Author: Priyadarshi Shastri, Fashion enthusiast and blogger .
We as a consumer have a very big appetite for shopping. Whenever Zara or H&M launch their latest collection, millennial start buying without realizing the number of clothes they already have which can be reused or mismatch as a different outfit. As the concept of fast fashion is growing the percentages of garment waste from clothes are also increasing. The fashion industry contributes up to 10% of global carbon emission. These numbers are not going down anytime soon, they will increase unless we as responsible consumers do something including designers and manufacturers. A single shirt takes up to 3,781 litres of water from water dying to production, till it reaches end consumers; and a minimum of 2,720 litres in washing at home (i.e. water consumption of average adult in 3 years.).
Around 73% of garment waste goes into landfills. In India, 1.5 lac pieces of clothing are made, out of which 45000m of fabric waste comes out daily, eventually ending up in landfills. These results are scary enough to persuade us to make some changes in our shopping habits. In garment production, there are many loose ends, for example, while making a garment a pattern is cut from a rectangular sheet of fabric. The rest of the fabric is treated as waste. The pattern is then further cut and stitched leaving behind smaller pieces of fabric waste. All these wastes are ended up in landfills.
Many designers are working towards establishing a sustainable fashion brand and trying to work around the zero-waste policy. Young designers are adopting new strategies to work towards ethical fashion with zero-waste in garment production. Some are recycling ragged fabric by using embroidery to make them usable and then pairing them with the other to make a unique look. The waste that comes out from garment production can be used in further rounds of production i.e bags and home collection which includes bags, books and stationary.
Someone who wants to dive into sustainable fashion industry must follow such brands and research about recycling technologies. It is important to adopt new strategies and technologies for saving the environment.
Understandably, most of the fashion enthusiasts and students from fashion institutes have great ideas for saving the environment and promoting sustainability in the production sector but people are not aware of such brands. Thereby. the problem arises in the sustainability of such businesses involved sustainably.
The real problem is the marketing strategies of brands- you can get a celebrity to wear your outfits but if consumers are not buying from your label then you won’t be able to fit in the business. An average kurti from a sustainable label starts from Rs. 5000/-, (which is a lot of money for a simple kurti) and I am pretty sure that particular piece of clothing becomes niche and high-end once a notable personality is seen wearing it. Hence, the buyer/consumer segment segregated itself because of the price.
Therefore, these brands should adopt a different approach to change the ‘niche’ market narrative to the consumer market by putting a decent amount on each garment. Another alternative is by building a foundation of a strong awareness of the brand in the market so that more people will start buying and use sustainable clothing. The increase in sales will increase awareness and ultimately makes a profit. It’s a win-win for both.
Even high-end fashion/luxury brands have done their due diligence on saving the environment and concluded that they are going to focus more on the materials that cause zero to less harm on the environment. British designer Stella McCartney has been a strong advocate of sustainability and cruelty-free clothing, all the material she uses in her clothing are cruelty-free, no leather and fur. She makes prêt-a-porter for men and women both. Even her shoes are made from vegan leather. Earlier Stella was the only designer who was the flag bearer of cruelty-free and sustainability in the industry.
But now due to the constant pressure and crashing fashion shows in major fashion weeks by PETA for using fur in their clothing has finally paid off. Major luxury brands have stopped using fur in their collection. In 2017, Versace announced they will stop using fur in clothes, Michael Kors too put a ban on fur and pledged to be cruelty-free by 2018. Tommy Hilfiger has been fur-free since 2007 and Calvin Klein has been fur-free since 1994.
In 2019, Ralph Lauren launched their new collection “Earth Polo” consisting men’s T-shirt made from plastic bottles. Around 12 plastic bottles are required in making a single shirt. They melt the plastic into small pellets and with the help of advance machinery and processing, these plastic bottles are converted into poly-fibre. No water is used in the dyeing process which again can be very wasteful. For this collection, they collaborated with First Mile Organization that engages citizen of low income to collect plastic bottles which are then recycled into the fibre. Together they are planning to remove around 170 millions of plastic bottles from the planet by the end of 2025.
Nike has been the first major brands which use recycled material in their collection. It claims about 75% Nike apparel contains recycled materials. In February, Nike introduced its Vegan Space Hippie Shoes made from recycled plastic bottles. It is a part of Nike’s “move to zero” initiative and “zero-carbon zero waste” policy.
Last year, fast-fashion giant H&M came under a lot of scrutinizes, when it launched its Conscious Collection promoting sustainability. It claimed that 50% of recycled material is used in the collection, but were unable to disclose more details about the kind material it is recycling, how these are produced and on what terms these are sustainable. Norway Consumer Authority started an investigation based on greenwashing marketing tactics and misleading the audience. CA concluded that H&M did breach the marketing laws of Norway. You can’t just use sustainability to promote your collection you need to be responsible for the kind of message you sending to the audience.
As for the public, we need to be more thoughtful rather than just showing off. More than 50% of consumers shop because they don’t want to repeat an outfit in any public gatherings. Celebrities influencing is the main reason behind this stigma. An average consumer doesn’t repeat any outfit for more than 2-3 times in any public gathering on which Rs. 10,000/- to 20,000/- were spent. We need to change our mindset if we want to promote sustainability. We need to accept the fact that we are equally responsible for garment waste pollution.
A simple change in mindset can save up to 1000 gallons of water. We need to start reusing our garments; be creative in the mix and matching ideas with other garments.
We can always share our used outfits with our sibling or friends and take their used outfits, in this way you can have new clothes instead of buying a new one. In most of the United States and other advanced countries, there are stores where one can buy and sell used clothes. Used clothes are not bad/rotten clothes. The fashion industry and consumer behavior towards sustainability have a long way to go.
About the Author
Priyadarshi Shastri is a fashion enthusiast and blogger. Priyadarshi believes that with his passion for fashion he can be an ideal fit to show the trendy aspects of the fashion industry.