W Power 2024

Vishal Tolambia: Working towards a better planet with sustainable fashion

The NIFT and London College of Fashion grad has created HCD-TEx, the world's first recycled material from mixed pre-consumer textile waste

Published: Feb 27, 2024 12:41:00 PM IST
Updated: Feb 27, 2024 12:43:17 PM IST

Vishal Tolambia: Working towards a better planet with sustainable fashionVishal Tolambia, Founder & CEO, Humanity Centred Designs Image: Mexy Xavier; Directed By: Kapil Kashyap

Vishal Tolambia | 26
Founder & CEO, Humanity Centred Designs

Cutting patterns, stitching and sewing. Even as a child, Vishal Tolambia, 26, was no stranger to the world of fashion. His grandfather was a tailor in in the village of Babayacha, 27 km from Ajmer, while his father, also a tailor, got into manufacturing and owned a modest garment manufacturing and exporting business in Pushkar. Tolambia would spend time at his father’s unit after school, learning the ropes.

So it made sense for him to improve his sartorial skills and he enrolled at the National Institute of Fashion Design (NIFT), Jodhpur, where he won prizes and awards—his collection inspired by the Rabari community of Gujarat won him the Best Graduation Project award.

A few internships later, while arriving at the decision of studying for a master’s at the London College of Fashion (LCF), he hesitated due to lack of funds. However, seeing his stellar portfolio, he was offered a handsome scholarship. To cover his other expenses, he did part-time stints at Zapp, an online delivery app.

While pursuing the MA Fashion Futures course, Tolambia identified and highlighted the challenge of textile waste generated by the garment manufacturers in Pushkar. After collecting data and prototyping, he developed a patent-pending local circular recycling technology which recycles the waste, resulting in the creation of HCD-Tex (Humanity Centred Designs-Textile), the world’s first recycled material from mixed pre-consumer textile waste.

Presenting his work globally at events such as Lakme Fashion Week in India, Woolmark Australia’s Impact Hub, COP28 in the US, and more, Tolambia established Humanity Centred Designs, where work also involves developing responsible textiles for conscious consumers in the fashion industry. Within a year of graduating in 2022, he established two successful retail stores in Bath and London, UK, globally retailing recycled apparel and fashion in more than six countries. In February, Tolambia will participate in Pure London, the world’s second largest trade show, where he will present his Autumn-Winter 2025 collection.

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Tolambia has received global acclaim, including recognition from prestigious institutions like the United Nations. The enterprise has secured nine International Awards worldwide, including the Imagining Sustainable Fashion Award 2022 (Italy), Creative Enterprise Award 2022 (London), Climate Launchpad winner India 2022, and the Greenwich Business of the Year 2023 (London). He also won the Global Citizen Prize for his outstanding efforts to promote social change.

Tolambia’s mentor at FashMash’s Young Pioneers Program, Akash Mehta, CEO and co-founder of Fable & Mane, says, “When Tolambia first told me about his work transforming textile waste into innovative materials, I thought this person is a true visionary, but most importantly leads with his heart.” He adds, “His penchant and eagerness to learn and grow while making the planet a better place is truly inspiring.”

Vishal Tolambia: Working towards a better planet with sustainable fashion

Tolambia says, “In the coming years, our goal is to establish over 15 flagship stores worldwide, showcasing our recycled textiles and promoting ethical fashion.” Simultaneously, he also aspires to empower over 500 marginalised SMEs in India by providing them with their circular recycling technology. “This will foster community development and environmental sustainability.”

(This story appears in the 23 February, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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