EcoKash, breaking barriers in fashion

Kashmir Magazine

Saba Khan

Insha Mir, 30-year old entrepreneur who travelled to multiple places across Kashmir valley in search of artisans, who could turn an ordinary fabric into designer clothing. She contacted as many as 20 artisans across the districts and lined up with them.
Born in Safa-Kadal area of old Srinagar Insha grew up among the artisans and had an inclination towards the handicraft sector of the region which traces its origin to the 14th century following the arrival of Islam from Central Asia.
Her dream of reviving the lost glory of the handicraft sector in the region came true after setting up her own clothing brand EcoKash.
“I always desired to do something for the people and the environment of Kashmir,” Insha said, and added, “I introduced a hundred percent sustainable organic clothing brand in 2021”. She also said that her trademark is the fusion of two words Eco which means “environment friendly” and Kash is attributed to “Kashmir valley.”
Insha after completing her graduation in Science went on to pursue masters in Convergent Journalism from Central University of Kashmir. However, she did not join any publication to pursue journalism due to less opportunities and low wages.
In 2021 she applied for Naropa Fellowship, a one year Post Graduate Academic Programme in Entrepreneurship and Leadership, and got selected to pursue the course in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
During the fellowship she pitched an idea of sustainable fashion as well as authentic Kashmir Handicrafts clothing as her project and it immediately caught the attention of Chief Executive Officer and the founder of OYO Rooms, Ritesh Agarwal. The renowned Indian entrepreneur released a grant worth 5 lakh rupees in her favor with zero percent equity in order to support her cause.
“It was like a miracle and Ritesh Agarwal came like an angel,” Insha said. “The USP of my pitch was organic fabric, natural dye as well Azo free dye,” she said, adding that there is no presence of chemicals in her products.
Today, Ecokash employs 18 to 20 artisans, the majority of whom are women, from various districts of Kashmir, and is working on expanding its network of artisans to create more job opportunities.
Nasreena, a 45-year-old artisan from Srinagar, has worked with many entrepreneurs in the past, but she says her experience with Ecokash has been particularly good because they have appreciated her work and paid good wages. “They applauded my work,” Nasreena said.
To ensure better quality products, Ecokash is in contact with some top fabric manufacturers from all over the country to obtain organic forms of fabric. The brand also offers luxurious Pashmina fabric, and to ensure the authenticity of their products, they have obtained GI tagging for their Pashmina line. “Our customers value the authenticity of our products, and we strive to provide them with the best,” said Insha.
The brand provides 100% sustainable fabric like cotton, silk, and others based on GSM, color scheme, and many other factors. In cotton fabrics, they offer organic cotton, Khadi handloom cotton, and corduroy cotton, while in silk fabrics, they use Bamboo silk, Khadi cotton silk, Tasar Katiya, Hemp silk, Orange fabric, and Ahimsa Silk. The dyeing process is completely natural, using plant-based and Azo-free methods, and the brand incorporates recycled cotton as well.
Despite initial challenges, Ecokash received a good response when it exhibited its products for the first time. “It was not easy to get a good response in the beginning, but thanks to the Almighty, I got a good response when I did my first exhibition, and the customers loved my product,” said Insha. In fact, the brand sold 80% of its products during its first exhibition and has since done many more exhibitions where its ideas and initiative were appreciated.
She believes that the region has a huge potential to develop its own manufacturing unit for flora and fauna but lacks the knowledge to do so. “Sharing her plans she said that she is going to do a live dyeing session of a workshop in near future where we showcase the process of natural dyeing and will add more varieties to the brand which will be launching soon and believes that there is a long way to go for her business to grow.”
Ecokash’s commitment to sustainable fashion and empowering local artisans is not only benefiting the environment but also supporting the livelihoods of these artisans. By providing fair wages and a platform to showcase their skills, Ecokash is helping to preserve the traditional craft of Kashmir while promoting eco-friendly fashion.
Insha Mir’s success story is an inspiration for other entrepreneurs in Kashmir and beyond who aspire to turn their ideas into successful businesses. “I will add more artisans in my endeavour,” she said, as she plans to extend her entrepreneur realms.
The fashion industry is known for its environmental impact, with textile production being one of the largest sources of pollution worldwide. However, initiatives like Ecokash show that sustainable fashion is not only possible but also profitable. By choosing eco-friendly options, consumers can make a positive impact on the environment.