Why sustainable fashion matters

Recently, with Unlock 1.0, on a drive to look around the city, I came across a landfill that had been there for years. Heaps of mountainous garbage just lying around with some ragpickers looking to recycle plastic bottles. Being a designer and working in the fashion industry for the past few years made me wonder how the waste that we produced at our workplace would have also ended up at this landfill.

Image Source: Instagram/elevenbysaumyamehrotra

I also found a lot many pieces of clothing hanging out of these heaps. The current scenario of the world has surely made me realize that our environment has had enough. The year 2020 is really a wake-up call for us humans to mend our ways once and for all. So, is the fashion industry really doing its bit?

Well, sustainability is surely a buzz word among young designers. But when we look at bigger brands like H&M, ZARA, etc, all efforts to produce ethically-made-clothes by the fashion industry seem to vanish.

The industry has repeatedly been criticized for the ways that new clothes are produced, sold, and dumped away. This fast-fashion chain where trends are made and changed over a very short period of time only to sell out more and more clothes is quite unethical. The sole reason for trends to change is to gain profits.

You find a new collection on the racks of shopping stores within weeks. This cycle is never-ending. Fast-changing trends and fast fashion are the biggest sources of garbage for landfills all around the globe. The industry generates 4% of the world’s waste each year, 92 million tons, which is more than toxic e-waste. A lot of it comes from the scraps from the production process and also from the clothes that are just thrown away.

Fashion can never be 100% sustainable. That would actually be like playing dodgeball and asking players not to hit one another! Although, there are various ways by which consumers and brands can reevaluate their decisions and use the resources available to them in a more sustainable manner.

The easiest way to be a part of the sustainable movement is to promote Slow Fashion. Slow Fashion is a way of ethical living.

The easiest ways to promote Slow Fashion are as follows:

1.Buy Better, Buy Less: Always choose quality over quantity. Buy classic clothes that last long and add value to your wardrobe. High-quality clothes prolong the life of the garment.

2. Buy Local: Buy more locally produced products to reduce your carbon footprint in the environment. When you buy locally produced products, you also invest and support small families.

3. Conscious Buying and Thoughtful Purchases: Buy from brands that come out with a smaller range of products instead of products that are mass-produced.

4. Care for the Hands that make your Clothes: Ask who made your clothes. The artisans and tailors that produce your clothes should be working in a neat and clean environment with fair wages.

5. Say No to Fast-Changing Trends: Promote age-old techniques of handicrafts and hand-skilled labor. Say no to cheap and fast fashion. If the product is cheap, somewhere someone is actually paying for it.

6. Reuse, Repair, Repurpose: In this era of Instagram pictures where people only wear their clothes once and then throw them away in the nooks of their wardrobes; reuse your clothes. If damaged, repair and reinvent them and give them a new purpose instead of blindly throwing them away.

7. Donate: Annie Leonard once said, “There is no such thing as ‘away’, when you throw something, it must go somewhere.” Donate your old clothes to the ones in need instead of them landing up in landfills.

As consumers, you can change the way that this industry works. Invest your money into causes that actually care for the environment. As an insider who works within the industry,

I can surely say that people have woken up to the damages that they’ve caused to nature and its resources. But there still is a long way to go.

(Saumya Mehrotra is a design graduate from NIFT. She is the founder of eleven, a clothing studio in the heart of Banaras that creates Western and Fusion Apparel for women. She has been responsibly making environmentally friendly clothing since the inception of her studio. (elevenbysaumyamehrotra)

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)