The last 12 months has clearly laid down the importance of sustainability in front of us given the change in consumer awareness towards environment-friendly products. This has become particularly prominent in the fashion sector in 2021.
In fact, the global ethical fashion market is likely to grow from $6.35 billion in 2019 to $8.25 billion in 2023 at a CAGR of 6.8 percent, according to a report by the Business Research Company. Also, several new fashion brands such as ANI Clothing, DaMENSCH, The Pant Project, etc. have come up in the sustainable fashion segment over the past few years.
Legacy brands like Fabindia, Anita Dongra, etc., have been working over the years to not just incorporate sustainability with the brand but also to the broader questions of social justice like sustainable employment, etc. The scale at which that is being done by the sector has amped up magnificently though in recent times.
Also, given the fact that the Indian fashion industry’s annual production is 400 billion square meters of textiles leading to cutting room floor waste of 60 billion square metre, there is a lot of possibility for improvement as per as ‘sustainability’ is concerned.
Rohan Gupta, Managing Director of Gargee Designer's says, “As for now, we are engrossed and focused on the new collection, a new collection for weddings, majorly consolidating on sustainable fabrics – pure wool, silk, cotton. Our new collection is all for sustainable fashion. The current populace is more aware and environmentally conscious. Consumers are very much conscious concerning the latest trend in fabrics, their comfort and their ecological impact on the environment. Sustainable fashion has fostered change in fashion products and the fashion industry towards environmental and social condor.”
Given the demand from the consumer side, the brands are now being compelled to live up to the standards, if not for anything but to maintain the customer loyalty.
“If we take into consideration, many brands have already adopted sustainable means. And some brands are trying to adopt. It is not easy, but that is what the conditions demand. Awareness plays a key role in customer loyalty. Companies don’t want their customers to think of them, as just a means of supplying products but also a caretaker of the surroundings,” said Sanjay Desai, Director, Fabcurate.
The Economic Challenge
Despite the push for sustainability, multiple challenges hold back the brands from turning into completely sustainable, the economics of it being the main fact. It is a balance between ‘sustainable offering’ and providing a ‘sustainable business model’.
Desai agreed, “At Fabcurate, we are trying to adopt the development process. It creates a reputation and that is something, we desire. The resources that will be available to the future generation are dependent on the way we are using it. Economic factors are also important. Some are fearing to accept and implement the changes, because of the economical factor,”
A report by Mckinsey shared how the brands can adopt sustainable means in a cost-effective manner. “The sustainability impact of clothing continues to mount after consumers leave the store with newly purchased apparel. Washing and drying 1 kilogram of clothing over its entire life cycle, using typical methods, creates 11 kilograms of greenhouse gases, according to our estimates—an amount that companies could reduce by altering fabrics and clothing designs. The postpurchase choices that consumers make, such as whether to wash clothes in cold, warm, or hot water, also make a big difference,” the report stated.
Popular fashion brand Unirec has been not only manufacturing garments made from recycled PET bottles but also looking at finding solutions for up cycling garments in different shapes and forms so as to make sure that the life cycle of the fabric goes up all while reducing the impact on the environment.
Kapil Bhatia, CEO and Founder, UNIREC shared on the company has been building its business keeping the sustainability in mind: “Sustainability would mean to us any means of manufacturing which reduces the burden on the environment , reuses the resources available or recycles the existing resources to new ones. UNIREC, a unit of BrandStore India Private Limited's, has been launched with a focus towards sustainability by creating a brand where every product is produced using recycled plastic PET bottles and thereby reducing the carbon footprints.”
Future of Sustainable Fashion
Given the push from international bodies like UN concerning climate and other environmental factors, the importance of sustainability is only going to rise. Experts believe that next year, retailers are likely to accelerate their climate ambitions by overhauling their most carbon-intensive processes opting instead for natural-based solutions and digital innovation.
Bhatia added his views: “The year 2021 has been a year where business has bounced back and we are hoping to continue with a much faster growth going ahead. In terms of numbers we have surpassed last years turnover in the month of November itself, we have already sold over 1 lakh uniforms and over 3 lakh masks under our other verticals. We have just started UNIREC our new garments brand where we manufacture garments from recycled plastic bottles. We are looking at exponential growth as the awareness of sustainability and climate change is greater than ever before and customers are looking for options now where they are doing their bit for the environment along with being fashionable.”