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Connecting tiger conservation and slow fashion from central India to Brooklyn, New York

Over 27-28th April 2019, Amrita had a pop-up of her new venture, Black Orchid, at Artists & Fleas (A&F) in Williamsburg and got the chance to see if Brooklyn loved making clothes from scraps as much as her. What ensued was a two day long conversation of what it means to be part of slow fashion and where it could take us. Sarika brought with her the final piece of this conversation, about how what we buy affects both people and nature in far off places, by sharing her work and selling tribal jewelry.

Creating things is fun and we seldom value the process enough in our daily lives. What better way to discuss our work, being mindful consumers and sustainability of our resources than to directly meet people at markets. Amrita and Sarika got a chance to do exactly that at the melting-pot that is A&F on Saturday with the Smorgasburg in full flow. Tourists from many different countries who came through the pop-ups got a glimpse of the work we do in our lab, conservation in central India, and #whatascientistlookslike when they are also a maker / crafter / doing outreach! Apart from tourists, they had interest from other makers (on their own journey in being conscious consumers), friends and family.


If Saturday was Williamsburg at its most stereotypical touristy best, Sunday was all about long conversations with a smaller truly local crowd. Amrita’s presence at A&F’s Williamsburg flagship allowed her to talk and connect with other people who are taking their own steps into the world of slow fashion, ethical manufacturing and environmentally conscious consumption. As conservation scientists, we can and must be a part of addressing consumption culture – the pop-up at A&F was a truly great opportunity for two NCCI members and DeFries lab mates to immerse themselves in it!
























Black Orchid is Amrita’s new venture of using fabric scrap to make one-of-a-kind clothes (borne out of watching her mom make beautiful things in her childhood and cultural influences from conservation fieldwork). Everything is made just once and therefore you do 3 things when you pick something up from Black Orchid. 1. You get involved in slow fashion (yes- pretty much like slow food), which forwards the conversation about how much consumption is too much consumption, and considers quality and the impact it has on well-being versus instant-gratification with low quality goods. 2. You save good cloth from going into landfill. 3. You own a piece of everyday clothing that is yours, and yours alone. Amrita invited Sarika to join up with her outreach activities and together, perhaps as the first foray of the Network for Conserving Central India, they took the ongoing conversation about tiger conservation in Central India to Brooklyn. We invited people to talk to us with giveaways (tiny tigers) and the sale of necklaces designed and created by people of the Baiga tribe, living around Kanha Tiger Reserve. Sarika’s U.S.-based non-profit, Wild Tiger, has partnered with The Last Wilderness Foundation to sell these necklaces in the U.S. The necklaces created an opportunity to talk about the dependence of both tigers and people on forests, and the creative conservation approaches we need to support the continued coexistence of each.

When not exploring the urban jungles of New York City, Sarika and Amrita are researchers working in the intersection of conservation and development in India as part of the Network for Conserving Central India.

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