“While there is so much talk around sustainability, the customer also seems to be confused as they are inundated with information that needs to be channelled correctly and is sometimes lost. There is a growing realisation of patronage for homegrown brands, and buying local that has become the new trend. The consumer sentiment during this pandemic if anything is but resilient and trying to remain positive. The key is to act responsibly and educate oneself – the onus is on the industry and the brands to make it easier for the consumers to choose wisely,” Reshma Dalal, Creative Director at tara and i highlights.
But, the market is filled with brands that are selling anything and everything in terms of sustainable fabrics or garments. The loosely interpreted word ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ has given room to many cons and the customer easily falls for them as these brands are selling wrong make on a low price tag as compared to brands which are really working hard to put sustainable practices to action.
Designer Koushik Saha of Pazy, a conscious slow fashion brand for kids, highlights that even when shopping for the kids, consumer may acknowledge the sustainable and eco-friendly processes the brands are putting forth but they are not ready to pay a premium because the kids will soon outgrow the clothes. Koushik still looks to keep the processes as transparent as possible and from the very beginning he is always putting up videos and stories of his production process, just to make people aware of how painstakingly he dyes each piece of garment or thread and how it is done in harmony with the nature so that every child only wears garments that become their second skin.
In a similar vein, Reshma tells us that being authentic and transparent is key at tara and i. Implementing basic business practices responsibly and being honest about their trade practices and choices is something that the brand consciously follows.
“We like to call ourselves a responsible and a mindful brand. Sustainability is something we are still learning on the go. Certifications are a vote of confidence from the buyers to consumers. In the end, most consumers are still concerned about the design and aesthetic and then look for the sustainable badge. While it won’t be a game changer for the consumer, the journey to that path I hope has begun. Consumers are not going to go the extra mile to double check. But once their trust is broken, the game is over. It is more for the fashion industry to dictate such practices and undertake audits. Brands need to talk more about the fabrics used, promote local artisans and talk about the commitment in creating a solid product that is long lasting and steering away from fast fashion. One cannot blame the consumer for not digging in deeper as they will take the face value of the product – what they see on the label. There is already a shift seen in homegrown brands communicating this and finding their niche,” Reshma further adds.
“Certifications go a long way in convincing customers and gaining their confidence. It gives credibility that the product is as per a standard, is genuine and within permissible limits which motivates them to invest in it. With brands making relatively more information accessible to customers through social media platforms, it has become easier for them to check their claims as opposed to before. However, brands should continuously educate their customers on the sustainable practices they follow, so that customers can make the right decision. Customers should look for transparency, authenticity, certifications, information on raw materials and the processes being used for not getting duped and we are on our path of practising it,” Preeti Saboo, Founder of H . O . P . E . S agrees.
The foremost practice H . O . P . E . S follow is transparency. “Taking customers through the entire journey a piece undergoes; the number of lives it touches, supports; educating them about global standards; the dyes used and their environmental impact; how to care for their garments to increase longevity; all through we try to tell our customers how sustainability has to be practised at each step; how it’s a continuous process and adaption, a journey and not a destination; how it’s not possible to be 100 per cent sustainable but to be conscious and ethical about everything that is done. It‘s not like any other commodity that is just bought off the shelf. We launch limited number of transeasonal styles as a step towards slow fashion. As a responsible knitwear brand, we are moving towards upcycling fabric, using organic cotton and traditional Indian textile techniques. The fabric that is used in this collection is dead stock greige sampling fabric that was discarded due to multiple reasons such as bowing, industrial stains, wear and tear, incorrect weight, wrong construction, composition to be mentioned among many others. We are trying to support artisans of India by incorporating their craft on knits. The fabric is hand block printed with GOTS certified dyes. Our packaging is plastic free, our fabric hang tags come with safety pin. We have cut down on garment branding labels and wash care labels to ‘reduce’. We are a made to order brand so each piece is made with attention to detail with an intention of longer life,” Preeti further adds.
From the grassroot level
“Sustainable consumption is not just about changing behaviour but also
about a shift in mindset. It is important for all platforms, not just us, to be able to understand the product/service first before promoting it. Also, it’s the only way forward for a sustainable product to become more affordable – through scale. We want to achieve scale by ramping up our efforts in verifying the authenticity for the consumers. So, especially in this case, certifications help take care of some of the basic parameters to build trust,” mentions Chaitsi Ahuja, Founder & CEO, Brown Living.
Brown Living is an Indian e-commerce marketplace (aggregator) for all things sustainable. As an organisation, they curate products that are sustainable, natural, up-cycled, handmade, recycled, thrifted and earth-friendly that are an alternative to plastic products used in the home.
“A lot of products in the market have been greenwashed with labels that aren’t really eco-friendly. Through Brown Living, we sell products from suppliers who make truly sustainable products – by design, by use and by packaging. While certification does help in convincing consumers, they are not the only aspect for a customer’s decision making process. There are a lot of other factors that come in to play – the brand values, sourcing and people practices, mission and vision, aesthetics and the product’s usability as well. The Eco-friendly/ green industry has been a largely unorganised market for the past few decades. With the advent of e-commerce regulations and sales by D2C brands, it has become increasingly important for individual brands to be TRANSPARENT, source from the right suppliers and acquire certifications relevant to the category. However, it is a costly affair and businesses which are operating at a small scale have, needless to say, a limited amount of funding/resources/support from a consumer base at this point. Also, since the certifications do not have a direct link to revenue for these brands, it sometimes takes a back seat (to prevent the company in going into losses). This is also one of the major reasons for certified brands being more ‘Expensive’ as compared to others as it all costs money!,” Chaitsi further adds.