While sustainable practices are catching up like never before in the fashion industry, fashion designers weigh in on what is its impact on the brands
About 53 million tonnes of fibre is produced by the fashion industry every year, of which 70 percent is wasted, says a recent report by IndiaSpend. Still, most fast fashion brands release new collections of clothing every week and use different promotion strategies to encourage consumers to buy into new trends hence adding to the growing concerns of fast fashion that are impacting the environment.
One of the main target buyers for these brands is Millennials and Generation Z who get intimidated by cheap prices, an indicator of fast fashion products and their poor quality.
Many low-cost clothing stores offer new designs every week and data by Ellen MacArthur Foundation stated that in 2000, 50 billion new garments were made and nearly 20 years later, that figure has doubled. Their data also says that the average person today buys 60 percent more clothing than in 2000 and not only do they buy more, but they also discard more as a result.
This is the reason why sustainable practices are catching up like never before in the fashion industry, with many established brands taking to upcycling waste to make textile products that produce no further waste.
However, the limited buyers for sustainable lines worry many designers.
Nilesh Parashar and Jagruti Bondre, the Founders of designer brand Nautanky, say that compared to the growing fast fashion brands, sustainable brands lose out on consumers due to various reasons like restrictions on fabrics or designs or clothes being made to order.
“In today’s fast-paced society everyone wants everything asap, and brands following sustainable practices find that difficult to do considering that’s their very core of being made to order and not that of mass production,” Parashar told Firstpost.
Bondre, on the other hand, says that most brands in the current time come under fast fashion brands.
“I feel most brands are just greenwashing instead of actually adopting sustainable practices,” she said and added that, “the change of sustainable clothing will come over time and once the consumers are educated about it, specifically the masses. And once sustainable clothing becomes easier to access for them as well.”
In 2019, the Indian government launched a project called SU.RE, which aimed at establishing a sustainable pathway for the Indian fashion industry. Under this, around 16 top retail brands in India, including Shoppers’ Stop, Lifestyle, Future Group, and Aditya Birla Retail, had committed to sourcing a part of their total consumption using raw materials and processes by 2025.
But it seems the reality is completely different.
Fashion designer Renesa Rastogi of the brand RISA, says that what we call sustainable fashion right now is not truly sustainable. She also says that as a generation, Millennials and Gen Z care deeply about the environment and sustainability – but are also under pressure to change their wardrobe constantly.
“Designers have to tackle this dichotomy and are under pressure to be sustainable and yet produce in quantity. Garment quality is declining and if designers were to use organic fabrics to create timeless pieces that would tempt the young generations to reuse the item of clothing and buy less,” she told Firstpost.
Indian fashion designers such as Ritu Kumar, Rahul Mishra, Sanjay Garg, and Madhu Jain have been instrumental in changing the buying behaviour of Indian consumers by promoting more and more sustainable lines.
Also, the seventh day of August is celebrated as National Handloom Day every year. The Ministry of Textiles has tied up with many Indian designers to work closely with them to uplift the sector.
Indian brand Asha Gautam has just launched a new initiative STYLE THE CRAFT through which the brand is going to present various crafts of India in different ways.
“In the past two years there have been hundreds of artisans who crafted amazing weaves and fabrics but they need design intervention to market it and make it more viable. This is our first step on a long road towards the commitment we have for Indian crafts. First, such collaboration is with Ikat fabric which is one of my favourite textiles,” said designer Gautam Gupta
Even brands such as Kankatala have created their niche clients amongst handloom lovers.
“Slow fashion is the original Indian fashion, and just recently, we have moved to fast fashion. Indian consumers generally valued quality and durability, so it is just a matter of reminding them of their routes and educating the new ere generation that while sustainable fashion is slow fashion and is slightly expensive, these are investment buys that can stay with you for generations,” Anirudh Kankatala, Director & Curator of Kankatala Firstpost.
He also says that designers need to establish the importance of Reusing, Restyle and Repurpose fashion.
“It’s a time-consuming process in the short run, but once the consumer settles back in this mindset, slow fashion is here to stay and is the future. However, the cost of production for slow fashion pieces is still high for the designers when compared to disposable fashion, and that means less number of designs or variety can be created in comparison,” he said.
Even veteran designer Neeru Kumar says that sustainably has to be a way of life and one has to have an urge to do sustainable lines because one believes in it not because it seems to have become a trend. “Sustainable in a lot of ways is about slow fashion and is about believing and living in it. It has to be felt and carried through without having the pressure to produce more,” she said.
So to sum up, the best thing we can do, as consumers, is to stop supporting the fast fashion industry and start showing more love to sustainable clothing brands instead.
Nivedita Sharma’s work experience includes covering fashion weeks in Milan, Pakistan, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Dubai, and award functions like IIFA, and TOIFA.