At Baka, we're looking at going beyond designing sustainable fashion, to designing sustainability and a better world through good design.
We're a label that believes in going beyond eco-design, to looking at sustainability holistically. We look at social, economic and cultural sustainability alongside the ecological factor because we believe that everything is interconnected and that everything counts.
Holistic sustainability is in our DNA because we are a slow-designed, contemporary, sustainable, ethically-handcrafted jewellery brand by Rhizome—India's first multidisciplinary sustainability design studio. Just like Rhizome, we are founded by Rebecca Reubens, and work at the intersection of craft, design and sustainability.
What does Sustainability mean to us at Baka?
Sustainability is a big word which is increasingly losing its meaning because it is used so casually. This is even more so when it is paired with fashion. We were asked recently what we mean by sustainable jewellery.
We had a LOT to say, but here are our top five points:
1. We ensure our pieces are made from clean material. This means we use materials which are up-cycled, repurposed, recyclable and renewable. Our material is ethically-sourced, it is as local as possible, and we source it at a fair rate from small vendors and not from big corp-orates.This ensures that the money we pay out goes to sending kids to school, and allows women to go to doctors—and not to lining the purses of already-wealthy conglomerates.
2. Our pieces are handcrafted by traditional and contemporary craftspeople. We try and keep skills alive and use traditional methods in contemporary ways to keep tradition dynamic. If a non-traditional would-be crafts-person wants to learn handcrafting, we teach them in an apprentice-mode, since we are a learning studio. We aim to provide livelihoods. We therefore don't use machines as far as possible unless it is to aid the human hand. We are not anti-machine and not Luddites, but love the handmade and are more Arts and Craft peeps.
3. We aim to create emotionally-durable design which stays around longer as you love it. We design classic pieces which are often whimsical and contemporary. We want our pieces to tug at your heart strings and become future heirlooms.
4. We take as long as we need to develop something-we are as slow fashion as they come. We don't design as per mainstream trends or seasons. We want to shake the giant machine which controls the fashion world. We do love the idea of trends and give a nod to past fashion, but we do it when we think it is appropriate-not because we believe we have to.
5. We design for customisation. We often create unique pieces just for you, because we want our wearers to love our pieces and don't want them to end up in a landfill anytime soon. So, we customise and welcome collaborative fashion and collaborative design.
So why the name Baka?
Baka is loaded with whimsy and nostalgia. It is basically Rebecca’s name which her brother shortened to baka as a toddler, and the name stuck since then. Baka is also a typical Gujarati slang word for dear—which resonates with us since we are located in Ahmedabad.
Lastly, baka means fool in Japanese. Rebecca loves Japan for its minimalism and because it keeps tradition contemporary. The idea of being a fool resonates with her journey—the fool did not know it was impossible and so she did it.
The thought of working at the intersection of craft, design and sustainability sounded impossible to many, especially alongside having a family, doing a PhD, writing a few books, and running a studio.
Baka happened because for Rebecca, moving between furniture and jewelry was porous and simply a re-articulation of space. The ear became her ceiling and the shoulder her floor in the case of earrings. Because she believed that a condensed artefact—where meters become millimetres—is all the more precious.
Baka happened just BECAUSE Rebecca was Baka—a fool who didn’t know dreaming big and wanting to change the world, and doing things that make your heart sing, were all things that were supposedly impossible.
The Baka Team
We are a tiny, but proud team of people who truly want to be the change we want to see. We work in a collaborative mode, because we are a learning studio.
Our core team comprises a small but dedicated design and prototyping team led by Rebecca at our atelier in Ahmedabad.
We co-create with craftspeople, our clients, and each other to create things slowly, and with love, which we hope will stay around for a long long while, because you love them.
We take sustainability very seriously at Baka. We design collaboratively and then have an extensive prototyping process. And only once we are done with that does a piece of jewelry come through. We also critically review everything from production to consumption vis a vis the jewelry. What materials we use, how it is produced, packaged, used and disposed-how sustainable is this for the planet, society, culture and the economy.
We believe sustainability is a compound picture of all of these and so we go beyond ecological sustainability in each of our pieces.
Each of our pieces is handcrafted by our team of production collaborators- our craftspeople are our backbone. They are the wisest and bestest collaborators we have and it is our huge privilege to work with them.
Not only do we use clean and where possible up-cycled materials, but we also look at every single way to factor sustainability into our offering. Our packaging is made from up-cycled paper and is covered with carbon paper and foam sheets–both materials which cannot otherwise be recycled.
In Ahmedabad alone, the railways generate approximately 2-5 tons of carbon paper waste which cannot be recycled due to the presence of carbon in paper. We use this paper in our packaging, and thus save it from going to landfill.
Our boxes are crafted by women and are a source of livelihood and empowerment for them. The adhesive used in our boxes is sustainable, and made from white flour, blue vitriol and water.
Our shopping bags are made of waste flex sheets which are also otherwise dumped into landfills because they cannot be recycled. With each purchase, you buy into our dream and effort to making the earth an inclusive, resilient and sustainable place to live on.
If you want to know more about why we do what we do, we would love to hear from you at email@example.com. If you're in Ahmedabad, pop into the studio and we can chat about how we are passionate about sustainability. We hope we soon live in a world where the good guys don't need to prove they are sustainable, and the bad guys are labelled unsustainable instead...