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Why Is Sustainable Fashion Important In Light Of The Climate Crisis?

In a year alone after Venice experienced its worst flooding in the last 50 years, multiple forests across the world, and with them the flora and fauna that thrived in their natural habitat were destroyed by wildfires attributed to global warming, and together we continue to feel the heat—quite literally so and more with each passing moment—sustainability shouldn’t, and can no longer be just another buzzword. 

Image Courtesy: The True Cost on Instagram
Image Courtesy: The True Cost on Instagram

For anyone who is on the fence about where they stand with respect to sustainable measures, it’s rather simple: the more you know, the better. Sample this bleak reality, for instance; as highlighted in a recent report, the sea levels are rising rapidly, projections for 2050 revealing that some of the most beautiful cities across the world—Bangkok, Shanghai, Basra, Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai—could soon be submerged under water. Even after multiple steps being undertaken in the direction, there is still an abundance of plastics in our oceans, causing damage to coral reefs and endangering life at risk for not one but numerous species. One might argue about what fashion has to do with it all, but being the most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil, and one whose production processes and offerings make up the majority of accumulated and increasing waste, it's time for the industry and individuals to collectively take steps in order to minimise the damage being done. As Swedish environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Greta Thunberg put it, “You are never too small to make a difference.”

There is no denying the fact that it all begins with awareness and fortunately, in that area, there is absolutely no dearth of information. Material on sustainability and ethical fashion, both important facets that we ought to be championing, is available for one to watch, read and implement. Documentaries such as The True Cost and The Machinists amplify them respectively, giving viewers an inside view into fashion and how it pollutes, with insights into the lack of ethical practices in fashion, and how most of what we own ends up in landfills. That in itself is a clear marker of why fashion and its users, need to commit to sustainable practices more than ever before. From ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion’ by Elizabeth Cline to Lucy Siegle’s ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World’, several books highlight the problem of a collective compulsive buying behaviour fuelled by fast fashion, and ask the same pertinent question: Will the planet survive an en masse foray into the shopping overdrive?

Even with much research being done and initiative being taken around sustainability in fashion, there is an immense amount of uncertainty and numerous doubts that surround it. Why do we need sustainable fashion practices? How do my shopping habits factor into it? What exactly does sustainable fashion comprise of? And perhaps the most important of them all: What can I do about it? From understanding the core question of why sustainable fashion is indeed indispensable to brands doing their bit in India and internationally, it is important to ask the relevant questions and know all that you can about sustainable fashion before putting it to practice. Because this, more than ever before, is the time for action. 

Image Courtesy: The True Cost on Instagram
Image Courtesy: The True Cost on Instagram

What Is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion refers to the practices that take into account the entire supply chain of a garment rather than focus on a single step. Broadly, it incorporates environmental elements such as the usage of organic and sustainable materials that are cruelty-free along with social concerns such as ethical practices for the workers. An all-encompassing term that promotes reuse and rewear, upcycling, taking into account the environmental factors as well as responsible buying practices which encourage necessity over hoarding, sustainable fashion is aimed to inflict the minimum possible or no damage to the planet. 

Enter ‘circular design’, which defines what is an effort to completely curb waste in any product by integrating recyclable properties right at the planning stage of a garment. As Ellen MacArthur Foundation sums it up, “The reality is that most things today are still designed for the linear model. This means that almost everything needs to be redesigned in accordance with the principles of the circular economy.”

Why Is Sustainable Fashion Important?

To answer the question simply, it’s because the planet is currently witnessing a climate emergency and it’s upon us to take up all the measures possible to. A recent report issued by The Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, the United Nations’ scientific body, published its dire findings that highlighted the repercussions we are set to face. Edited by 91 scientists across 40 countries and comprising findings from about 6,000 scientific studies, it states that we could be facing drastic effects of the current greenhouse gas emissions by as early as 2040. Exhaustive and essential, it also includes a quote by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, a French writer and journalist, perhaps to remind us of the hope that lies ahead. "As for the future, it is not a question of predicting it, but of making it possible,” it reads. 

As a whole, the climate crisis can only be solved with collective measures, meaning no step is too minute or unnecessary. In the face of the climate emergency, the shift to sustainable fashion, however, requires urgent steps undertaken collectively. By buying less or opting for vintage clothing, shopping for what is required and shall last, donating, repurposing and investing in ethically made clothing and accessories, much of the carbon footprint associated with fashion and irresponsible buying habits can be eliminated. It may sound unachievable but by simply asking yourself a couple of questions when overtaken by the urge to shop, one that usually follows a bad day at work, you could become a responsible shopper. Start with these: Do I really need this? Can I buy a sustainable alternative that will last? Am I only interested because it’s on sale and shall cost much less?

