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Repurposing Textile Waste

Aug/06/2023 / by Melanie Fourie

Bhavini Parikh’s sustainability venture transforms scrap into clothing

South Asian in red top and patchwork waistcoat against a textile background
Photo courtesy: Bhavini Parikh

Bhavini Parikh is the proprietor of Bunko Junko, a company that repurposes pre-consumer textile pieces into distinctive products and clothing. Their emphasis on upcycling has helped redirect textile waste from landfills, led to the conservation of water, and reduced carbon emissions linked to the manufacturing of wearables.

Besides creating ethical clothing, Bunko Junko’s mission is to empower others. They’ve helped many rural Indian women achieve financial independence by providing training and employment.

Parikh won the ‘Iconic Woman Creating a Better World for All Award’ in 2019 at the 25th Women Economic Forum in New Delhi. It comes as no surprise that this entrepreneur idolized business magnate Dhirubhai Ambani growing up. She’s proud of how far her brand has come. “My journey has been filled with passion, creativity, and the desire to make a positive impact on the environment and society,” she says. Bunko Junko stands as a testament to the power of creativity, determination, and compassion. It showcases how a small company with a big heart can make a positive change in the world.”

In an interview with SEEMA, Parikh talks about her life and journey creating ethical commodities.

Tell us about your upbringing and the factors that shaped your path.

I was born in Balasinor, Kheda district, Gujarat, and raised in Mumbai, India. My upbringing in a South Asian culture instilled in me the values of family, hard work, and determination. As the eldest among my siblings, I witnessed my father’s efforts to manage the household, which inspired me to work and support my family.

After marrying, I was determined to be a support system for my new family and started achieving my dreams with my husband’s support. Through passion and hard work, I accomplished my initial goals and later realized that there are no limits to what I can achieve. I later embraced technology and connected with like-minded individuals.

How did your journey into the textile industry begin?

I began my journey in fashion design by designing dresses for my daughter. While I didn’t have formal education in fashion, my home science background introduced me to the subject. I wasn’t initially fashion-savvy, but working in the fashion industry helped boost my creativity.

Why entrepreneurship?

I had a strong desire to make a positive impact on society and uplift the lives of others, I wanted to create something meaningful and contribute to the socio-economic growth of my community. Additionally, as a mother, I was driven to provide a better future for my daughter and be a role model for her to pursue her dreams fearlessly. The challenge of starting something from scratch and the thrill of turning innovative ideas into reality also fueled my motivation to become an entrepreneur.

What does the name Bunko Junko embody, and how was it derived?

Bunko Junko embodies the Japanese meaning of ‘art decoration creation’ by creating beautiful wearable art from discarded materials. The name “Bunko Junko” was derived from mine and my daughter’s initials. My daughter’s name is Jill. I combined the two initials to create “Bunko Junko.” Junko also comes from junk. This embodies the brand, which uses discarded materials to make something useful.

Bunko Junko upcycles waste into sustainable products. Tell us about the collaboration involved in procuring your pre-consumer textile waste.

Our process of sourcing sustainable waste involves working with various partners in the fashion industry, such as manufacturing units, brands, and designers. Manufacturing units often generate waste during the production process, such as fabric cuttings and leftover materials. We establish partnerships with such units to collect their pre-consumer waste, diverting it from landfills and giving it a new life in our upcycled creations.

Similarly, we work closely with fashion brands and designers who may have surplus or unsold inventory, samples, or fabric remnants. Instead of discarding these materials, they provide them to us for upcycling. The process of sourcing sustainable waste is a collaborative effort, and we prioritize transparency and ethical practices in our partnerships.

By sourcing from manufacturing units, brands, and designers, we access a diverse range of materials and textures. Our approach not only helps reduce waste but also supports the sustainable practices of our partners in the fashion industry. Together, we strive to make a positive impact on the environment and promote responsible consumption and production in the fashion world.

Tell us about your endeavor to provide jobs for women in rural areas.

Bunko Junko has trained over 1100 women from rural areas through partnerships with NGOs. We provide work on a job-by-job basis, equipping them with the skills needed for upcycling waste materials into products that empower them economically and environmentally. These women contribute significantly to our mission of sustainability and social impact.

What are the biggest deterrents Bunko Junko has faced, and how have you overcome them?

To start with, sourcing sustainable waste and to find a consistent and diverse supply of pre-consumer textile waste has been a challenge. So we built strong relationships with manufacturing units, brands, and designers to divert their waste from landfills.

As the demand for our sustainable products grows, maintaining the quality and uniqueness of each piece becomes a challenge. We address this by continuously refining our production processes and ensuring that our team of women artisans receives ongoing training and support.

Running a social enterprise that focuses on sustainability and community impact has been financially challenging. We work on innovative marketing and sales strategies to generate revenue while staying true to our core mission.

Additionally, ensuring that our employment and training programs genuinely uplift and empower women in rural areas is crucial. We regularly assess and enhance our training programs to provide valuable skills and opportunities for personal growth.

And lastly, educating consumers about the value of sustainable products and the positive impact of upcycling is an ongoing concern. We invest in marketing efforts and storytelling to raise awareness about our brand and mission.

Who is your biggest devotee?

My daughter. She has been with me every step of the way, encouraging and believing in me and my vision for Bunko Junko. Her unwavering support and belief in my abilities have been a driving force behind my journey as an entrepreneur.

How do you attain work-life balance, and do you have other interests?

Striking a good work-life balance is essential for me, and I make a conscious effort to prioritize both aspects of my life. I ensure that I dedicate quality time to my family, especially my daughter, while also managing Bunko Junko. I believe in setting clear boundaries and delegating tasks to avoid burnout.

I have a deep passion for cooking, which I continue to pursue. It allows me to unwind and explore my creativity outside of the fashion industry. I also enjoy spending time in nature, which helps me stay connected to the environment and find inspiration for my sustainable work at Bunko Junko.