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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Sandhya Lalloo Morar on how she built a global sustainable clothing brand from scratch


Sandia is not a fan of fast fashion by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, she’s nowhere near that. She has her own unique success story.

“The only way to see a clear shift in fast fashion is to work with the performers themselves and make them our ambassadors,” she said.

These collaborations laid the foundation for Sandhya’s truly international clothing brand, Idō. The brand is inspired by Japanese body movement, her work references Indian printmaking techniques, and her designs are created in collaboration with dancers from the Middle East.

Sandia Lalou Moral

Dubai is where the Far East, East and Middle East meet, creating this interesting aesthetic.

The South African-born second-generation Indian launched the Idō movement in 2020 after living in Dubai for 10 years (she got there via England and India), began working as a stylist, costume designer and teacher.

It was here that she got an unexpected shot in the arm—the Sorority of Women Entrepreneurs, who not only welcomed her, but supported her.

“I’ve had a lot of support and the fact that we’re sustainable has been welcomed,” Sandia said.

Sandhya Lalloo Morar on how she built a global sustainable clothing brand from scratch

“I draw inspiration from these artists every time I take a class. It forms the basis of my next design,” she explains.

But that doesn’t mean the industry is an easy one to crack. Even before the outbreak, the UAE’s fashion e-commerce industry was projected to hit $1.9 billion. Fashion e-commerce is expected to be a key segment driving e-commerce growth in the country, with revenue expected to reach $17.2 billion by 2023. There is also a strong interest in sustainable development in the region, and it is in this area that Idō operates.

As a dancer-designer, Sandhya conceived of a brand that would create a difference and stay away from trends. She collected recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets and organic fabrics such as hemp and bamboo to start the Ito movement.

Perhaps as a way of giving back to the community, her brand has women at its core. It embodies simplicity, monotony, minimalism, unisex and versatility, in addition to being inspired by Emirati dance artists such as Alaa Krimed, Lana Fahmi, Tomomi Aramaki and Rei Co from Sima Performing Arts.

Her next goal is to further reduce the brand’s carbon footprint by producing goods in-house in GCC.

Fabrics and designs currently in use to support multitasking. The concept of sustainability also permeates their packaging.

Firstly, all fabrics used are either recycled, recyclable or biodegradable. Second, the products are all packaged in bags made from cassava, a plant that is completely biodegradable.

Sandhya Lalloo Morar on how she built a global sustainable clothing brand from scratch

Additionally, the brand has also been using seed labels since its conception. Shoppers who buy The Idō Movement apparel can plant these little tags, which contain various seeds from lavender to wildflowers and more.

“Shoppers who come to us pack their products in fully biodegradable bags. In fact, I also encourage them to shop consciously and bring their own bags so we don’t add to the litter,” explains Sandhya.

“Like its name, Idō (a Japanese word meaning transformation), we produce sportswear. In addition, all of our clothing is multi-purpose. We live in a fast-paced world, constantly moving from one activity to Another activity – home, gym, pool, party, etc. The various pieces in our collection can be used as work wear, casual wear, swimwear, workout wear, etc, which also means you buy less.”

the biggest challenge!

Dubai continues to play an important role as the GCC’s window to the fashion world. Not only does it have a favorable production environment, but it also has a world-class shopping mall to sell finished products in addition to a high-end customer experience. At the same time, e-commerce has become a viable option for new brands to sell their products.

Sandhya Lalloo Morar on how she built a global sustainable clothing brand from scratch

“We came up with a lot of business modules and came to the conclusion that with everything moving online, it didn’t make sense to have a physical store,” Sandia said.

indian connection

Arts and crafts run in Sandhya’s blood and she has deep Indian roots. Her great-grandparents hail from Gujarat, and it’s no surprise that sewing and designing clothes has been a part of everyday life for many years. Although Sandia’s great-grandparents were born in India, they moved to South Africa to start a new life.

Sandia’s parents were born in South Africa but were unable to study at university due to apartheid. Her father then returned to India to study medicine in Mumbai. After spending seven years in the country, he returned to South Africa, where he practiced medicine.

Ever since Sandia was a child, she had longed to visit India, learn about her roots, and learn about the country’s culture.

“I was handpicked from 50 other students to visit India, spend time at the university and learn about our interests. That’s when I started pursuing NIFT and working with Indian artists. It was an enriching experience experience, I still keep in touch with some of the artisans I visited in India”.

Through the Idō movement, the young entrepreneur collaborated with woodblock printing artisans in India. “I love the hand-printing techniques and natural textiles that India is known for. We are currently working with Indian artists who can help us create prints for the Idō movement.

Sandhya Lalloo Morar on how she built a global sustainable clothing brand from scratch

After graduating, Sandia studied fashion design at the University of Johannesburg, and went on to work as a fashion lecturer after graduation.

“I lived in London for a while to gain a better understanding of the fashion and design world. Afterwards, I returned to South Africa where I continued to teach at a university while creating costumes for dance performances, theater groups and dancers in the region.”

A decade of hard work and learning came to fruition when Sandhya won the “Young Designer” award. It was after this that she decided to start her first fashion label in South Africa.

The young designer moved to Dubai in 2010. She then started working with various brands, initially as a stylist and costume designer.

However, as a dancer and designer, Sandia felt the need to create a brand that would create a difference and stay away from trends. This is when the Ito movement was born.

passion for the profession

Inspired by body movement, The Idō Movement aims to offer sustainable alternatives to athleisure and dance apparel. Sustainability is at the heart of the brand, and that requires choosing the right fabrics—whether garments are made from recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets, or using organic fabrics like hemp and bamboo that have a low environmental impact.

Sandhya Lalloo Morar on how she built a global sustainable clothing brand from scratch

Furthermore, what sets The Idō Movement apart from other sustainable brands in the region is that it means for exercise, especially. Therefore, each piece is inspired by dancers from the Middle East.

Another key aspect of the brand is the philosophy it applies in its clothing design. Idō means transformation in Japanese, and like its name, the brand draws inspiration from various Japanese philosophies.

Entrepreneurial Journey

With two successful businesses in South Africa, Sandia understands the nature of business. However, she waited 10 years in Dubai to study the market and learn about fashion in the area. However, Sandia said starting a business in the UAE can be a lengthy process.

The next big challenge is whether they need a physical store. “We came up with a lot of business modules and came to the conclusion that with everything moving online, it didn’t make sense to have a physical store,” she added.

future plans

It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey for this dynamic, hard-working woman who strives to make a difference.

With well-established factories in Indonesia, China and the UAE, the brand believes local manufacturing can offset its carbon footprint. In five years, Sandhya expects Idō Movement to become a local brand in the GCC.

“I hope the Idō movement will educate people about sustainability and help them make eco-friendly choices. I’m delighted to see it become the #1 sustainable brand in the GCC,” she concluded.


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