I WAS A SARI has been adjudged the winner of the ‘Circular Design Challenge Award 2019’, India’s first award for sustainable fashion, at a gala event held at Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) Summer Resort 2019. I WAS A SARI received cash prize of Rs. 20 lakhs and an opportunity to present his/her collection at the upcoming Lakmé Fashion Week Winter Festive 2019.

The Circular Design Challenge, launched in August at the Winter Festive 2018 edition of LFW in collaboration with the UN Environment as a part of R Elan’s ‘Fashion for Earth’ initiative, received 900 entries from over 30 cities in India. In November 2018, a shortlist of 8 designers was announced who presented their collection at LFW summer resort 2019, today, and the eminent jury has selected the winner.

Reliance Industries Ltd.’s (RIL) ‘Fashion for Earth’ program collaborated with UN Environment and LFW to launch the Circular Design Challenge to encourage designers and entrepreneurs to use innovative ideas by using materials from diverse waste sources including plastic. This initiative unraveled the country’s first award for circularity in fashion promoting sustainability across the value chain and, inspiring innovation and offering solutions to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion and textile industry in the country. The award is recognition of the environmental champions of tomorrow in the Indian fashion and textiles industry.

From over 900 registrations and 30 different cites of India, the 8 finalists unveiled their collections before a jury that comprised eminent personalities in the business of fashion, environment and sustainability:

Mickey Boardman (Editorial director and advice columnist for Paper Magazine, New York City)
Bandana Tewari (Lifestyle Journalist, Sustainable Activist and Columnist, Business of Fashion)
Rahul Mishra (Indian Fashion & Textile Designer, Winner of International Woolmark Prize 2014)
Harsha Vardhan (Global Environment Lead – Supply Chain, H&M Group
Atul Bagai (Country Head, UN Environment India)
Neha Dhupia, (Indian Film Actress and Producer)

The fabulous collections displayed here have further bolstered our view that the initiatives like Circular Design Challenge is providing the enormous opportunities for budding concept creators, fashion designers and the entire textile value chain to exhibit their innovative ideas, designs with a focus on circularity and sustainability. We are confident that our various initiatives will help transform the entire Indian textile value chain to become a global leader in embedding circularity in their business strategy and operations.”


Poornima Pande, 33, and Stefano Funari, 50, from Mumbai are part of I was a Sari an eco-ethical lifestyle fashion brand. Poornima has a degree in apparel manufacturing from NIFT and Stefano has studied at the Universita Bocconi in Italy. An underprivileged community of women in Mumbai made the products with the up-cycled pre-loved saris.

Their designs utilize existing resources in terms of fabrics and materials and reinvent them into unique pieces. The winning collection comprised recycling of plastic tarpaulin into a raincoat, bag and umbrella, a 3D appliquéd garment, bags and shoes as well as a men’s wear creation, long T shirt with funky logo and carry bag.