Craftsmanship and sustainability go hand in hand in the context of rich crafts, traditions and cultural heritage of India. This case-study research focused on two Indian designers whose design work is based on traditional Indian textile arts. Open-ended questions provided valuable insights into their work that empowers the craftsman: Ritu Kumar's focus on colour, quality fabrics, intricate embroidery, and rich Indian aesthetic adapting to the skills of craftsmen; whereas, Rahul Mishra creates sustainable design stories and shared dreams using new technology juxtaposed with old traditional methodology. Both create a well-designed quality product that helps improve lives of the producer (artisan) community, write Anupama Pasricha and Mohit Bhardwaj.
Sustainable development is the "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Meeting these needs requires a fine balance of social, economic, and environmental priorities with a systems-thinking lens. The social aspect entails equity, participation, empowerment, social mobility, and cultural preservation. Economic issues involve economic viability and growth, services, efficient use of labour. Environmental aspects necessitate biodiversity, resource conservation, ecosystem integrity, and clean water and air. Researcher and design activist Kate Fletcher defines sustainability as integrating human well-being with natural integrity.
Sustainability needs to manifest in every dimension of human life and actions, whether every day basic living or indulgence in luxury. This research focuses on sustainable luxury, with particular reference to craftsmanship as the authors see craftsmanship as an important element contributing to equity, participation, empowerment, and cultural preservation.
Luxury as a state of the mind
Luxury is the way we perceive things and what surrounds us, also what we experience. Luxury also has visible symbolic and economic power to bring change. If an object is not made available to the masses and only tailor-made for a few with a high price tag, one may call it a luxury product. Luxury is well known as indulgence or experience of pleasures or comforts in addition to the necessary routine and mundane things one needs. Again, by traditional yardsticks, luxury is seen as more durable and beyond the reach.
However, the benchmark of luxury can be relative to a person or place. The idea of sustainable luxury at this stage may sound odd, or even an oxymoron by putting luxury and sustainability together that apparently have less or zero compatibility. Sustainability and luxury may not be considered to go hand in hand as a concept, but deep down and historically, the quality and longevity that characterises luxury products makes it slow and sustainable.
The current business model of ready-to-wear apparel industry is based on planned demise of a product, but luxury thrives on the business of lasting worth. The sustainability in luxury or fashion is something that has a positive contribution or outcome for the people surrounded by it. People, nature, and the planet are to be respected in order to produce a sustainable design. Meticulous hand work and cultural craft that nurtures diversity are one of the ways that luxury is created. The cultural heritage provides a means to sustain, and empower people or the artisans and their communities. Issues around sustainability are one of the greatest challenges faced by modern society.