Théla is a plastic upcycling initiative that handcrafts products with discarded plastic, thus diverting plastic waste from filling landfills, polluting oceans and harming wildlife.
The word ‘Théla’ colloquially means ‘plastic bags’ in Hindi.
My name is Diti, I am a graphic designer from Mumbai and I live in Athens. This initiative has emerged out of my love for design, making things with my hands and living mindfully and as sustainably as possible.
While living in Mumbai as a child, we did not know of single-use, disposable products like toilet paper, nappies, and kitchen rolls. There were no fast food & takeaway restaurants and no supermarket chains either. We grew up without plastic, with a lot less plastic at least.
Later, however, I witnessed the growth of consumerism and plastic consumption in India and began learning about the harmful impact of plastic on the environment.
A few years ago when I moved to Athens, I was confronted with a much higher level of plastic consumption than what I was used to. Here in Europe, plastic consumption is ‘normal’ and more challenging to avoid. Most people don’t know or have forgotten how they lived without plastic but I have been in a position to have lived through its emergence. Maybe that made me more sensitive to its impact and inspired me to do something about it.
And so, already being in the field of sustainability, I put together my knowledge of design and my love for handmade and started crocheting with plastic.
Today, Théla retails in Europe and the UK through its online shop and has its products in several other online and offline shops in the US, Japan and Europe. We make crocheted products here in Athens, Greece, and have collaborated with ethical organisations in India for woven products.
I started Théla with a lot of help and guidance from friends and family:
My mother, Lata, knitter, crocheter, sewer, hand crafter, embroiderer, best pizza maker and ex-event manager manages all the production and operations in India.
We collaborate with various like-minded organizations in India to make our upcycled products. We owe a lot to them for our growth, approach and values and it is a great source of motivation for us to be a part of their ethical community.
Our plastic woven textiles are made by Khamir, a platform that revives the crafts, heritage and cultural ecology of Kutch, Gujarat. Apart from reviving traditional weaving skills, Khamir provides employment to waste collectors, medium skilled weavers, home-based workers, senior citizens and prison victims. Their plastic upcycling initiative also educates the community about the harmful effects of plastic waste.
C. C. Shroff Self Help Centre
The plastic woven products are sewn by a fair trade NGO, C. C. Shroff Self Help Centre in Mumbai whose main objective is to provide economic independence to low skilled and physically challenged people. They guide, train and equip them with skills like tailoring, embroidery and handicrafts and provide them with the necessary infrastructure and market for the products.
Several of our products are made by Rajiben, a skilled weaver in Kutch. Rajiben has been trained to weave with plastic and managed the entire production process at Khamir. She now works on her own under the guidance of Kaarigar Clinic, a start-up that helps rural artisans become independent and strengthen their business skills so that they do not need to migrate to urban areas for work.
All the organic fabrics used in our products are naturally dyed by Zabreca, an organization that retails sustainable fabrics, yarns and dyes. They use natural colours extracted from fruits, vegetables and herbs as opposed to the chemical dyes that are toxic for the workers, for us and for the environment.