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Choosing Sustainability: The Changing Face Of Fashion

Our December blog series is dedicated to exploring the trends and shifts on the fashion landscape that may be mere blips today, but have the potential to be a full-blown revolution very soon. Our first blog in the series discusses sustainable textile options.

In a TED talk from 2018, that has since been watch close to a million times and is still relevant, UPS’s Aparna Mehta makes a strong case for buying less and returning even less of clothing. As it turns out, one man’s fashion is another man’s trash. This doesn’t, however, apply on the retail end of things alone. Some studies show that thousands of gallons of water go into making one denim outfit, quantities that we as a planet just cannot afford anymore.

Long ago Stella McCartney has taken a stand against fast fashion. Other influencers are following suit. In this scenario, it is worth thinking about sustainable garments from two perspectives. One, sustainable clothing is better for the planet. Two, sustainable clothing really is the future for every fashion business, and the sooner you get started, the better it is for you.

Luckily for us, there are several alternatives to the textiles we now use, and most of them perform at par, if not better than, their traditional counterparts.

Alternatives to Silk: Perhaps fashion’s guiltiest pleasure, and one that doesn’t get as much of a bad rep as using animal hide is the making of silk. Apart from the process itself, Human rights Watch reports that over 3,50,000 children are employed in the industry. Luckily, some alternatives have been found, and they are soon gaining prominence. Jute silk and silk derived from other plant fibers are finding acceptance. Ahimsa silk is an Indian innovation of waiting for the silkworm to evacuate its silken residence before using the cocoons for their yarn. India Bride and The Ethical Silk Company are just a few brands that are pioneering the use of sustainable silk.

Alternatives to Cotton: Cotton is one of the most resource-heavy crops to grow. The pesticides and insect repellants used for cotton production often stay in the environment and the soil for many decades to come. One way to reduce the impact of cotton growing is to use organic cotton. For now, it is fairly expensive. However, as with all organic product, a rise in demand can quickly increase the supply capabilities and reduce prices. California based Synergy clothing uses organic cotton, as well as cotton blends and bamboo to design their clothing. What’s more, they use natural dyes and follow a fair-trade policy that keeps everyone in the supply chain happy.

Alternatives to Synthetic Textiles: Nylon, polyester, and acrylic are some of the biggest pollutants ever produced. Some reports suggest that even washing these clothes can leech microplastics into our oceans and permanently change the quality of water. It is rather inconvenient, then, that synthetic textiles are also cheap and easy to mass-produce. Making a switch away from synthetic clothing needs to be a conscious choice across the supply chain. Isolated efforts have begun to use bamboo, jute, and hemp as alternatives. Fabric made from these materials is often much more breathable as well. The key, of course, is in generating enough demand.

Alternatives To Commercial Wool: As a textile, wool has many benefits. It generates warmth, wicks away moisture and is hypoallergenic as well. However, commercial practice has driven wool-farming towards crowded shelters and animals with very little immunity. Ethical wool is obtained from animals that have been raised on a natural farm in humane conditions, which naturally increases the animals’ immunity and longevity, as well as the quality of wool itself. Organic wool is often also dyed with natural dyes, making it that much more suitable for people who are allergic to chemical dyes.

Which of these materials would you want to experiment with in your next collection? What would be your biggest hindrance to doing so?

Fuel4Fashion is a design, branding and technology consultancy for the fashion and apparel industry. We provide consulting and advisory services across design, business and IT processes to early stage and mid-sized apparel manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business with the help of smart sustainable management practices. Visit our website here and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for regular updates.

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