How often do you buy clothes ?
Where do you buy them from?
How many times do you wear that newly bought dress ?
Do you repair if it wears out or just throw away?
Do you share your clothes?
These are some pointed questions that one needs to answer before making that next purchase.
Rise in disposable income, increased internet penetration, rising popularity of Instagram feeds showcasing #ootd, e-tailers promoting fast fashion at hefty discounts and a strong need for validation from the peer on your newly acquired style has led to hyper-consumerism in Fashion in last two decades. While the majority is contributing to the monumental rise in the shopping spent, there is a community that is advocating to slow down.
These advocates of slow fashion are making conscious efforts to buy less, repeat the same clothes and repair them if worn out. These are the sustainability warriors who are raising voice against the over-consumerism and fast fashion, indiscriminate use of natural resources, poor working condition of people who make clothes and carbon foot prints in logistics.
If you have been on social media, you would have seen the hashtag #WhoMademyClothes and #fashionrevolution trending in this week.
Fashion Revolution Week started as a movement by Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro, co-founders of Fashion Revolution as a reaction to the Rana Plaza building collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 24thApril 2013. 1,130 people died and 2,500 were injured when a run-down eight-storey factory complex making clothes for Primark, Benetton, Walmart and other Western brands collapsed. Closer home, some Bengaluru factories keep women (the majority of garment workers) in hostels monitored by male security guards and severely restrict their movements. Most are allowed to leave for only two hours a week, usually on Sunday to buy groceries and other items, and only after registering with a guard. The rest of the time, women are expected to travel only to and from work, and guards record when they arrive at and leave the hostels.
Fast-forward from 2013 to now; Fashion Revolution week has grown into the world’s largest global fashion activism movement.
Ahmedabad has also woken up to the dialogues in sustainability in Fashion. From fashion designers, textile designers to retailers, curators and fashion writers, there is a small community of sustainability advocates and activists in the city. On the occasion of Fashion Revolution week and with the barrage of events highlighting sustainable brands and products, we thought of asking these sustainability promoters on “ What did sustainability mean to them and how did they incorporate in their daily lives”…
Here is the transparent account of industry insiders on what inspires them to be sustainable in daily life.
Ujjval Shah – Founder Designer Noya
Vocal about her beliefs in the sustainability movement and having worked at grassroot level in textile and crafts since her college days at NID, Ujjval embraces sustainability in her daily life. Sharing her love for sustainability she comments “For me, sustainability means using locally produced products, limiting the consumption, recycling and reusing both materials and energy. When I talk about fashion, it translates to using local crafts and skills from the community around while recycling everything that is left over and available. As a textile designer, I ensure that I recycle all the textiles in my house till they last. For Eg- Using sarees to make quilts and then duster cloth. In fact many sarees and dupattas are used to make dresses, table runners, cushion covers, throws, aasans, curtains etc.”
Sustainability is a way of life. Most of the Indian families have different recipes to use the left-over food too. She says “ We recycle food with different recipes. We make mungali( parathas) using excess rice whereas we make vaghareli idli, dhokla and rice in breakfast if its leftover from dinner”
Translating sustainability to the professional life at Noya, Ujjval shares “ We use all the dyes which are azo free only ( environment friendly). Our work promotes slow living and slow fashion. We create maximum two collection only in a year. Fabric scrap is used later on to create accessories and cloth bags for packaging the apparels. As for the working conditions and employee welfare, we ensure that we give fair wages to all our karigars and artisans”
Janki Patel – Founder, Options Ahmedabad
Janki Patel , apart from being instrumental in the evolution of furnishings in the city, has contributed significantly towards sustainable fashion. She has brought together sustainable clothing labels like Shades of India, Translate, Tulsi, Almirah, Linen Story, Tejal, Aavran, Soham Dave and Crow that are not only sustainable but also minimalist in their design approach. She has been the purveyor of minimalism and an inspirational figure as an entrepreneur who supports sustainability since more than a decade.
Talking about her daily efforts to imbibe sustainability in her life , she shares “ I’ve been brought up in an environment where sustainability was always the main focus. I have been practising minimalism since then. Minimalism doesn’t mean living without anything, it simply means that you are making sure that everything you own and use is put to its maximum purpose. This means waste materials as well. By practising minimalist lifestyle on daily basis, you will be mindful of what you consume and support. You will recycle more and support goods that are produced sustainably. Something very simple like , If I can’t finish my glass full of water then instead of wasting it in the sink, I rather pour the left water into the plants around me.”
As far as incorporating sustainability in my professional life, my motto would be reduce -reuse – recycle !”
Virja Shah – Curator and Founder Kit & Caboodle
Virja has been curating sustainable labels from across the country and bringing them to Ahmedabad through her curatorial company Kit & Caboodle. She has been instrumental in changing the way Ahmedabad perceives style ; beyond the set norms of maximalism, she promotes the idea of minimalism and slow life through her curation.
