The fashion industry is gradually adopting sustainable practices like upcycling textile throwaways, even as Indian consumers buy clothes like never before.
A number of fashion designers are exploring ways to upcycle textile trash to reduce environmental distress. With the growth in the income of middle-class consumers, India’s per capita expenditure on clothes will rise to Rs 6,400 by 2023 from Rs 3,900 in 2018, the Indian Chamber of Commerce has estimated.
A 2019 Mckinsey report said India would become the most attractive consumer market for apparel outside the Western world and will be worth $59.3 billion in 2022. Growth of fast fashion is likely to increase textile waste in India as well, say experts.
What is fast fashion?
There has been a shift in the fashion industry, which earlier launched new collections in two seasons -- Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. Since the 2000s, international fashion brands H&M and Zara have started launching collections every week. The term, ‘fast fashion’ came to be associated with the high rate of fashion consumption. The term entered India along with the two brands six to seven years back, Rekha Rawat, Associate Director of Sustainable Industries Practice at cKinetics, told IndiaSpend.
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As a result of fast fashion, a massive amount of unsold clothes end up in garbage dumps, creating a cycle of contamination, she said.
"All of the elements of fast fashion -- over production, low quality, competitive pricing -- have a detrimental impact on the environment and the people involved in the production," Rawat said.
How does it impact the environment?
About 53 million tonnes of fibre is produced by the fashion industry every year, of which 70 percent is wasted, IndiaSpend said in a report. According to UK-based charitable organisation Ellen MacArthur Foundation, fibre production will reach 160 million tonnes by 2050. Less than 1 percent of fibre is reused by the fashion industry to make new clothes, adversely affecting the environment, the foundation said.
The global fashion industry is also a major consumer of water, IndiaSpend quoted a report by the UN Environment Programme, adding that it took 3,781 litres of water to make a pair of jeans.
A report by Indian Express said the wasted clothes dumped in deserts like Chile’s Atacama take years to biodegrade.
Sustainable practices are slowly catching up in the fashion industry, with some brands taking to upcycling waste to make textile products that produce no further waste.
"There is always scope to repurpose sarees and create them into an Indo-western outfit," Nitya Chandrashekhar, Founder of Mumbai-based Anya Designs, told IndiaSpends.
Designers also need to be prudent and use responsible methods that do not cause harm to the environment, designer Shruti Sancheti told Indian Express. “Sustainable practices, like using chemical-free dyes or at least azo-free dyes, reducing consumption of environmental damaging raw material, upcycling, fair wages, non-toxic working conditions, preservation of craft and slow fashion and creating season fluid, versatile looks are the need of the hour,” she said.
In 2019, the Indian government had launched a project called SU.RE, which aimed at establishing a sustainable pathway for the Indian fashion industry.
Around 16 top retail brands in India, including Shoppers' Stop, Lifestyle, Future Group and Aditya Birla Retail, had committed to sourcing a part of their total consumption using raw materials and processes by 2025.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)