The fashion and textile industry has earned a name for itself as one of the world’s most polluting and hazardous industry, topped only by oil. Although this concern is not new-fangled in the discussion surrounding sustainability, it is still one that sparks the most interest and debate across the globe.
According to a report released by Yale Environment 360, in the USA alone, people dispose of about 12.8 million tonnes of textiles annually — 80 pounds for each man, woman and child. Revelations like these have led to an inner awakening within the fashion industry with many brands, companies and designers coming forward and taking a pledge to change the current scenario.
This rallying cry is global, and designers in the Indian subcontinent are equally awakened.
Accounting for nearly 14% of the total industrial production, India is one of the largest textile industries in the world today. And even as companies working in the international arena align themselves to the global demands in sustainability…, the domestic market has introduced a sizable number of homegrown talent catering to the imperative need for more ethical and sustainable clothing practices.
Brands such as Anamoly, Doodlage and Khara Kapaas have reinstated their worth by exploring new and revolutionary techniques and concepts which cater to and are benefiting the cause. After pioneering their respective markets and finding a good response, they have plans to expand into a wider product category and take the sustainable concept to a larger audience.
There are plenty of reasons why Anomaly should be getting attention, besides the fact that it was founded by Medha Khosla, who has 14 years of heavy experience in technical design from New York. Among the most important is the contribution to the level of ethical responsibility the brand has carved for itself.
Essentially versatile workwear, the brand seamlessly transitions from day to night by offering classic pieces created using natural and sustainable Indian textiles. The brand prides itself on limited production and wastage, made using only natural textiles with a strong emphasis on quality. It addresses the problem of overstocking by producing less and upcycling any leftover fabric into home textiles which they sell under a different line. Leftover stock, if any, is donated on a yearly basis.
Adopting a Lean production model, the brand operates from a single unit based in Shahpur Jat, which staffs 8 people who oversee everything from concept to finishing.
Taking the ethos forward, the brand plans on venturing into unisex lines that push the boundaries of dressing forward by including a wider gamut of classic pieces that stand the test of time. On the topic of all-inclusive fashion, the brand supports equal representation, and plans to take into consideration petite and plus-size lines in the future.
“First being anorexic was in trend, then people started promoting normality and natural curves and now it’s become about plus sizing. It’s good to have equal representation, large women also have a right to look beautiful and wear whatever clothes. Even petites should be taken into consideration.”
It is reported that just between India, China and Bangladesh there are about 1.20 billion square metres of fabric that get discarded every year. Finding ways to work with these fabrics instead of mass producing fresh ones, will massively contribute towards a more circular economy.
Built on the ideology of upcycling leftover scraps and recycling post-consumer waste, Doodlage is a brand known for living by the theory of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. After making a name for itself in the womenswear department, the brand recently expanded into menswear as well.
The brand sources 90% of its fabrics from major exporters, printers and dyers, who are rejecting ginormous quantities of post-cutting scrapes, defective fabrics, and yarns and then work with those fabrics to create its own collections.
Sustainability for the brand is not just about using organic cotton or recycled paper for packaging but stretches to embrace a holistic product that comes out of a company – right from the fabric being used and how much of it is being saved, to the design process and the people involved in it, to the working condition that a company creates for its employees, to how the end-product reaches the customer.
“Each garment is produced end-to-end by one particular person, so each piece is as distinct as the as the person who is wearing it.”
Citing future plans, the brand is ready to take on the kidswear and lifestyle products segment to ensure that the message of upcycling that they so avidly support, finds a permanent room in as many wardrobes as possible.
The kidswear market accounts for 12% of the apparel sector but, in the last five years, its growth has outperformed both men’s and womenswear markets, citing it as one of the most promising sectors of the future.
“The key lies in consuming less, smartly… and consuming good quality products.”
Being born to an army officer, Shilpi Yadav, Founder of Khara Kapaas, has spent a lot of time travelling around the country experiencing different cultures and traditions. This introduced her to a wide and rich variety of Indian textiles which contributed to making her a connoisseur of local crafts and locally sourced materials.
A team of 35 people that include skilled craftsmen and outsourced local weavers working with both handloom and power loom, make up the brand. Using natural dyes, azo-free block printing processes and blends have been a mainstay with the brand that enjoys a faithful clientele both in India and abroad.
“I started travelling back to the places that I had travelled to as a child, and started speaking to a lot of weavers, which eventually led me to work with them closely.”
For Shilpi, the dream of creating an organic and skin-friendly line of clothing for kids has already become a reality, enjoying success as close to her main womenswear label. Tapping on the demand for her work, she was quick to identify a gap in the market for sustainable pregnancy and maternity ranges and fill it in.
After experimenting with three different lines, the designer is now looking to make a mark in the bags and shoes categories, citing the idea of putting an entire look together as the main driving factor behind this decision.
On a concluding note, it is safe to say that the audience of choice, the millennials and Gen Z shoppers have very distinct values and consumer behaviour. According to the report titled State of Fashion 2018 by Business of Fashion, nearly 60% of the global youth are willing to spend more on sustainable brands. If brands are here to stay, they will have to embrace and provide novelty in the small but diverse domain of sustainability and ethically sourced clothing.
The current demand serves as a profitable commercial opportunity which early birds are set to benefit from if explored wisely.