In the UK the fashion industry is big business, we buy more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, contributing in the region of £30+ billion to the national economy, but as a nation, we are becoming more and more aware of the impact the fashion industry is having on the world and the effects of so-called “fast fashion”. My collection leans towards what is being termed as “ethical fashion”. When most people hear the words “ethical fashion” they think of recycling but there is so much more to consider…
Fashion accounts for approx. 2% of the global GDP, and it’s an industry that is continuously growing! Some of the processes involved in fashion production, such as, fabric dyeing, are very toxic to the environment so it’s important to take measures to minimize its negative impact on the earth.
The fashion and textile industry is one of the top 3 water-wasting industries in China, discharging over 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year. In fact, it’s the second most polluting industry in the world (right after oil), making it imperative people are made aware of the implications and are given eco-friendly alternatives.
In my own collection, I mainly use reclaimed materials sourced throughout India, with the intention of breaking the cycle of waste that is involved in much of the production of textiles. Every part of the material is utilised with offcuts being crafted into other little creations so that we create as little waste as possible. I am also starting to make products from sustainable fabrics such Aloe Vera and banana fibre, with a view to opening up other options for my own aim of “zero waste”. As we work towards “zero waste”, we must be aware that sustainability doesn’t start at the end of a garment’s life cycle but must be applied at every step of the design process.
The only way that ‘fast fashion’ can be so affordable is through cheap labour, whereas sustainable clothing carries a fair price, which means that businesses can aim to work only with suppliers that operate ethically and in safe production facilities, focussing on ethical practices that ensure proper working conditions such as how labourers are treated and paid.
We work with a number of sewing professionals based in Delhi, to make our products. Risham, of Risham Chawla Designs, employs tailors, who work from her studio. Aftab has a family run business, where we source our saris, and he also makes our wool and sari scarves. Our amazing designer and seamstress, Salma also has a team of skilled refugees working for her. These refugees want to grow in their trade but are restricted by their refugee status.
Our team are all skilled seamstresses and embroiderers, who are all paid fairly. We have all our own in house designs and these are made all the more individual and unique by our fabulous team of designers and seamstresses, as they incorporate Afghani embroidery techniques into the mix.
Buy less, buy better – if you want to be a part of sustainability in the fashion industry, it’s important to educate yourself to buy ethical clothing, which nowadays has more options than before! Even if you find them more expensive, consider that they’ll likely last longer and are more likely to be made higher quality. Opt for minimum waste fashion – more and more people are adopting a “zero waste” policy and clothing is an important part of that ethos. Make sure you understand how your clothes are produced and choose garments made from recycled or sustainable textiles whenever possible. My goal is to create timeless pieces rather than trends that come and go.
Sustainable fashion shouldn’t just become yet another trend, we should ensure it is a holistic approach to fashion that we all adopt, ensuring that our fashion purchases are truly ethical, maximizing the benefits to people and communities involved in making it, and all the while minimizing its impact on our global environment.