DESIGNER ANU RAINA ON REDUCING WASTE AND CREATING IMPACT

By: Raevin Larue , August 16 2022



Ten years of growth and success in the fashion industry has taught Anu Raina that during times of crisis fashion can be viewed as a non essential business. On the lips of a global pandemic, like many, she was facing the unfathomable possibility of closing her business, yet Raina was not discouraged, instead she refocussed her talents on the needs of her community. Her timeless and one of a kind designs may have been temporarily non-essential but her resources and commitment to give back were not.

“I don’t believe in paying lip service, I believe in action.” A promise she delivered on as Raina reacted immediately to what felt like an overnight cultural shock. When masks were mandated to be worn in all public locations and companies began price gouging making them inaccessible to the lower income public, Raina responded by donating and hand delivering her own mask designs to those in need. If it was not enough to provide her own work, she partnered with Designing Minds Toronto where she designed face masks that would raise money for child and youth mental health awareness.

Blackout Tuesday Silk scarf – original value $160, auctioned for $170 and money donated to Black youth helpline in Toronto. June 2020.
Echinacea Scarf – retail value $160 and auctioned for $175 and money donated to Indian Residential School Survivors Society in June 2021.

As Covid-19 continued to create a new normal, the necessary demand for the protection of Black and Indigenous bodies marched through the streets around the world for months on end. Raina once again delivered on her motto as she auctioned her own scarf designs to raise money for Black Lives Matter and Indigenous causes. However, it was one philanthropic endeavour that stood out as it was dear to her heart and identity. Shelters throughout Ontario saw their capacity reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions and it was women and the unhoused who were hit the hardest. Raina seized this opportunity to help when she was contacted by The Women’s Centre in Oakville. She designed a T-shirt for them in honour of International Women’s day.

This cause was personal for Raina as the importance and strength of women was demonstrated by her single grandmother. When Anu and her cousins lost their mothers at a young age and it was she who raised all five of them. “I believe women are the foundational blocks of society”, a value that is interwoven into her business.

The project name “4My Sister” used fabric that was donated from Raina’s Montreal suppliers, Zinman Textiles. The T-shirt illustrated a simple design that signified a sisterhood amongst her and the women who have shared their stories of personal struggle. 4My Sister raised over $1,600 dollars and were sold out with in days.


“This locally made T shirt has a simple yet touching illustration
signifying that our sisters aren’t alone, that they are loved and that there are other sisters who care for them,”
says Raina.

Two years of a delicate balancing act of restoring her business and continuing to support her community where she can, the ethical practices of fashion design have fallen under tighter scrutiny as resources post pandemic have become fragile. However, for Raina sustainability was always the endgame; from the beginning as a designer she aspired to create meaningful pieces that were inspired by her travels and personal journeys, designs that displayed craftsmanship blended with her own artistic touch. Her determination for memorable pieces inherently rejected fast fashion cycles as it would sacrifice the integrity of her mission as a designer.

I started very small and designed with locally available fabrics and recycled materials and made limited edition pieces. My intention was to stay within my means and do best with what was available locally. Turns out that was the right thing to do. Our work philosophy largely remains the same to date. This also tends to keep our work fresh,” says Raina.

Specializing in local, small batch production, Raina details the excruciating amount of over production and waste globally: “For a world population of 7.9 billion we are producing 120 billion units of garments globally each year and still half the world lacks proper clothing. This needs to be controlled if not entirely stopped. In Canada alone three Rogers Centres full of clothing goes to the land fills every year. We need to buy small, local and meaningfully.” And that is not lip service, Raina strongly believes that it is time all designers begin to reimagine what it means to work in this industry outside of their creations citing all designers have a moral responsibility to contribute to social impact. Consumers as well: “We all share the same air, the same water, the same resources and we all are collectively responsible for the well being of our planet and our people.”

Post pandemic, Raina continues to be a champion of social impact as she celebrates her newest Spring/Summer collection inspired by her camping trip to Forillon National Park in Quebec. Her journey in this creation has been inspired by her passion for finding beauty in simplicity. “In this collection I’ve tried to capture the subtle beauty of the terrain in my prints, textures created by crushed linen, washed and frayed denims and camping tarps.”

Check out Raina’s newest collection at www.anuraina.com and www.instagram.com/anurainadesigns

Old Leaves Trench
Crushed Linen Jacket / Olive Bamboo Shorts


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Published: August 16 2022  |  Author: Raevin Larue  |  Tagged: None