Very rarely does a fashion choice have the opportunity to make a profound influence on a global scale. For Harish Patel, a few compliments sparked an idea that became the Ishi vest. After returning from a powerful trip to India two years ago, Patel was enjoying a mocha in his local café when a woman asked him where she could find his vest. The vest was one he had picked up while in India and he was baffled as to how he could help this woman find one of her own. His trip to India had a more lasting influence than simply picking up some stylish new threads. Patel had the honor of meeting seed activists, farmers, and social entrepreneurs who were doing innovative things to counteract pollution, waste, and farmer suicides in India.
When asked how he got into fashion, Patel stated that while he has always been complemented on his fashion sense, his background of community organizing, farm and labor rights, and civic engagement has made him focused on two things: “First, all that goes into creating the clothes that we may wear a few times and throw away and second, how what we wear tells such a strong story and has the potential to connect and inspire us.”
So why vests? Patel enthusiastically answers, “because vests are the best!” From a fashion standpoint Patel describes his vests as unique, versatile, functional, AND fashionable. He finds that his vests are also an incredibly easy way to connect with other people. Ishi recently ended a Kickstarter campaign that started with a $10,000 goal and resulted in more than $23,000. The campaign described how Patel’s magnetic personality drew people into the story of Ishi.
The Kickstarter campaign and its outpouring of support will allow Ishi to launch their current design, expand into women’s vests, and introduce a new unisex style that their Kickstarter backers will get to vote on. Additionally, Ishi will be able to integrate their community of backers into the process by providing a full 10 percent of Ishi profits into the local sustainability efforts in the U.S. and India.
Patel and Ishi welcome the incredible support and publicity they have received and plan to take their “community of supporters with us behind the scenes on the journey towards a sustainable future.” Ishi hopes to provide people with a product they can believe in and that are not only beautifully made but forward thinking.