The terms sustainable fashion, conscious clothing or circular fashion can make us go numb, given how often they are used as a marketing tool. Textile manufacturing is one of the most polluting industries, and there have been increased conversations in recent years on the need to incorporate environmentally safe practices. From recycling water that is used during the manufacturing process to using dyes that do not pollute river bodies or simply making fewer garments that withstand whimsical, seasonal fashion trends, both big and small players are incorporating several measures.
Here’s a look at how a few lesser known, emerging players are trying to cut down carbon footprint.
Greendigo, the kidswear clothing label founded by former bankers and Mumbai-based siblings Meghna Kishore and Barkha Bhatnagar, claims that its garments are carbon neutral. An auditing process by GreenStory (an organisation that assesses sustainability metrics) gauges how its manufacturing fares on water, energy savings and carbon emissions. The carbon footprint incurred in manufacturing is offset by investing in a biogas plant, reforestation project and solar energy.
“My sister Meghna was on the lookout for affordable, organic cotton kidswear for her daughter that would be safe on skin. We found limited options in India and sensed the potential for a toxin-free, affordable clothing label,” says Barkha.
They incorporate UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Greendigo, which was launched in January 2019. “We source GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton from farms that follow fair trade practices and support biodiversity. Our manufacturing units ensure fair working conditions for employees. The audit process helped us understand how we can reduce water consumption; we use non-toxic chemical dyes that do not bleed. The clothes and blankets are easy to maintain and can be machine washed,” explains Barkha.
Greendigo launches limited edition, capsule collections (₹700 upwards; on greendigo.com) to avoid stocking surplus, which they believe goes against the principles of sustainability.
Small fish in an ocean
Delhi-based Sheena Uppal, founder of label Renge (lotus in Japanese), prefers to use the term ‘conscious clothing’. She comes from a family that has been in the business of textiles and hence, is aware of wastage. She studied Fashion Marketing and Management at London College of Fashion and set out to start her own eco-conscious clothing label. Working with a small team of about 10, Renge (renge.co.in) makes garments only by re-purposing surplus cotton and linen fabric sourced from mills and factories. “We are small players in an ocean; it’s challenging, but we are learning,” says Sheena.
Manufacturing happens at a solar-powered factory in Faridabad where the fabrics are dyed according to Oeko-Tex certified norms. Sheena wants Renge to promote slow fashion through limited collections. She intends to work with natural fibres from raw materials such as bamboo and eucalyptus, moving forward. The label is also working towards a zero wastage approach, turning leftover fabric into masks, bags and pouches. Renge supports projects at The Backwater Sanctuary, Karnataka, and animal care at Frendicoes, New Delhi. Garments are priced at ₹2,500 upwards.
A handful of Indian brands have been upcycling textile scraps to make garments that hog the limelight at fashion weeks. Inevitably, garments from such labels are priced at ₹5,000 to ₹20,000, if not more. With an intention of being affordable, Kamakshi Singh launched her label Increscent in 2018. She took up a short course in fashion styling and later worked at an export house. Sustainability was not initially on her mind. She visited garment factories to understand production and saw the mounting textile surplus.
“Big brands deal with large volumes of fabric. I found leftover but good quality tweed, cotton and linen fabric of just 10 to 20 metres. These were available at reasonable prices; I would use them to make garments that are affordable (₹1,500 to ₹3,000, on increscent.in),” she says. 60% of the fabric is sourced from surplus.. “We launch not more than five products at a time. We on more once an order is placed, making it available in the specific sizes. Most of our products are hand-dyed, hand embroidered and block printed by local artisans and each piece is made in a community workshop in Jaipur,” adds Kamakshi.
Sustainability in street wear
Can streetwear be sustainable? The six-month-old Hyderabad-based label Vrone (read: we are one) believes streetwear can be planet-friendly by using organic cotton and eliminating plastic and polyester while manufacturing and packaging. Coming from a family that has been in the garment industry, founder Varun Bansal says, most international streetwear brands mass produce collections every fortnight. “We launch new collections once in two months and promote mindful consumption,” he says.
Launching the label in 2020, when many are working from home and opting for lounge wear, Vrone (vrone.studio) prides itself in offering comfortable, durable clothing: “We believe that less is more. If you purchase one T-shirt and a pair of joggers and use it for years, that’s a step towards being sustainable. We are working towards designing unisexual, biodegradable clothing and will be supporting reforestation and other climate-friendly projects,” says Varun. The garments are priced ₹3,000 upwards.