Meet The Maker IV: The Living Tee – Founder’s Story

Like many, I had the childhood dream of being a fashion designer and having my own label flaunted on the catwalk. However, coming from a South Asian background, pursuing the arts was risky and it wasn’t going to lead to a ‘stable career’ according to my parents. Being young, I bought into this and told myself that once I had a secure foundation to fall back onto, I’d go into fashion and design, my real love. In the meantime I opted for something safe, but also something which would allow me to utilise my creative flex; that choice was Mechanical Engineering. In hindsight, the link was tenuous; whilst I did have a sketchbook, I was drawing gears and turbines. It was also very naïve of me to think that I could very simply go back to my real love straight after graduation.

Khushi Khatri

Credit – Khushi Khatri

My academic training at Imperial College London slowly started to mould the way I thought, lived and breathed. I was surrounded by overly analytical and logical men who rigorously followed the principles of maths and science. I struggled throughout the course and slowly started to lose all my confidence. To survive, I suppressed my creative talents which were the storehouse of qualities like intuition, imagination, playfulness and most importantly feeling. I was becoming a robot, and slowly and unconsciously prepared to join the rat race. After graduating, I moved on to join a global management consultancy, consulting for the world’s largest companies’ cross industry. Despite a great job, there was an underlying feeling of emptiness – this constant feeling of ‘is this just it?’. Abandoning the very things I loved, bought me further and further away from my true nature. I slowly started wearing many masks and lost myself in the concrete jungle. The masks slowly became so thick, I felt constant unhappiness despite being ‘stable and secure’ and seemingly having everything. This unhappiness slowly manifested into several ailments, until I was forced to take some time out.

After almost 1.5 years of soul searching, I started coming back to my real passions including fashion. However, I felt like this dream no longer suited me; the industry was one of human, animal and environmental exploitation. It felt like a super material infatuation and something not in line with my ethos. However, after turning towards a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle in early 2014, I realised it was becoming increasingly difficult to find animal and human friendly products readily available. The more I started researching, the more I started seeing flaws in the industry, and a lack of solutions. For example, I was shocked to learn that the fashion industry is the third biggest consumer of freshwater, behind only the oil and paper industries. It was so sad to learn this, knowing that one in ten people still lack access to the basic human right of fresh drinking water in this day and age. The consequences of which can be dire including contracting deadly water-borne illnesses, food shortages, starvation and malnutrition. This is when I knew I had to do something about it.

Clothing factory

 

As a conscious clothing brand, I want to use fashion to do good. I want to use my creativity, and combine it with my desire to make change in this world using my love for fashion as a platform. I decided to focus on fashion and water in particular as it has been said that no other single intervention is more likely to have a significant impact on global poverty than the provision of safe water. It also made sense to start here as figures show that the water volume consumed by the fashion industry was nearly enough to fill 32 million Olympic-sized swimming pools in 2017. With this goal in mind, at The Living Tee, we’ve employed a unique production technique which means that with every purchase customers are saving 99% water and 50% CO2 emissions. This means that with every tee sold customers are saving 2700 litres of water, 6200 litres per sweatshirt, and a whopping 8700 litres per hoodie. In fact, the water savings from our hoodies is almost 10 years worth of drinking water per person! We’re able to do this because instead of using raw materials like cotton, which need lots of water to grow and even more to dye, we use a mix of recycled cotton and recycled PET bottles which would have otherwise gone to waste.

Living Tee clothing

Credit – The Living Tee

For me, The Living Tee is all about acknowledging the spirit in everyone and everything around us. I want to use the platform of fashion to create meaningful connections between people and events. As a picture speaks 1000 words, I hope that our TLT artists and their prints can help us create new narratives that connect with people to encourage action. Aside from that, I wanted the collection to be timeless, comfortable, and just fun!

With an industry challenge at hand, a clear mission and brand ethos, I was able to get The Living Tee started during the COVID-19 lockdown, despite all the barriers.  It certainly wasn’t the easiest journey, however, I finally feel at home, at rest.

Guest blog written by – Khushi Khatri, Founder of The Living Tee.