Lamenting how one could heal the fast-deteriorating environment, reduce our carbon footprint and most of all, have some say in global warming? Check what's on your plate and what's on you! Yes, our choices when it comes to what we store in our kitchen cabinets or have in our wardrobes can even decide how fast we push Orangutans to the brink of extinction, as their habitats are silently erased to cultivate palm or extract cellulose fibers for clothing. To do our bit for the environment doesn't necessarily demand a dharna nor an extensive search, but a sensible approach in our choices. Fashion industry makes up for 10 per cent of annual global carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of water worldwide. Did you know it takes about 700 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt? Fast fashion and frequent sales have made us mindless buyers adding to the fashion waste; 70 per cent of which goes to the landfill.
Today it's not a topic confined to environmentalists or political bigwigs; sustainability is the need of the hour. It's time to pause and think before we make the next purchase. The winds of change have indeed begun to blow, and steering the course are the new eco warriors in the form of fashion designers. We meet a few:
House of Anita Dongre(HOAD) - Mumbai, India
Anita Dongre, India's leading fashion designer with her brands AND, Global Desi, Anita Dongre couture, and Anita Dongre Grassroot (sustainable fashion label) has revamped the fashion industry by bringing elegant western and indo-western wear with a boho chic vibe to dress the Indian woman. With an enviable list of clienteles ranging from Hilary Clinton to Bollywood celebrities, HOAD's foray into sustainability is as old as the company itself. "My siblings and I grew up in a household that truly believed in 'reduce, reuse, recycle' and these were the values instilled quite early in us. I always wanted my clothes to serve a larger purpose so every day is another opportunity to do better at that, through innovation," she emphasises.
A strong believer in sustainable fashion, she doesn't suggest making any radical changes; something as simple as making sure one wears clothes until they wear out and then upcycling them is a sustainable practice. As she firmly puts it, "Sustainability is, after all, an approach to life that ensures every resource is respected." Very much evident at HOAD is their use of resources in designing and producing every garment. "Whether it's choosing a more environmentally conscious fabric or working with artisans my constant question is 'how I can do more to ensure more livelihood while reducing our carbon footprint," she adds.
Even the sprawling Green HQ in Navi Mumbai, is architecturally designed to ensure lower carbon footprint by using sunlight and ventilation to reduce dependency on electricity. "In our products we ensure cruelty free fashion with zero use of animal products, sourcing sustainable fabrics whether recycled man-made fibres or cellulose based natural fibres and eco-friendly packaging," explains Anita, who is also vegan.
Vino Supraja Audikesavalu
Vino Supraja - Dubai
From using fabrics that are hand-loomed by a community of heritage weavers from a village in South India, to using AZO-free dyes and GOTS certified organic cotton, she also ensures the workers are paid fair wages. Meet Vino Supraja Audikesavalu, an Architect turned Fashion Designer and founder of the sustainable fashion brand 'Vino Supraja' - an online premium womenswear fashion brand.
"We are consuming 400 per cent more clothes than what we were consuming two decades ago. We are not buying clothes because they are necessary anymore, we are buying clothes to avoid repeating the old ones. The change that has happened in our buying behavior has increased the impact. We are all part of the problem and we are all responsible to correct this," says Vino, who has also won the First place in Sustainable fashion runway competition conducted by Fashion Revolution and got an opportunity to intern with Dolce and Gabbana, Dubai.
Does this mean we need to stop buying clothes?
"I am not asking you to stop buying at all. I am asking you to buy clothes that are special, clothes that will help weavers and artisans, clothes that are good for the earth. There are so many small businesses working towards it passionately, support them. Sustainable fashion will be expensive because that is the right price if everyone in the supply chain is being paid a fair wage. A small step from each one of us will make a huge difference. An ocean is nothing but a collection of droplets. Think and change,' says Vino.
Joseph & Alexander Swimwear - Singapore
Launched in 2018, they were one of the first small business swimwear brands to make sustainable swimwear from recycled plastic bottles. Astonishing as it sounds, their road to sustainable fashion consists of clearing ocean wastes, especially plastic, which is first sorted then shredded into clean flakes, melted, extruded and then spun into polyester yarn for the fabric. The swimsuits are made from ECONYLÂ®, a 100 per cent regenerated nylon made from abandoned fishing nets and nylon waste from landfills and oceans around the world.
"Joseph & Alexander is a brand created to make a difference and we believe in creating conscious swimwear," says its Founder, Alana Sorokin. "Fashion's impact on the environment doesn't stop once our clothes are made. Textiles are the largest source of both primary and secondary microplastics, accounting for 34.8% of global microplastic pollution, with around 700,000 microfibres being released in every wash cycle. Most of this end up in the sea," she adds.
"Buy less, buy better, ask why, support small sustainable designers and buy used!" - is her mantra.