The Love is Mighty pop-up shop in New York is filled with bags and shoes in vibrant palettes and Old World-inspired patterns. They're also made almost entirely out of trash—but you'd never guess it.
Founded by designer and fashion illustrator Monisha Raja, the fair-trade eco-brand Love is Mighty employs artisan craftsmen from communities across India to weave, embroider, and create accessories using vegan, recycled materials including candy wrappers, plastic bags, organic cotton, and vintage heirloom fabrics.
Raja herself was born in India and spent the first 10 years of her life moving around the country until settling just outside of Bombay as a tween. She now credits her transient youth as one of the richest influences on her line, which pays homage to the handwork, beading techniques, and craftsmanship she observed in various Indian locales.
At 19, Raja moved to New York to attend Parsons, where she earned a BFA in fashion design, before working for top brands like DKNY, Vince Camuto, and Tory Burch. But six years ago, she decided to turn her attention to a new passion project: Love Is Mighty.
“Being a vegan myself, I couldn't find many vegan shoes that were stylish enough or that spoke to me,” Raja said when I caught up with the designer at her pop-up shop this week. “Working for big design houses, we would do a collection, and it would be tribal-inspired, but no tribal artisans really touched the fabrics.”
So, in an effort to preserve and celebrate the art of traditional, hand-made craftsmanship she was introduced to as a child, Raja took a trip to India to find artisans and a factory that could give life to her idea.
“[These artisans] are storytellers. They tell stories about their lives with different motifs that they weave and embroider into bags and clothing. It’s passed down from generation to generation.”
It was difficult to find artisans to work with, Raja said, because many families with centuries-old traditions as craftsmen have flocked to cities to take jobs in other industries. Undeterred, Raja found several remaining crafting communities that were just as excited about Love is Mighty: One workshop consists of 10 men specializing in silver and gold stitchwork who live with their tribe in a remote border town of Pakistan. Another collaborating community was once home to 700 looms. The remaining eight are now used by women working with Raja to weave materials like candy wrappers and plastic bags into some of the brand's one-of-a-kind fabrics.
Launching the line was initially a struggle, Raja admitted. The search for collaborators was tough, and figuring out a production schedule that satisfied both her overseas employees and her American consumers seemed near impossible.
But, said Raja, she has the cosmos are on her side: “During my initial trip back to India, I remember standing in a field thinking, Am I crazy? What am I doing? And then I felt this cow who’d come up and started licking me out of nowhere. I was so moved, I didn’t shoo her off. People were laughing, saying that the cow must be thanking me for being vegan. And in that moment, I was like, This is why I do what I do.”
Check out the Love is Mighty New York pop-up shop inside Selima Optique at Bond 07 through Sunday, July 30. Or visit loveismighty.com and shop some of our favorite items below.