With the new era being ushered in, we might start to notice a shift from the heady consumerism we all partake in, to more environmentally conscious choices. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we give back and preserve the Earth that has provided for us for so long. Pandemic or not, a change has been long coming and though the process might be slow, it is a step in the right direction.
Whether it be food or fashion, an increasing number of people are choosing to only opt for brands and practices that are ethical in their relationships with the resources they use and the workers they employ. People are slowly moving away from fast fashion, where there is trend after trend that goes out of vogue minutes after it is released.
What goes into making brands and clothing sustainable?
• Materials: The most important criteria for a brand that is sustainable is being careful about what materials they are using. Organic, ecologically-friendly, recycled materials go into making the brand and the clothing they make sustainable. It is also determined by their choice to use vegan alternatives to leather, aborting toxic chemical procedures and decreasing the amount of water usage in the production of cotton. Independent sellers who make it a point to use materials that are mass produced, are gaining popularity among the fashion industry.
• Working conditions: Most fashion-lovers are no longer willing to support brands that are known to not provide proper working conditions for their employees or for those brands that are outsourcing their products from countries with much cheaper labour. For a brand to be sustainable, they have to provide fair compensation to all of their workers, healthy and sanitary working environments, labour rights and security of their jobs.
• High Quality: Fast fashion by nature means that you wear it for about 6 months and then dispose of it. With sustainable fashion, brands are trying to ensure that their customers get the highest quality products that can last for a long period of time without wear and tear. Most importantly, if a single piece of clothing is going to be used for a long period of time, brands need to ensure that the style of clothing is timeless and pairs well with other items.
• Donations: This is not a requirement, but certainly goes a long way in making a brand sustainable and conscious. A number of brands send all or at least a portion of their profits for donations. Like the brand Toms, which makes classic shoes for all types of occasions, donate 1$ for every 3$ they make.
There are steps each of us can take into ensuring that we do not overcrowd the world of fashion with fast, non-reusable articles that end up as junk sooner rather than later.
• Buy Less: This goes without saying, the most important thing that goes into ensuring sustainability in fashion is only buying clothing that you genuinely like and is versatile in style. Having closets full of clothes that you do not wear seems counterproductive.
• Buy Second Hand: With vintage fashion making a strong comeback, this is the best time to visit thrift and vintage stores to buy articles of clothing that have been pre-owned. Hand-me-downs also make for a very classic retro look, so don’t be shy about borrowing those old denims from your mom. It has the added advantage of nostalgia too.
• Buy from sustainable brands: Choose brands that make a conscious decision to preserve the environment and make ethical choices when it comes to production. Not only will this help keep your conscience clear, it will also benefit the environment.
The Indian fashion industry is catching up with the need for sustainable practices and under the guidance of Mr Sunil Sethi, the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) in collaboration with Aditya Birla Group’s LIVA, moved towards a more sustainable approach, “FDCI is forging ahead to take fashion on a greener path with a generation of new-age eco-warriors. We believe, sustainability and conscious consumption is the need of the hour.”
In addition to this, various brands in India are working to create a sustainable atmosphere for the production of their goods and an ethical work environment for their employees. Considering that India is a land rich in tradition, it has much to offer in terms of handicrafts and locally-sourced materials of production. Brands like Okhai, Suta Bombay, Bodements, Doodlage and more have been working towards sustainable fashion goals and have quite a significant market for themselves that offers its customers quality clothing that is long lasting and that doesn’t burn a hole in one’s pockets.
Fashion designer Anavila Misra highlights the environmental impact that fast fashion has, and how little attention is directed towards it, as consumerism takes the limelight. “With consumption on the increase, manufacturers and brands want the latest trends to be quickly translated into garments, produced efficiently and in bulk at cheap prices, to be made available quickly to their customers. The impact of this ‘cheap rush’ is multifold, the garments are discarded much faster creating an unnecessary want to replace the cheap non-sustainable dyes/chemicals used to colour the fabric ends up with the fabric in the ground fill and pollutes the soil, the labour that goes behind is usually underpaid, one of the major fabrics of this ‘cheap rush’ is polyester which uses significant fossil fuel to create.”
She also goes on to talk about the many ways in which conscious attempts at sustainability can go a long way in preserving the environment. “All of us in the industry should be conscious of our choices and encourage the usage of locally available and produced raw materials. With the abundant talent of local crafters and artists available to us, we should utilise their skills for a much more sustainable production chain. Collaborating with local artists and craftsmen allow you to create new products and curate a unique design vocabulary. And most importantly, the outcome leads to positive socio-economic and environmental impacts.”