On her thoughts on sustainable living in her personal sphere, she says “ Every day we make choices in our lives that affect the environment, the climate and other species. The idea of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ may feel ancient, but it’s just as important today as when the phrase was first coined. Every product we purchase has an environmental footprint, from the materials used to create it to the pollution emitted during manufacturing to the packaging that ends up in landfills. So in my bit I try to incorporate habits that work towards making our lives and lifestyle choices more sustainable. I boycott products that endanger wildlife. It’s better to use water consciously. Imbibing that in my daily life, I avoid taking showers and stick to bucket bath. It’s not possible to do away with plastic entirely but in my own way I try and avoid or reuse plastic bags”
As far as her professional involvement goes, she comments “Regarding professional choices it’s very evident that I have very consciously curated brands that are working towards sustainability in terms of their employment practices or the fabrics & dyes that they use. I always try and understand the brand philosophy and inspiration behind the label and that makes the process cohesive”
Wricha Johari – Founding Director, World Around You ( WAY )
Working as an eco-preneur, Wricha has been promoting the idea of sustainability since her college days. As a student of development communication, she used to encourage her classmates to use their own mugs in college rather than using plastic cups for sipping tea through the day. Since then till now, she has worked on various projects to save the environment through her projects PenPal, India Environment Festival and parent organization WAY.
On what does sustainability mean to her, she answers very candidly and shares “ Sustainability for me always has been reducing waste by utilising what already exists or is produced but has potential to be used more. In the times of changing fashion and use and throw culture, I stay in vogue by creating my own upcycled designs of fashion jewellery as well as clothing! Most of my occasional attire is designed from old sarees and dupattas which not only gives it one of its kind-a-look but also I am able to reuse what’s not in use. I design in contemporary pattern making it trend-ready to wear it in weddings and parties. I revamped my entire wardrobe during pregnancy by making trending maternity clothes from old clothes rather than splurging on so called maternity clothing which are overpriced just for the name sake”
Her love for jewellery is visible in her own creations of earrings and neckpieces made out of pen parts.
“I am a huge lover of fashion jewellery and can’t miss styling without wearing one. Hence, I keep creating new designs from waste materials like plastic pens, broken old jewellery, rakhi, buttons etc and make them enviable for others. I love to gift my friends the same; I always offer to revamp their jewellery by giving me the old broken ones and I make something completely new and unique to them” shares Wricha on her ever-dying love for recycled jewellery.
Saanya Khatwani – Founder- Designer, Msafiri
She creates, she styles and she models – all for her label Msafiri. Saanya Khatwani, a young designer from Institute of Apparel Management, found her footing in sustainability after working with leading designers Gauri & Nainika in Delhi. Two year old label Msafiri has been the fruition of her love for travel and crafts. Recently, Msafiri in association with Project Otenga hosted an event – Repair | Redo | Swap as a part of Fashion Revolution Week Celebrations.
“ For me, sustainability is a mind-set and way of living that I have grown up with. It meant going back to my roots, to my parents and grandparents. They were the original conscious consumers because they weren’t spoilt by choice and access and unethical corporations like we are. The cost of our choices is decades of overconsumption, mindless pollution and the exploitation of labour in many underprivileged parts of the world” she says on the difference in consumption pattern between two generations.
How can one imbibe sustainability in their daily lives ?
She answers “ I think everyone can incorporate some simple things to remedy the situation – by avoiding single-use plastic products, carrying a sipper instead of buying disposable bottles, resisting the lure of fast fashion that usually deteriorates quickly and has to be discarded soon. We can all do simple things like carrying a cloth bag so that we can refuse plastic from vendors. I also use a wooden toothbrush. In terms of bath products we can switch to handmade soaps instead of plastic body wash bottles – though it’s hard to find shampoo and conditioner alternatives”
“As far as my work is concerned, Msafiri, from the very first day has been a zero waste production unit by upcycling and recycling all our leftover cuttings. The fabrics we source and design are made with minimum water consumption and we use chemical-free dyeing. Our artisans are being paid fair and timely wages, we strive to build an ethical and sustainable ecosystem” shares Saanya on work ethics and sustainability ethos of her label.
Anuj Sharma – Founder & Innovator, Button Masala
With specialisation in craft development and sustainability, Anuj Sharma leads the sustainability movement from the front through his label – Button Masala. He came up with a unique method to construct clothes without any machine, tools or stitches technique titled Button Masala; an innovative idea that bypasses the need for machines and addresses all sizes in one go.
A TEDx speaker and a professor, Anuj Sharma is also the recipient of the Most Innovative Collection of the Year Award 2009 for his collection Button Masala at Marie Claire Made in India Fashion Awards.
Its easy to talk about sustainability at conferences and market goods as sustainable , but it is definitely a tough pill to swallow in daily life. He practices what he believes in; a fact most would only claim. Talking about his daily life, he shares ” Everybody has to be mindful of their consumption of resources in daily life. I bathe with only half a bucket of water, I barely use AC in the house. I rather would sleep in balcony with natural air cooling. I do not own a car because I do not need one. I still travel by my activa regardless of the place I go. One has to lose their ego and be conscious of the choices they make. I do not have maids at home, not because I can’t have but because I believe I can do my own work. I believe each individual has to be sustainable personally before they can market their products as sustainable”
His label Button Masala is the reflection of his idealist beliefs. “At Button Masala, we create one garment that can be worn in multiple ways. It is not restricted by sizes. So one owns only one piece but can change the style as and when one wants and isn’t forced to buy new product due to change in size. We buy our fabrics locally to reduce any carbon footprints. We do not over produce our range” he comments on how does he incorporate sustainability through his label.
Overproduction and consequent dumping in landfills is one of the biggest threats in fashion industry today. Reducing production on need basis is definitely a commendable step in the direction of sustainability.
Bottom Line to embrace sustainability in your daily life– REPEAT. REPAIR. REUSE.