Dubai: Dubai girl Namya Manghnani’s “bedsheet campaign” has a made a difference in the lives of 12 visually impaired musicians in India. An Indian expat student in the emirate has combined her passion for sewing and serving to champion sustainable fashion.
The year 13 student of Dubai College launched the campaign to design uniform outfits for the members of Unique Sense, an orchestra of visually impaired musicians, in her native place in Mumbai in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
The 17-year-old Namya told Gulf News that she had seen them perform when she was young. “Earlier this year, I got to know that they are in need of costumes for their shows,” she added.
A champion of sustainable clothing, Namya had already made costumes out of bedsheets for her roles in community theatre, one of her passions.
“The clothing industry is very wasteful. A lot of cloth gets thrown away. I don’t want to support that. I learnt stitching with the help of my grandma during the COVID-19 lockdown. Throughout the lockdown, I was repurposing different types of clothes to make my outfits.”
She said her motto for sustainability is to “reuse, re-wear, redefine.” To support the 12-member team of Unique Sense, including three women, Namya decided to launch the “bedsheet campaign” in May.
She reached out to her community and asked for any gently used fabric materials not being used any more: bedsheets, curtains and tablecloths. Namya stationed donation boxes at her school, and contacted several people across Dubai, with the aim of collecting bedsheets and any cloth that could be turned into costumes or instrument cases. “My mom also helped with her contacts,” she said.
Quickly, the boxes filled up and she collected enough fabric to create pieces for the entire music band and their instruments. “I got around 60 pieces of bedsheets, curtains and tablecloths,” said Namya.
How she designed the costumes
She then designed the outfits for the male and female members of the orchestra using soft bedsheets. “I wanted them to feel comfortable. There were a lot of white bedsheets. I mainly used them for their costumes. There were some very beautiful ones which couldn’t be used for an entire outfit. So, I used them to make piping and cuffs.” She used plain bedsheet for lining and lace curtain for kurta and collar.
At the end, she managed to make two sets of costumes for each musician in the orchestra in white, orange and yellow colours. She made cloth covers for their musical instruments and stitched cloth bags also for the musicians using duvet cover.
Aware of the struggles that the orchestra had gone through during the COVID-19 pandemic, Namya also decided to help them with a logo, and a banner with contact information to display during their performances.
On the Instagram handle she created for the project, Namya has posted a video showing the making of the costume with week-wise updates.
She said it was a huge learning experiencing for her on-understanding how to run a need-based enterprise, learning to campaign, speaking to donors and making logos and printing material to organise an event. Over the course of the campaign, through all the sorting, pinning and sewing, she said, she felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Gifting in person
Last month, Namya flew down with her parents to Mumbai to hand over her special gift to the members of Unique Sense. “They were very happy. They invited me to their next show which was held on September 10. I felt great when I saw them wearing the costumes I gifted. It felt really nice to see them.”
Turning unwanted threads into beautiful symbols of sustainable fashion for those who needed it, Namya now wants to continue to create awareness about her cause that advocates “we all reuse, re-wear and redefine ourselves with sustainability.”
In Dubai, many people have plenty of fabric to donate, she said. “People have so much and they are ready to give. This is a good way to repurpose them,” she added.