All Photographs by Jon + Moch Photography
When I first received my Sideswept Dhoti, I was told I could easily style it 50 ways. Really? 50? What a feat! This challenge sparked my curiosity and I had to see what all this “versatility” chatter was about.
As an ethical blogger and someone who is trying to live my passions out, I’m often faced with the minimalist dilemma: How do I wear more with less? Fewer Better! Quality over Quantity! Capsule Wardrobe! If you have been around our space long enough or run your own sustainable, slow fashion, ethics-based blog or brand, these concepts are foundational to what we preach as ethical enthusiasts. How do you remain content in a culture that bargains and begs for your closet space, trying to convince you with all its might that one is not enough?
Maybe this is something you’ve wrestled with. If so, MATTER will be a welcomed friend. Hello, good to meet you! Their pieces aren’t multi-versatile in the sense that you can actually reinvent the silhouette of the garment to be worn a multitude of ways. Rather, their pieces are curiously unique, leaving you, the wearer, in constant wonder of how else you could style their garments.
I received my gifted Sideswept Dhoti in summer, regularly pairing minimalist tanks and colorful shoes to dress up the artwork adorning my lower half. I could just as easily throw on some sneakers and a tee and head to the park for a barbeque or hit the grocery store. The real challenge came when the temperature began to drop and the sunshine took leave. We do live in Seattle after all. Rain capital of the U.S.? The world? It’s quite possible.
After consistently seeing MATTER garments styled for warmer weather, I knew I needed to experiment styling my dhoti for the post-summer months. It’s too fun for summer alone. However, if it was to stay in my closet, it would need to fit with our lifestyle, and thus the climate. I don’t boast about having a year-long wardrobe or anything (though the idea sounds intriguing), but Hello! These are pants. Why would I tuck away what could be a winter essential? Who said winter can’t have funky designs and fun-loving prints? Not I!
To my surprise, styling the Trikora Dhoti for cooler weather was effortless. Why? I attribute it to their pattern and color. Perhaps if I had chosen a more colorful print (which I typically reach for), styling for fall and winter would have been more difficult. Luckily, black and white prints have been highly favored in my wardrobe for years. They never seem to fail me. When in doubt? Block print neutrals.
Beyond my dhoti’s versatility, they tell a story and have a history. And it’s this I love most about ethical style. The narrative, the Why? behind the brands. So let’s jump in for a moment!
Renyung Ho and Yvonne Suner founded MATTER in 2014 with this 3-fold mission: “To foster designer-artisan collaborations, inspire customers to value provenance and process, and pioneer industry change and sustainability for rural textile communities.” From start to finish, their mission involves care, intentionality, craftsmanship, tradition, style, and innovation. Personally, I love MATTER’s value of craft, the passing down of carefully-honed skills and techniques from one generation to the next. Their pieces aren’t products of edgy trends. Rather, they’re thoughtful plays on traditional dress (more on that in a minute). Their philosophy of slow carves a deep line between their values and the assembly-line mentality of fast fashion.
“Imagine a world where everything that is exchanged, bought, used and consumed is made by machine, on an assembly line. Where every item is judged only on its functionality, valued for its utility, and on its ability to achieve economy of scale. Devoid of colour, originality, meaning and context, every object is made in a vacuum where the margin for error is nil and the margin for profit, is king. This is the world we are building. Is it a world worth living?”
So, dhoti. What is it? What’s the story? Traditionally, dhoti is a long loincloth that wraps around the waist with one end going between the legs and tucking into the waistband. It’s made of light cotton, perfect for hot and humid weather, like loose and airy trousers. Dhoti was traditionally worn by Hindu men in southern Asia, but there are sculptured reliefs from the second century B.C. showing dhotis worn by both sexes. Regardless, dhotis are part of Indian heritage. During India’s struggle for freedom from British rule, Gandhi was clad in his dhoti, even helping India’s traditional dress become familiar to the rest of the world. Though western style has become the norm in much of India, dhotis are still worn today for weddings and special holidays, uniting the entire country together from north to south, town to city, farmer to politician.
My Sideswept Dhoti in the Trikora pattern is made from a medium weight cotton, which is dyed by hand and handloomed. This quality, care, and attention to detail takes time: something you will never find in the cheap and endless buffet of fast fashion garments. I love my dhoti, for its unique styling and versatility, but also for the story and history it speaks and comes from.
WEAR WHAT MATTERS
We, as buyers, have significant say in the direction of the fashion industry. What we choose to purchase, or not, matters. What we choose to promote matters. The industry needs your choice to survive. We applaud MATTER for pursuing a different path and a higher standard, for upholding beautiful and age-old traditions in a world that is unaware, and for proving that going against the grain, even slowly, matters.
Note: Thank you, MATTER, for gifting us your Sideswept Dhoti + Trikora, for review. For the sake of transparency, we were not compensated for this post. As always, all thoughts and opinions are our own!