Five years ago this summer, I hunched over my laptop in a dingy, putty-coloured Bangkok hostel room with a decision to make. I wanted to get involved in fair trade back in India, where I'd spent the last few months in Bangalore. But should I approach the more serious, NGO-looking types for serious, NGO-looking work experience to puff up my resume? Or should this mail go to that funny t-shirt brand that looked like they had a good laugh while chasing a super important mission?
Well, you can guess which one I chose. Within 24 hours I had Skyped with Apurva: he didn't seem like a complete weirdo so the deal was sealed and in a few short weeks, after packing up some more things in Bangalore, I boarded a sleeper bus which 22 hours later would finally pitch up in Mumbai and deliver me to this next adventure. And here I am today, still tapping away about all things organic, fairtrade and awesome on that same laptop.
I've ducked in & out of the team several times over the years, and the marvel of seeing No Nasties grow from this unique position as both insider and customer has been so special. Join me on a walk down memory lane, won't you?
In at the deep end!
After that very first week-long crash course in all things No Nasties, Apu had to travel overseas so I suddenly found myself representing the brand at the Shop For Change booth at Lakme Fashion Week. No big deal, right?! It was a golden opportunity to speak to fashion types about the importance of ethical fabrics and production chains, and a highlight of the week was welcoming Mr Kukade, a cotton farmer and Chairman of Chetna Organic, who was interviewed about the impact fair trade made in his community by actor & director Parvin Dabas (pictured in a classic No Nasties tee!).
As monsoon rains poured down and the St Mary's Feast and Ganesh Chaturthi festivals packed out the streets of Mumbai, our tiny team worked between the Bombay Connect co-working space and the Juhu 'ware-home' where stock-takes and product shoots were supplemented with copious gallons of Tang by the master mixer himself Mr Kothari.
Those were the days of long team meetings in Saltwater Cafe (freeflowing sangria = freeflowing creativity) and an occasional weekend stall at the Farmer's Market or even Mocha Mojo on Hill Road - RIP to that funny old place with furry red walls and divine flourless chocolate cake.
This was also the season in which this little blog came to life for the first time. Those early posts are now tucked away having a snooze in the archives but included such gems as the people who do no nasty series, features with fashion bloggers and collaborations with NGO partners and fairtrade friends such as Atma, Reality Tours and Travels and Divine Chocolate.
It's so fun to remember the famed Nathulal moustache tee, the classic Mulga Mulgi and Oh God prints, amongst all the other early designs. Nathulal was such a hit that when Shweta found a badly copied knock-off version in Colaba we knew No Nasties had hit the big time! (But seriously, copying is bad. Don't do it.)
Before I moved on from Mumbai, Apu, Felix and I had a cheesy photoshoot around Chapel Road back when Love is Black, I Like Big Ands and Sunny Side Up were brand new designs, and when shooting with street art as a backdrop was perhaps marginally more original than it would be today ;)
Ding ding! Round two!
By the time I boarded the Good Ship No Nasties again in 2014, the big move to Goa had happened. What a dream! Though I worked remotely from Bangalore, I enjoyed visiting the team for a week and staying in the cute Goan bungalow that had been rented as a work space for that season. Lunch was at beachside cafes or local health food joints, with dinners at Gunpowder or the newly-opened Black Sheep Bistro. Yes please!
But the days were Serious Business - honest - with tons of awesome projects on including being part of the team that led India's first Fashion Revolution Day campaign, which was a real honour. My abiding memory of that week in Goa would be Felix holding court over the flipchart, desperately trying to ensure we stayed on track with the neatly-planned meeting structure, while Apu would dream up endless creative angles and tangents to be explored. I hope I provided something along the lines of middle ground...!
We fired up the blog again with a reintroduction to the company after three years in business, and more behind-the-scenes posts about our design processes and special team member features.
This was also when Once Upon a Doug was getting started under the Cotton Sense banner, and No Nasties were hosting the first group of Pave interns both in Goa and on a visit to the cotton farming communities (hence the fancy dinners, it wasn't just for me!). It was amazing to see something the team had been passionate about for so long start to take shape; right from the early days when we used to send out Tsunamika dolls with all our orders, it had been a dream to start our own community project supporting India's cotton farmers and raising awareness of the struggles they face.
In 2014 No Nasties was still focused on making the best t-shirts around, but I clearly remember Shweta showing me mood boards and inspirations for how she would want to broaden the product range: there were Henleys, well-cut v-necks and stylish, slouchy loose tops. Sound familiar?
Would you say she's nailed it since then? Uh huh! The first major collection in No Nasties' incarnation as a full clothing brand was 2015's Mineralistic, and as a customer I was just giddy to see the company expand in such a stunning way. The pieces were timeless and hugely wearable. The photography was beautiful and the styling quintessentially No Nasties. Hooray!
The purpose of life is to be happy!
My time back on board over the last year has been the best yet. The Goan chill has permeated everything from the clothing itself to the company culture: being part of a happiness-driven team is so special. This time I was working mostly from Bangkok (yup, back where it all began!) and while I was sorely jealous to miss out on delicious Bean Me Up lunches and epic photoshoot adventures in Goa, it's such an exciting period for the brand that the good vibes still definitely made it across the ocean to Thailand.
We've launched Palmae and Apiary. We've had a Pop-Up Shop open all season, in addition to setting up at the Arpora Night Market. We've brought the warehouse in-house to Goa and set up an office space for a team that's grown in numbers on the ground (I think Apu might be too organic to make Tang for stock-takes these days!). Once Upon a Doug is going from strength to strength - stay tuned for more on that soon! As ever, I've loved writing for the blog: there has been so much inspiration and detail to share about the new collections, and I'm particularly fond of The Truth about Living in Goa (though I do still have my suspicions that the team clocks off early for beach swims more than they let on...shh!).
I'm immensely proud of No Nasties for sticking passionately to its original goal: raising awareness of the crisis within India's cotton farming industry, and kickstarting a movement for change amongst Indian consumers. Everything comes back to this. And to think, all you have to do to get involved is vote with your wallet by picking one of Shweta's gorgeous designs next time you need a new outfit, rather than grazing from the racks of cheap, mass-produced conventional clothing. You guys, I've seen what's coming next. And it's another belter.
Until next time...!
With so much love in the air, why is it time to step back from Team No Nasties once again? Well, thanks to my invaluable experience with this feisty startup and the ensuing years of work I've enjoyed within the wider fairtrade scene in India, I'm starting my own brand! Gold is a Neutral will produce handbags not clothing, but of course featuring organic, fairtrade Indian cotton amongst other artisan textiles. There are no better role models in terms of perseverance and sticking to a vision than the wonderful people I've worked with at No Nasties over all these years.
Oh, and there's also the small matter of an imminently due baby, with the husband who I would never have met if Apu hadn't dragged me along to meet his Ultimate Frisbee team in Mumbai all those years ago. No kidding. No Nasties volunteers of the future: you never know quite what you might be getting into...!
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Sail well, Good Ship No Nasties! I'll never be far away, and I'll always be cheering the loudest for you!