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 labelled - 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.
It's not too late: As design educators and practitioners, one needs to 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 can’t be recycled, reused or disposed of. The usage of harmful chemicals to accelerate the growth of our natural fibres, 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.
Systemic thinking and sustainable fashion strategies must be at the core of design. Designers must create meaningfully and should understand the long-term effects of what they create.
Our production processes must minimise 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 is needed for the circularity of the industry. New material inventions through bio design are the future.
Time to change perspective: As seen in an exhibition in the Fashion for Good museum in Amsterdam; 80% of a garment’s impact comes from decisions that designers make on the cut, colour and fabric chosen. Almost 2,700 litres of water is used to produce a single cotton-t-shirt,What average human drinks in three years.
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.
The writer is Mridu Sahai, founding member, The Design Village