A Cut Above The Rest: Liva leads with innovation, sustainability

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The modern clothing industry is a marvel. Walk into any fashion store and you can have your pick of thousands of different items in a huge variety of styles. Despite the growth in the world of fashion retail, the industry, unfortunately, is still marked by its unsustainability. While many retailers are trying to go eco-friendly, there is one brand which is working towards putting the environment first – Liva.

With its strong product innovation and processes, Liva – a man-made fabric from natural fibres, produced from wood pulp, a natural renewable resource – has proved that it is sustainable like no other fabric. The high-quality fabric is made using natural cellulosic fibres – tree pulp, specifically grown for this purpose. The brand also believes in planting more new trees than those which are cut to make this fibre, giving the earth a much-needed green cover, saving approximately 7X more land in comparison to cotton, and 4X more water than used for making regular fibre.

A part of the Aditya Birla Group, Liva is delivered through an accredited value chain. Unlike other fabrics which are boxy or synthetic, Liva is a soft, fluid fabric which falls and drapes well. In an exclusive chat with IMAGES Business of Fashion, Manohar Samuel, Senior President Marketing, Birla Cellulose, talks about Liva’s latest innovations, its new category movements and future plans.


What are the latest developments and new innovations at Liva?

I will be happy to share this under two headings — process innovation and product innovation. Process innovation ensures that Liva follows a specific pattern of upgrading and enjoying the benefits of the value chain, which can churn out innovations.

As a company we have started LAPF (LIVA Accredited Partner Forum) Innovation Awards in our LAPF confluence. This time we were happy to see some 700 innovations as entries from India and those fabrics were unique. LAPF-driven innovation is something we created as a process and the process continues in taking those innovations to our studios.

How many LAPF studios do you run currently?

We currently have studios in New York, Delhi-NCR (Noida) and Tirupur. Every two weeks we put up across 100 new fabrics from the innovators here. We also work towards innovations in the field of fast fashion since we have identified a gap in India. 10 percent of our value chain only concentrates on innovating here, so that we can market a sustainable product with a 45-day turnaround time.

What’s the next category that you are addressing with product innovation?

We have recently entered the saree segment where we aim at giving comfort, manageability and fashion.

Apart from this, we have had discussions with our key target audience, the college-going crowd, and found that we have a scope in the denim segment as well. We have partnered with Bhaskar and Arvind to take this forward and Liva Denim has received excellent feedback. Another innovation which we have introduced is ‘Livaeco’ which is a natural, fluid fabric that is now eco-enhanced. Sourced from FSC Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainable forests, a Livaeco garment is not just fashionable, it’s also ‘consciously’ fashionable. Last year we also launched a product called ‘Liva Snow’, which is a white viscose.

Tell us about your partnerships?

We have 4 sets of partners today. The strongest partnership with retail has to be with the top brands and then we have moved to big labels present in other multi-brand outlets. We also have product innovations partnerships with top brands like ‘W’, who are working with us for Livaeco for the last two seasons. We have also done various BTL activities and partnerships with large format retail chains like Pantaloons and TV channels like MTV etc. Secondly, we have partnered with LAPF, which is the supply chain for the brands. Here we have grown but at the same time we have consolidated and cut down on those relationships which were not moving ahead with new innovations.

Third, we have gone into category partnerships for example ‘sarees’ where we are working with RmKV and other partners as well.

The fourth is steps taken ahead within the fashion space where we have partnerships with stand alone designers and institutions. The clear objective of these partnerships is to create a culture.

Tell us about the initiatives taken up by Liva to be sustainable?

We have recently launched our brand Livaeco which is all about the eco-system which covers a whole lot of work and benefits. When we talk about the eco-system, it’s about taking leadership in giving eco-friendly products to consumers. We need to first educate the customers and tell them how this will translate to a product which they look for.

We are working on three strong pillars of sustainability for our brand:

– The first pillar is forestry management and giving a green cover. Our level of transparency is such that even consumers can come and see how we are creating more forest cover in lieu of the trees we use for our product.

– The second is about manufacturing and process where we have a Higg Index by The Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Higg Index is a suite of tools that enables brands, retailers, and facilities of all sizes – at every stage in their sustainability journey – to accurately measure and score a company or product’s sustainability performance. It delivers a holistic overview that empowers businesses to make meaningful improvements that protect the well-being of factory workers, local communities, and the environment. Our company has a score of more than 84 with Livaeco where the world average index is around 49. We use 1/3rd or even 1/4th of water in comparison to other viscose manufacturers.

– Apart from this we have a blockchain traceability system with our Livaeco fabrics and also with the garment. We are on a journey to customise this for our smaller customers.

Liva has a strong presence across the women’s wear segment. Are you planning on branching out to other segments?

Diverging into other segments will take some time, although we have started work on five very important categories in the menswear segment pertaining to some demands coming from our partners – bottom wear like denims and trousers, upper wear like shirts, knitwear and even stuff like innerwear and ceremonial wear.

Tell us about your expansion within the home fashion category?

We have launched our products with some co-branding with the brand Portico. We are soon going to extend this to other brands like Bombay Dyeing etc., which have a very good market presence.

Tell us about exports with Liva?

Liva as a brand with tags is present as of now only in India. But Liva as a fabric is present with most of the global brands. So, with the tag also we are planning to extend Livaeco which has tied up with a few global brands.

What’s your take on circular fashion?

We are very soon going to launch the recycled version of cotton garments and fabric into our fibers and are partnering with a couple of global brands for the same.

In the end, all I’d like to say is that Liva was envisioned as a brand and today it has lived up though its LAPF partnerships as an eco-system for the entire value chain in the country. This is something very heartening for us because when we touch the customers with Liva, we wanted the right promise to go and the right innovation to reach them.

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