Despite the growing awareness of sustainable fashion amongst the consumers and the fraternity, we still need an industry-wide collaboration to reshape the future of the supply and retail chains of fashion. Sustainable fashion is not just about what material you use/ reuse, but also how a garment/ product is made, who made it, what resources were used to produce it, how it was sold, and purchased while considering the impact of its existence on the environment and eventually how will it die/ get reused.
Sustainability Matters Beyond the Obvious
It is true that the above comes with a cost. Even though many people would like to opt for more green and sustainable products, they are less likely to pay extra for this. Therefore, we need to share how sustainable fashion encourages better practices for the industry and promotes longevity of the product, something confronting to the fashion world, which thrives on rapidly making new offerings to users.
Having said this, sustainable fashion is growing tremendously. We now have a huge market for organic, recycled and natural products; followed by fair trade labeled - eco-friendly, animal cruelty-free charitable brands, and the handmade - human-made products, which speak of the communities benefitting from their manufacture.
We are seeing that increasingly people now buy things because of the reason they are produced; the story of why they exist and who will benefit from their purchase. And this mindset hugely helps the movement of sustainable fashion.
Be it TOMS, the shoe brand that donates a pair of shoes every time you purchase one, or FREITAG, the Swiss label that makes one-of-a-kind bags out of upcycled truck tires and other durable materials.
It's Not too Late
As design educators and practitioners in India, today one needs to look in the mirror and reflect. We need to be confronted with the reality of our landfills and the massive water and power consumption that has gone into producing things that cannot be recycled, reused or disposed of. The usage of harmful chemicals to accelerate the growth of our natural fibers, the disposal of the same into our water bodies, and natural heritage. Traditionally, we have always been conscious, mindful, frugal, and careful as a society with our resources, but this doesn’t translate to our modern avatar.
India being the hub of garment manufacturing, contributes directly to the fashion industry’s long-lasting carbon footprint on the environment, which is now a real crisis. Systemic thinking and sustainable fashion strategies must be at the core of design and fashion pedagogy and practice. We can no longer get away with fashion just “expressing” ideas.
Designers must create meaningfully and should understand the long-term effects of what they create. Our production processes must minimize water and power consumption; our supply chains must be transparent and traceable; our retail systems need a revamp to include sustainable habits like renting/reusing clothes. End-of-use methodologies are needed for the circularity of the Fashion industry. New material inventions through Bio Design are the future of the profession of design and fashion.
Time to Change Perspective
As seen in an exhibition in the 'Fashion for Good' museum in Amsterdam; 80 percent of a garment’s impact comes from decisions that designers make on the cut, color, and fabric chosen. Almost 2,700 liters of water is used to produce a single cotton-t-shirt, this is what the average human drinking in 3 years.
Therefore, the choice lies with us. Even steps taken in this direction, no matter how small, will be significant in shaping the narrative of consumption for customers and creators of this century.