An ethical choice or just another fad? Here’s what sustainable fashion includes and why it’s worth caring about
Sustainable clothingrefers to clothing that has contributed to less carbon footprint and has less negative impact on the environment.
- Currently, certain sustainable brands are in a price range that is not accessible to everyone.
- While buying sustainable clothing, make sure you know more about the brand you are buying from.
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“Sustainability in fashion and clothing means that the products manufactured have contributed to less carbon footprint and have less negative impact on the environment,” says Jeevika Tyagi, co-founder, Aastey, an athleisure wear brand.
Clothes worn by us generally follow a very strenuous manufacturing process- harsh fertilizer and pesticides at the material stage, harmful chemicals in dyes & finishes, unethical exploitation in the manufacturing process, and unaccounted carbon credit in reaching us. “In general, the clothing industry is one of the largest polluting industries in the world, and the production and disposal of clothing significantly impacts the industry,” says Risha Roy, Assistant Professor and Lead, Sustainable Fashion and Textile Design, School of Design, Anant National University. This is where sustainable clothing comes in.
For example, organic cotton is considered more sustainable as opposed to conventionally farmed cotton because organic cotton is rain-fed and much less water intensive. A single conventional cotton t-shirt needs around 2,500 liters of water whereas it takes 243 liters of water to make an organic cotton t-shirt. Cotton is also considered less harmful to the environment because it is a biodegradable material and can easily break down when disposed of.
Says Krutika Lal, co-founder and chief marketing officer (CMO), Aretto, a baby footwear brand, “We are proud to source and produce locally, reducing displacement costs. And to further reduce our impact on the planet, we plan to introduce a post-purchase upcycling program, extending the life of our shoes and promoting a sustainable future.”
Sustainable clothing is also known as slow fashion as opposed to fast fashion (think fast food). “Fast fashion retailers are producing more and more and encouraging the philosophy that more is better. Therefore they are driving down the quality to create cheap garments that do not last long. Slow fashion is based on creating mindful quality collections based on the finishing right from fabrics to stitching to detailing versus pumping out large quantities of clothing.” says Rupanshi Agarwal, founder and CEO, QUA, a workwear brand.
Agrees Sanjay Vakharia, CEO of Spykar Lifestyle, an apparel brand, “Fast fashion, refers to clothing that is intentionally designed to be consumed quickly at competitive prices, leading shoppers to regard clothes as disposable—wearing them only a few times before throwing them out or moving on to new and trendy clothes.” And just like fast food is not healthy for your body, fast fashion is not good for the environment.
Demand of sustainable clothing in India
The pandemic has made a huge impact in pushing Indian customers to know and explore sustainability and minimalism. “According to research reports, customers have become increasingly eco-conscious and want to know more about how and where their clothes are being manufactured. As the demand for transparency in the fashion industry grows, sports and athletic apparel companies have started using recycled and organic fabrics,” says Tyagi.
A 2022 survey by Bain & Company said 52% of consumers in urban India expect to increase spending on sustainable brands in the next three years. The survey also found that over 60% of consumers in India are willing to pay a premium for ‘sustainability products’.
Sustainable clothes are priced at a premium, for a reason“Sustainable clothing can sometimes come at a higher price point than conventional clothing, although this is not always the case,” says Sandesh Ambhore, CEO and Founding Director, Styleyn, a sustainable and ethical clothing brand. In fact, currently certain sustainable brands are in a price range that is not accessible to everyone.
He explains that there are a number of factors that contribute to the cost of sustainable clothing. For example, using organic or eco-friendly materials, such as organic cotton or recycled polyester, can be more expensive than conventional materials. Additionally, implementing environmentally responsible manufacturing processes, such as reducing water usage and minimizing waste, can also increase the cost of production. However, the higher cost of sustainable clothing can be offset by its longer lifespan. Sustainable clothing is often made with higher-quality materials and construction, which means it can last longer and withstand more wear and tear than conventional clothing.
It's also worth noting that sustainable clothing brands often prioritize fair labour practices, which can also contribute to higher costs. By paying fair wages to workers and ensuring safe working conditions, these brands aim to promote social responsibility, which can result in a premium price for the consumer.
Advertisement“In conclusion, while sustainable clothing can sometimes come at a premium, it is important to consider the long-term benefits and value of investing in clothing that is made with care for the environment and for the people involved in its production,” says Ambhore.
Check before you buy
However, not everything that goes by the name of sustainable clothing may be authentic. “First, it is important to look at the company behind the brand. Visit their websites. It should contain every detail about the product, the fabric and the manufacturing processes. Besides, there are several certifications and labels that people can look for to verify the sustainability of a piece of clothing. Some of the world's leading certifications are GOTS, OEKO-TEX, FairTrade, BCI (BetterCotton Initiative), Cradle to Cradle, SA8000, etc,” says Nishant Kumar, CEO & co-founder, Earthy Tweens.
In fact, multinational clothing company, H&M has been accused of ‘greenwashing’ their products by deceptively claiming that they are made from sustainable and eco-friendly materials, even when they are made of polyester or recycled plastic.
If we want our clothes to reflect the person we are and consider ourselves as responsible citizens, sustainable clothing is definitely worth caring about. While sustainable clothing can sometimes come at a premium, it is important to consider the long-term benefits and value of investing in clothing that is made with care for the environment and for the people involved in its production.
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