How I knew Shayonti was a Wonder Woman of the Week
Shayonti and I had our first substantive conversation after she commented on a ‘Stop Asian Hate’ repost I made on Instagram in March 2021:
“As an Asian Indian who has spent most of her adult life in Europe and travelled extensively in US, I find this post flawed at so many levels. The fact that it clubs all women of Asian origin together is almost laughable. Not all Asian women are subject to sexual objectification and that’s not the root cause of the discrimination they are facing, neither is it the exotic component. It is these kinds of over simplification of a way more nuanced, layered problem that breeds even more ignorance.”
If you’re like me, you love people and brands that have integrity. Shayonti’s feedback is the reason I started paying more attention to Urban Medley, the sustainable lifestyle brand that Shayonti founded in 2019. As a result of our exchange on social media, Shayonti and I met and spoke about many issues and our different perspectives. Shayonti shared some of her experiences living and working all over the world. She now lives runs Urban Medley out of the Netherlands, with production taking place by hand in India.
The artisans producing Urban Medley silk scarves and kimonos work only with sustainable fabrics and follow a sustainable, ethical mode of production. The products represent weaving and printing techniques which are centuries old. Thanks to the young designers Urban Medley works with, these old-world techniques are now given a global appeal. The artisans’ art and crafting technology would literally be lost to the world if it wasn’t supported by consumers.
Paying workers a living wage
One thing that Shayonti and Urban Medley stand for is paying the people who make garment workers a living wage. In response to my LinkedIn post on this topic, Shayonti wrote,
“This is exactly what we need Tammy Parrish — simplify the message and make it chewable. I strongly believe it is us consumers who can change the narrative and make the brands rethink after all they want us to pay. We have to be ready to buy less, not hunt for deep bargains and normalise repeating outfits! Of course as you said — ASK QUESTIONS. I would like to add, give the small sustainable businesses a chance, they are trying to do an honest job but need a lot of your support to make a difference they are competing with the sharks!!”
Sustainability and capitalism
Is it possible to preach the values of sustainability while still promoting consumption?
“I think it’s important to preach the values of sustainability as many are still unaware and often their actions though (maybe) unintentional impact the planet negatively. Consumption is at the very core of nature’s balance, the problem lies with man’s inherent trait of over consumption. We are simply never satiated. That’s where the problem lies. This is true for the fashion world too!!”
Staying true to her values
On the trend of “woke” marketing by fashion brands:
“I do not see anything wrong with a brand catering to a particular clientele, a particular body shape/age/color. What I am against is when every brand, just to tick the box (aka trendy topics) tries to jump on the bandwagon and dilutes the cause.
It’s up to a brand whether or not to include people of color, the LGBTQ community or gender neutral clothes. But they need to PRACTICE their choice throughout their business — including their retail outlets and online presence — not just show it in their marketing. This way consumers are less confused and know where a brand stands. As a brown woman of imperfect shape/size and wrong age 😉 I know exactly the brands that resonate with me. I do not want all brands to jump in, because then the ones that are really and truly inclusive — working diligently to make a difference at various levels and not just $$$ — do not get the deserved spotlight.”
More about Shayonti Chatterji
Though she self-identifies as “not a fashionista nor a designer” Shayonti Chatterji did dare to dream of building a lifestyle brand which allows one to amplify one’s personal style. This is something individualistic and timeless, not time-bound and trendy.
Shayonti’s corporate career spanned over 22 years and allowed for a comfortable lifestyle, but her heart wasn’t always in it She decided to follow her dream alone. She reconnected with her roots back in India and is now promoting the rich artisanal heritage which had held her spellbound for year. Shayonti is amazed at how artisans use their traditional techniques to effortlessly reflect contemporary fashion and colours. She realized it was this ability to adapt with the times that enabled the many artisanal crafts from India to stay relevant over centuries, making them unique and exclusive.
At the age of 18, she left her home country to study and work in various parts of the world. Over the years, Shayonti learned to assimilate with local cultures, adapt to lifestyles, and express herelf in foreign languages. Evolving as a global citizen, Shayonti has always remained true to her roots and my philosophy. This has given her strength and conviction to move forward against all odds.
Her ideal world is where we make a choice simply because it’s right, where empathy is always in style, and each of us in spite of our differences in race, sex, color, religion, feel safe and comfortable.
Visit Urban Medley on Instagram; shop their website, and connect with Shayonti on LinkedIn.