We Need Sustainable Fashion? The fact is that the global fast fashion market is one of the fastest growing and one of the largest polluting industries in the world. This was in essence what spurred me to start my company.
The numbers are staggering. As an example, the UN estimates that a single pair of jeans requires about a kilogram of cotton, which in turn, might require up to 10,000 litres of water. That is about 10 years’ worth of drinking water for one person. The environmental impact of the industry is huge. But it is also true that if a pair of jeans will produce an equivalent of 33.4kg of carbon dioxide equivalent across its life span, just over a third of those emissions come from the fibre and fabric production, while another 8% is from cutting, sewing and finishing the jeans. Packaging, transport and retail accounts for 16% of the emissions while the remaining 40% is from consumer use – mainly from washing the jeans – and disposal in landfill.
The good news is that each one of us can play a huge role in conscious consumption. Fashion is not a necessity for its consumers but it is still a massive industry employing millions of people around the world right from a farmer growing cotton to a big advertising agency making it all look glamorous. Our aim at Doodlage was to start a conversation around ways to bring circularity in fashion and raise awareness around the impact of a linear fashion model.
As a bootstrapped firm, we worked with one problem at a time with very limited funds and carefully curated our small supply chain. We started collecting fabric waste from factories around Delhi, rejected for minor defects, and post cutting waste which are panels that are big enough to be stitched back together to cut more pieces. This allowed us to create short well finished limited-edition collections, saving tonnes of fabric from landfills and down-cycling.
As we grew to understand various issues, scale and impact of the fashion industry, we found ourselves more committed to building a social enterprise making season-less clothing and other lifestyle products using low impact raw material made with better paid artisans. Our vision is to scale this idea to make it more accessible to a larger global audience.
We are only one such organisation looking to create alternative fashion solutions but there are many others too available for conscious consumption. For a consumer to start their impact journey, it is not a question of how much money you spend, but of how you spend it. That will be the difference in moving towards a change and making sustainable fashion and lifestyle business the new normal.
A relatively recent shift we see in environmental activism is the younger generations creating solutions, and holding governments and businesses accountable. An essential strategy that needs to go hand-in-hand with this, to ensure the success of these endeavours, is using patient capital from around the world to bring about consumer behaviour change and scale solutions to build parallel alternative economies.
It is important that we work together to find solutions to save the planet with least repercussions on economic stability.
It is imperative to start defining short-term actions that will lead to long-term changes to build sustainable business solutions considering the environment to be a stakeholder in both new and old businesses.
The culture of ‘thinking in the west and producing in the east’ is no longer sustainable for either party. It is leaving our working class with little or no money. Additionally, most natural resources have been overused. Climate change is no longer a local problem; over-utilisation and mis-management of natural and human resources due to lack of funds and intention is simply irresponsible. We need brands to commit more capital towards building a better supply chain; allowing manufacturers to pay better wages to their bottom-line workers and manage their waste better at source. This needs to be mandated and monitored. If you are in a position to make a difference, climate action can no longer wait.
Climate change is no longer a local problem; over-utilisation and mis-management of natural and human resources due to lack of funds and intention is simply irresponsible.
We, at Doodlage, have tried to do our part. We have taken small steps and have been scaling our efforts each year and trying to inspire more brands to start their own sustainable journey. This year we have already worked to divert more than 20,000 metres of fabric waste from landfills by simply remanufacturing it. In the process we ended up saving resources that would have been used in fresh fabric production and provided work to several fair wage production units.
There are many young brands like us and individuals working to make a difference in their own capacity. These efforts should not be ignored and rather be supported to lead to a bigger change, as all is not lost, yet.
Kriti Tula is an apparel designer and the founder of India’s first global, sustainable and affordable fashion brand, Doodlage. She is a youth climate leader for We The Change which aims to showcase climate solutions pioneered by 17 young Indians. The views expressed are the author’s own.