges with ethical consciousness.
PRODUCT CATEGORIES AND PRICING
FOReT offers a diverse range of products tailored to various demographics, including kids, women and men.
For men, the brand offers a selection of wallets and bracelets meticulously fashioned from authentic vegan cork leather and soon to be accompanied by the addition of cork belts. On the women’s front, its collection showcases a range of bags that have been ingeniously crafted from Banana Bark. This freshly introduced collection boasts of an array of handcrafted bags, including slings and laptop bags, all fashioned from banana skin.
The women’s collection also features wallets crafted from cork, alongside an extensive assortment of cork jewellery, encompassing necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.
“Our jewellery line exhibits a harmonious blend of diverse materials bringing a unique symphony of textures with some pieces featuring 18K gold-plated charms and ceramic stones that are seamlessly fused with cork bark and secured with a magnetic clasp,” Supriya explained.
In terms of pricing, FOReT’s pricing structure reflects accessibility and diversity. The women’s jewellery segment presents a price spectrum starting from Rs. 800 at the entry level and extending up to Rs.6000. The Banana Bark Collection spans from Rs.4000 to Rs.15,000. In the men’s category, the range of bracelets commences at Rs.1300, with options available up to Rs.4000. Men’s wallets are priced between Rs. 3000 and Rs.4000. Notably, the women’s wallets, crafted entirely from cork, occupy a price bracket ranging from Rs.6800 to Rs.7000, encapsulating the brand’s commitment to quality and sustainability.
|Supriya Shirsat Satam’s journey into the sustainable fashion world was more than a professional pivot; it was a convergence of values, learning and a firm determination to address the growing market need.
“Our jewellery and bags stand out for their distinctiveness and adaptability, embodying a design philosophy tailored to the contemporary consumer and their preferences. Our creations are meticulously crafted to captivate the eco-conscious clientele, while simultaneously appealing to individuals who value exclusivity, uniqueness and style.” Supriya highlighted.
FOReT is currently focused on engaging with markets in Metro and Tier-1 cities, extending its reach to Tier-2 cities as well. The brand’s target demographic encompasses individuals aged between 22 to 50 years, representing a diverse range of age groups.
FOReT also offers a kidswear collection that starts from four years but can also be worn by adults.
PRODUCTION AND MANUFACTURING
Founded in mid-2019, FOReT has an in-house team of seven and most of its marketing functions are outsourced. The brand carries out its production primarily from Mumbai. In terms of manufacturing, FOReT follows a hybrid approach depending on the design and the product requirement.
“A notable aspect of our product line is the collaboration with rural artisans, as seen in offerings like the banana bark collection. In this collaborative process, a portion of the production takes place within their skilled hands. Afterwards, the products make their way to our studio, where they receive their final touches, reflecting the distinct FOReT appeal that defines our brand,” Supriya briefed.
On the other hand, the crafting of the jewellery pieces takes place entirely in-house.
Over the years since its inception, the brand has cultivated alliances with an array of vendors and artisans distributed across the country, with prominent clusters in South India, Jaipur and Mumbai. The brand also works with international partners and collaborates with artisans who possess unique skills for specific pieces. This diversified geographical network empowers FOReT to address a broad range of production prerequisites and design requirements.
The brand follows an edition-based approach in terms of its collection planning, wherein it initiates each collection as a limited edition and gradually expands the inventory based on its success, further underlining its commitment to sustainable development in mind. The frequency of inventory replenishment typically occurs every one to one-and-a-half months, contingent upon the product’s popularity.
MATERIALS AND FABRICATIONS
FOReT’s collections are primarily crafted using banana bark and cork and include the Ilkal Handloom Cotton for the lining of some of the bags within its collections. They also utilise plant seeds, ceramic stones, recycled and sustainable metals within their product range. The material development is outsourced.
Commenting on the innovative materials and technologies that have been incorporated into FOReT’s line, Supriya said, “Our material palette revolves around two distinct elements, one of which is the Banana Bark.”
The banana bark is derived from the banana tree, typically after it has borne fruit, as this is when the tree’s life cycle comes to an end. In conventional circumstances, it is either burnt to grow new trees or repurposed to craft an array of products.”
“We harness the potential of its bark, collecting and sorting it meticulously. Afterwards, it undergoes a series of eco-friendly processes, eventually transforming into durable twines. These twines form the foundation of our bags, embodying the essence of sustainability.”
