Let’s start with a few stark facts. To create a pair of blue denims, about 1,800 gallons of water is needed just to grow enough cotton. To grow enough cotton to create one t-shirt, 400 gallons of water is consumed. On World Ocean Day, it’s a great idea to absorb these figures and ask ourselves, if we are part of the solution or the problem?
Both the city’s local fashion brands and global giants stress how they wish to support sustainable fashion practices to make the right kind of style statement. “Thanks to the influence of social media, consumers are more aware of how the conventional fashion industry works and they are driven to make more conscious choices in their lifestyle.
Having said that, we are aware that a considerable amount of people are still learning about the harmful impact fast fashion has on our planet. We recommend that they start on their sustainable journey, by following, reading, and joining organisations and influencers like Fashion Revolution, Eco-Age, and many others,” says Deepthi Chandran Joyau, founder, Only Ethikal, a UAE-based sustainable fashion e-commerce platform that provides a selection of ethical clothing.
It is interesting to note that MANGO’s new denim collection has saved 30 million litres of water! “Machines have been re-designed to incorporate new technologies such as laser or ozone that help provide sustainable and efficient solutions for washing and the finishing of each cloth,” said Beatriz Bayo, Sustainability Director, MANGO.
She adds, “Thanks to innovation and adapting sustainable technologies and processes, we are creating collections that help us to reduce our footprint. Together with other teams and our garment and fabric suppliers, we are constantly seeking production alternatives and more sustainable materials. Sustainability has nothing to do with higher or lower costs. Sustainability is a commitment and the road we are following as a brand, and this is what we are working on.”
The Spring 2021 TOMMY JEANS collection includes a 100% recycled denim product range, which was created using an innovative technique that blends bedsheets with other recycled cotton scraps far surpassing the industry average of 30% recycled cotton.
“Today’s world faces major challenges, from climate change and natural resource scarcity to inequality and prejudice. Fortunately, most of us are already aware and actively taking steps towards its betterment, we know that one brand cannot change all of this alone, but as an individual brand we are committed to reducing its (fashion) negative impact on the planet with fashion that wastes nothing and welcomes all,” says Martijn Hagman, CEO, Tommy Hilfiger Global.
He adds, “Our products are made in a way that is sensitive to planetary boundaries, or environmental limits within which humanity can safely operate. These boundaries include climate change, land use, freshwater and chemical pollution. So, we are finding ways to minimize our carbon, waste and water footprints, from what we buy to where we sell.”
Deepti Khanna, fashion designer and founder, Color Story by Dee, opines that if a brand wants to be sustainable, they should focus on quality, using materials and finishes that are made to last as well as being kind to the environment, “The clothing produced by fast fashion brands isn’t made to last – the aim is to get you to buy more, with less focus on making quality long-lasting outfits.”
She adds, “Adopting sustainable fashion means you are part of the community that is living consciously and doing less harm to the environment and to the people who are producing your clothes. You can love fashion more consciously by buying less new clothing, mixing and matching existing outfits in your wardrobe and perhaps investing in pieces that last longer.”
Color Story by Dee’s latest collection, Tribal Thumka, is made by sourcing fabrics from local markets in different parts of Africa following a zero-waste approach. Joyau agrees how brands should also be responsible for helping consumers make conscious purchase decisions. She says, “A brand should make sure that they make ethical products easily available in the market. On the other hand, it is also a consumer’s responsibility to make sure that their garment is well taken care of, used and reused, and passed on as a valuable purchase.”
And how much would adopt a sustainably fashionable style cost one? Khanna points out that price is the most common misconception about ethical fashion and comprehensive knowledge is the key, “Fast fashion cannot be a reference point for prices. In order to make smart, sustainable purchases, it’s important to know what goes into the making of an eco-friendly garment from start to finish and how that leads to the prices.”
EDUCATE YOURSELF, SAYS DEEPTHI CHANDRAN JOYAU
To make conscious purchases, a consumer should educate themselves by asking a few basic ethical questions like:
How can a t-shirt sell at USD2? The reason clothes are being sold for cheap is that workers are not paid fair wages, in other words, it is modern slavery.
There are so many options available in the market, what happens to the unsold ones? They are burnt, sent to landfills, or donated to lower economic countries.
What is the impact of this on my planet? The impact of the conventional fashion industry on the environment are many: Drying up of the rivers. Around 70 million trees are cut down each year to make clothes. Some of the fabrics (rayon and viscose) come from endangered and ancient forests and lead to deforestation. Also, to grow conventional cotton, massive amounts of chemicals are used, which cause degradation of the soil – all this presents a major threat to global food security and also contributes to global warming.