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World Environment Day: Here’s how you can be a responsible consumer of fashion

Are you a responsible buyer? Do you know the difference between sustainable and organic fashion? Experts tell you how to choose maximum style with minimum impact on the environment.

fashion and trends Updated: Jun 03, 2017 13:07 IST
Snigdha Ahuja
A model in an Anavila handwoven linen sari.
A model in an Anavila handwoven linen sari.(Raajessh Kashyap/HT)

There’s no denying it’s fashionable to say ‘I wear organic.’ But, do we really know what organic is? While we might be investing in it, we are not helping fashion’s sustainable side. On World Environment Day on Monday, it’s time we take charge of what we buy.

KNOW THE DIFFERENCE — SUSTAINABLE AND ORGANIC:

Designer Karl Lagerfeld‘s collection for Chanel Spring-Summer 2016 . The sustainable collection included materials such as wood, straw and paper and the models posed in this wooden ‘doll house’. (AP/Francois Mori)

The source of your fabric makes it organic. Is the crop grown without chemical intervention, without harming nature? And no, buying organic doesn’t mean you are adding to sustainability. Designer Gaurav Jai Gupta puts it succinctly. “Sustainability is based on the thought: If it is not required, why would you do it? Fashion that includes minimal wastage, is need-based and responsible, is sustainable,” he says.

You might be buying organic, but make sure you study your brand. Does it maximise quality? Minimize waste? “Anything that is respectful of the lives it impacts — man, woman, animal and plant — is sustainable to me. Sustainable fashion in that sense is choosing clothes and accessories you truly love and will wear more than a couple of times. It’s choosing manufacturing processes that are conscious of the waste/pollutants produced (working towards minimising it) and lives of the artisans who make it. It’s a broad term that boils down to making conscious choices both as a customer and as a designer/retailer/manufacturer,” says designer Anita Dongre.

BUY LOCAL, BUY HOMEGROWN:
Make full use of India’s handloom prowess. “When you buy something made by hand, you become a part of a value chain which is creating demand for a particular product. As a conscious designer one needs to create fashion where one doesn’t have to cry its handloom — it should pass merits of good design and quality,” says designer Anavila Misra. And, Jai Gupta adds: “Sustainable can also mean localising all these things. Homegrown is the future when sourcing is localised, and this helps reduce the carbon footprint by cutting out the fuels,” he says.

BUY ETHICAL:
Buy a thing of value. “No one is looking at what is ethical and value systems are being ignored. A big thing for me is ‘no plagiarism’,”adds Jai Gupta. So when you buy, buy original. “Do we want to keep adding bulk to our wardrobe? As consumers, know that the garment industry is the second most polluting industry — awareness is a big step. We, as a country, have to be self-sufficient in what we produce and what we consume,” Aggarwal adds, with some fashionable food for thought to take home.

UPCYCLING, RECYCLING:


Actor Shilpa Shetty wore this gown by Aggarwal, made of upcycled Benarasi silk. Upcycling is using waste product to create something of escalated value. Emma Watson’s character Belle from Beauty and the Beast wore a cape made from upcycled wool bought at a vintage fair. So, whenever you can, buy products that will not only last long, but also products that could be re-used, re-cycled or upcycled. Hand-me-downs were never cooler.

Belle’s red dress and cape in @beautyandthebeast was a special ethical costume that we put together with @ecoage, Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran and @disney 💚🌹 The cape was made from upcycled, traditionally woven British Jacob’s wool from around 1970, bought at a vintage fair. The fabric was overdyed using natural dyes, and the lining was made from paperlike Tussah silk. The jacket was made using hand-woven linen from the 1960s sourced from eBay, overdyed using low impact dyes. The fabric was from an old school project and was hand woven in the UK, and came with original labels and dates of manufacture. The blue and red stripe lining was sourced from a wonderful Indian supplier, who hand weaved and herbal dyed this GOTS certified organic cotton. The apron was made from a GOTS certified organic linen. The pattern was hand painted by London based artist Oliver Kilby, who also hand painted accessories for Belle’s other costumes. The off-white Peace Silk taffeta for the top skirt is Fair Trade certified and produced by a small hand-weaving unit in Cambodia. The edge facing fabric was made of the same silk, naturally dyed with madder, and printed using a hand block technique. The main GOTS certified organic cotton for the underskirt is overdyed with low impact dyes. The hide for the boots was produced using the most advanced environmentally respectful techniques such as chrome-free tanning, and solvent-free finishing. The front panel of the bodice was made from hand woven nettle, local communities harvest wild nettles in altitudes ranging from 1200m to 3000m, processing the fibres using traditional methods. The brown and beige stockings are made from organic cotton and hemp, a fibre which can be grown without pesticides or herbicides.

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IN A NUTSHELL:
Buying responsibly is being aware. Do you know where the brand sources from? Does it have a sustainable structure? Is the packaging recyclable? Is production local? Also, do you really need to buy the product? Always choose quality over quantity.