Seemingly small steps that you take can have a favourable impact on the environment. By opting against polyester, nylon and other synthetic fibres that result in microplastics being discarded during washing, carrying a tote to avoid that single-use plastic shopping bag and resorting to sustainable brands, much impact can be made. To quote Washington Post fashion critic and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Givhan, "The simplest, best path to sustainability is not anti-fashion; it’s anti-gorging."

Of late, numerous brands, fashion houses and celebrities have been joining the crew of sustainably conscious individuals. Case in point: Jane Fonda’s recent announcement-inspired by the dynamic Greta Thunberg- to not shop for anything unless absolutely necessary along with Sarah Jessica Parker vowing only to buy vintage clothes for her son. 

In 2019 alone, brands such as Victoria Beckham, Coach and Burberry have announced plans to forgo all use of fur and exotic animal skin, joining the ranks of Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren who denounced the usage over a decade ago. A number of luxury fashion houses have also decided to steer clear of destroying excess merchandise, a phenomenon most recently brought to the forefront as Burberry faced criticism for destroying stock worth 28.6 million pounds. Later, the brand vowed to eliminate plastic use by 2025, joining others such as Target, Everlane and L’Oréal, brands that have pledged to minimise or completely put an end to using plastic in supply and packaging. All of this, combined with the scrutiny on overproduction, fast fashion and clothes ending up in landfills has given way to more focus on sustainable practices in fashion than, perhaps a decade earlier. 

And yet, there is always more that we can do in light of current events to combat the climate emergency. As per the findings of this year’s Pulse of the Fashion Industry, fashion is still a massive contributor, as “the pace of sustainability progress in the fashion industry has slowed by a third in the past year and is not moving fast enough to counterbalance the harmful impact of the fashion industry’s rapid growth.” If ethical, responsible and eco-friendly fashion has been on your mind for quite some time now, there is no better time than now to turn to sustainable fashion brands that deliver. 

Image Courtesy: The True Cost on Instagram
Image Courtesy: The True Cost on Instagram

Sustainable Fashion Brands in India

Eka

Bringing to the forefront the comfort of natural textiles and breezy silhouettes, Rina Singh’s Eka champions sustainability. “Working with natural fibres for me is like second nature; I don't think I can work with anything that’s not biodegradable,” says Singh, who by her own admission, doesn’t delve into current trends. With her khadi cotton smocks, panelled and colour-blocked iterations of dresses and minimally embroidered leanings, she doesn’t need to either. Having caught the eye of Japanese retail giant Uniqlo which specialises in life wear, Rina Singh’s coveted partnership with the brand was also committed to showcasing the kurta in a reimagined and yet unadulterated form. 

Doodlage

The waste fabric and material left out in the making of a garment was an issue often discussed, but Kriti Tula’s brainchild—Doodlage—found an innovative solution to putting it to use. “Pushing towards zero waste”, the brand makes use of the leftover fabric to make its phenomenal offerings, promoting and vouching for a greener environment through buying less and buying ethically. 

Morii

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M O R I I // People series . Kutch // . These hands have nurtured life, been the comfort till the newborns fell asleep, these hands have also wiped the worldly worries with ease. But not many know, these hands can also create art, forms that are simple and complex at the same time. A process that needs patience and love. . These hands are our workforce and them our souls. Each thread carries with it a crafted emotion. A sense of belonging that is nurtured and well kept. . #morii #moriidesign #originalsource #organiccolors #naturaldye #sustenance #elevatedliving #slowfashion #slowessential #people #innocence #villageindia #localeconomy #womenempowerment #simpleelements #simpleways #lifeinthemoment #still #rawaesthetics #reflective #peopleofsubstance #minimalmood #studioinspiration #studiovibes

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Literally signifying ‘mine’ in English, Morii, the expression that is often uttered in Hindi-speaking regions to claim one’s own, refers to ‘forest’, the essence of which the brand is affixed to, in Japanese. All in all, apt for the up-and-coming label that advocates authenticity and all things organic. Founded by Brinda Dudhat, a National Institute of Design alumnus, the brand’s take on sustainability is that of narrating stories, told through the unparalleled work of local artisans they work with. Expect hand-embroidered details, organic dyeing and natural yarns and above it all, a drive to support the artistic communities which have far too often been ignored. 

Péro

Dreams are made of exquisitely embroidered offerings, dipped in vibrant colours, especially if the offering is one by Péro. Founded by Aneeth Arora who has garnered the British Council’s Young Fashion Entrepreneur Awards in 2011 (amongst several others),  the label that signifies ‘to wear’ in Marwari hardly needs any introduction. Since its first outing in the industry over 10 years ago, Péro had advocated the use of textiles and handiwork, giving way to their tagline ‘handmade with love’. 

Featured Image: Nnaemeka Ugochukwu on Unsplash

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