Cork, another integral material in the brand’s line, comes from the bark of cork oak trees. Every 7-9 years, these trees undergo a unique harvesting process where the bark is carefully and gently peeled off, ensuring the tree’s well-being for up to two more centuries. The harvested bark, in turn, is transformed into the cork material that forms FOReT’s diverse range of products. This natural and sustainable cycle underscores the brand’s commitment to environmentally conscious sourcing.
The raw materials for the brand are procured from both India and overseas locations. On the international front, Europe stands as the primary sourcing destination whilst within India, the material sourcing network extends to diverse regions across the country, with a notable focus on Jaipur and the South of India.
WORKING WITH ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN
The synergy among diverse artisans and craftsmen holds substantial significance in the realm of sustainable and locally-oriented fashion. FOReT places a profound emphasis on the intricate partnerships that have contributed to the realisation of their latest Banana Bark collection, shedding light on the obstacles encountered throughout the journey. According to Supriya, “In addition to focusing on design and versatility in my products, I’ve consistently encountered feedback about the intricacy of my designs, which presents a unique challenge in translating them into the final product. This collaborative process involves a division of labour, with a portion of the product being crafted by skilled artisans and the remaining stages executed in my studio.”
Another challenge that surfaces, particularly in hand-crafted items, is the potential for subtle variations when multiple artisans contribute to creating similar pieces. This underscores the meticulous effort required to ensure uniformity and adherence to the established guidelines. In such scenarios, Supriya has found that “the interaction between two artisans discussing a project often translates into a tangible vibe that permeates the creation process, infusing each piece with a distinct energy.”
FOReT also highlights the involvement of women artisans within its production processes and support for local crafts. At the same time, the brand contributes to their empowerment through its products.
At present, FOReT has formed a partnership with a collective of 300 skilled women artisans who play a pivotal role in crafting its Banana Bark bags.
Commenting on the same, Supriya said, “Our production not only offers these artisans economic opportunities but also bolsters their social standing within the community, contributing to their overall well-being. Moreover, our commitment to preserving traditional crafts extends to the integration of textiles like the Ilkal Handloom cotton.”
This deliberate incorporation further serves to promote and sustain these age-old art forms, infusing the brand’s creations with a rich cultural heritage. The brand is also actively exploring additional collaborative avenues, particularly with women artisans, for both the existing and forthcoming product collections.
MARKET PENETRATION AND POSITIONING
FOReT’s distinctive business strategy revolves around a design-focused approach, amplifying the utilisation of plant-based materials and sustainable metals to create versatile, consumer-centric products. This unique strategy underpins FOReT’s holistic brand experience, tailored to resonate with contemporary consumers who prioritise innovation, sustainability and community engagement.
“At FOReT, we are redefining sustainable fashion by crafting stylish and vibrant accessories from responsible materials including plant-based and earth-friendly materials. This approach bridges the gap between fashion and environmental consciousness, appealing to individuals who seek both style and ethical integrity in their choices,” Supriya explained.
FOReT’s ethos revolves around community-centric values, uniting artisans and consumers under a shared purpose. This commitment to empowering rural women fosters belongingness and loyalty. Innovation defines their designs, seamlessly blending tradition with modern aesthetics to push the boundaries of sustainable fashion.
The brand raises awareness about the environmental impact, integrating sustainability within its core value system.
Furthermore, its digital roots offer insights into harmonising sustainability and style. “Iterative digital processes have led to our current stage, facilitating the ideal composition of novel materials. Collaborations amplify our impact, aiding market entry and leveraging resources for positive change. These partnerships remain instrumental in our mission for meaningful global impact,” Supriya highlighted.
“Our initial online presence through our website was a conscious choice, aligning with the uniqueness of our product range and our desire to convey our distinctive narrative – one centred around eco-conscious materials. Presently, we’re embarking on a journey to expand beyond digital borders, targeting both international and Indian retailers.”
The brand’s upcoming venture into physical retail involves select, curated stores that resonate with their values. Additionally, they are exploring collaborative avenues with diverse brands, envisioning opportunities to craft exclusive editions or unique product propositions that reflect a fusion of creative forces.
EDUCATING THE CONSUMER
“At FOReT, our role in educating customers about sustainable fashion and its environmental impact is of utmost significance. We channel this awareness through diverse avenues, including our content shared across social media platforms, our website and email communication. Through these channels, we elucidate the profound influence that sustainable fashion exerts on the environment at large,” Supriya highlighted.
Transparency is a cornerstone of the brand’s communication strategy. It believes in providing customers with intricate details about the materials it uses, its production processes and the skilled artisans who contribute to its creations. This information is meticulously tailored to each product, shedding light on the material’s origin and the positive impact it generates.
“Collaborations with eco-conscious organisations form another facet of our awareness campaign, amplifying the message of sustainable fashion. Personally, I participate in various speaking engagements, where I share insights on sustainability,” Supriya said.
INTEGRATING SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL PRACTICES
FOReT approaches sustainability as an all-encompassing philosophy. By not solely adhering to eco-friendly practices, but also integrating technology, innovation and community development as cornerstones of a responsible future, the brand upholds sustainable principles throughout its processes and value chain.
The brand’s commitment is vividly evident in its material sourcing approach. Thorough questionnaires engage vendors and suppliers, ensuring alignment with the brand’s product vision.
Community empowerment is a fundamental principle for the brand wherein collaborations with women-based organisations extend to marketing and the brand’s internal team, where over 70 per cent of members are women. Rural women artisans, integral to production, experience economic empowerment and valuable communal interactions, often lacking in village settings.
The brand’s dedication extends to eco-friendly packaging, crafted from recycled sources. Designed to be plastic-free, emphasising reusability and biodegradability, the packaging embodies the brand’s commitment to social change through design.
Through FOReT’s online presence, the brand actively educates consumers about sustainability and vegan practices. Beyond purchase, its commitment to environmental conservation continues. The business plants trees post-purchase, the proceeds of which benefit farmers, offering sustainable financial support.
Timeless designs that highlight material textures reflect the brand’s mission to reduce unethical alternatives while promoting sustainability. Waste reduction is paramount in the brand’s production. Starting with bio-waste-sourced primary materials, upcycling strategies prevent pollution. Biodegradable materials further underscore the brand’s commitment to minimising waste across the product lifecycle.
Design innovation shines through the brand’s iconic bag, integrating a bracelet-handle. This transformation enhances customer value, allowing independent utility. This approach underscores the brand’s dedication to innovation and utility, ultimately increasing the value derived from each product.
|AR: With the rise of AI and tech in the fashion industry, it’s becoming almost impossible to not embrace these tools to enhance productivity and business. How does FOReT incorporate the use of technology and AI?
SSS: At FOReT, our strategic integration of AI and technology serves as a catalyst for elevating multiple dimensions of our brand, ensuring heightened innovation, efficiency and a seamless customer journey. Our foray into AI commences with personalised recommendations. Employing AI-driven analytics, we adeptly furnish customers with personalised product suggestions, meticulously tailored to their preferences and browsing history.
Additionally, AI plays a pivotal role in optimising inventory management and waste reduction. Our website harnesses AI-based analytics to deliver customised communications that cater precisely to individual requirements. The insights garnered through data analytics empower us to grasp customer behaviour, preferences and emerging trends. This valuable knowledge not only helps us in making informed business decisions but also enables us to adapt our offerings in alignment with the ever-evolving needs of our target audience.
Anticipating the future, our ambitions extend to utilising AI-based algorithms to develop tracking mechanisms that quantify our impact on carbon footprint, reaffirming our commitment to sustainability.
AR: What, according to you, is driving consumption in fashion categories in the Indian market?
SSS: Today, consumer behaviour is moulded by a myriad of factors that intricately influence purchasing decisions, often initiated by prevailing trends and styles. The era of social media and influencer-driven portrayals of the latest fashion and looks fosters a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), compelling individuals to acquire new clothing and accessories to connect with and emulate these styles. This phenomenon subsequently fuels heightened consumption.
Another significant trend that has gained momentum over recent years, particularly in the realm of self-expression, is consumers’ increased clarity about how they wish to convey their individuality. Whether through gender fluidity, gender neutrality, or their inclination towards eco-friendly and vegan choices, customers leverage accessories and fashion to project their personalities and the values they hold. Further impetus for consumption arises from seasonal trends. For instance, during wedding seasons or festive periods, retailers and brands proactively stimulate customers to consider updating their wardrobes.
At a social level, there’s a distinct psychological dimension to consumer behaviour. Shopping often provides individuals with a sense of elation and gratification. This emotional connection prompts brands to tap into the relationship between acquiring new items and experiencing instant satisfaction or impulsive purchases, which over time, fosters heightened consumption.
Contemporary sales strategies are often built around these principles, with brands frequently offering various forms of discounts to entice customers into integrating new styles into their wardrobes. These styles, often associated with fast fashion characterised by synthetic and rapid production processes, come at reduced prices, yet they carry a shorter lifespan. Collectively, these factors contribute to the ongoing surge in consumption within the market.