Environmentally speaking, fashion has consistently been considered to be one of the most polluting and ecologically devastating industries. This may come as a surprise to many, considering we still have internal combustion engines and cars, but when you break down the numbers, it becomes clear why.
In a recent article, Aditya Singhal, founder and CEO of IML Jeans Company, a Gurugram-based bespoke denimwear maker wrote that it takes about 10-50 litres of water, just to get the wash of a denim. And the lighter the wash, the more water the pair uses. However, if we were to consider the process in its entirety, right from the irrigation of cotton, each pair of jeans that you own took about 5000 litres of water to make.
That's the cost we have to pay when we invest in fast fashion.
Although sustainability is turning out to be a fad more than anything else, there are a few ways to mitigate the cost. Atiya Rakyan of Raw Pressery, a beverage company that started a sustainable campaign titled RawCycled, wherein they take plastic PET bottles, and recycle them into t-shirts, says, “You'll find that most manufacturers have some sort of recycling programmes, and most major fast-fashion chains, like Zara plan to use 100 per cent sustainable fabrics by 2025.”
However, that is not nearly enough. Atiya continues, “It takes us about 7 bottles of good plastic, to make one of our shirts. That still is a drop in the ocean, when it comes to what all needs to be done. But we believe that it is a drop in the right step."
That makes us wonder, what, as consumers, can we do? How do we as end-users ensure that sustainable clothing is not just a fancy term that is thrown around as jargon by marketers and advertisers? Aditya, it seems, has the answer.Wear More/Different
Invest in a decent number of clothes, especially jeans. Instead of just rotating that three or four pairs throughout the year, get like 8-9. That way, not only will you be able to make all of them last longer, but can also spread out the washes. Also, try and aim to double the number of times you wear a particular piece.Wash less
This, again is especially true for denim. You can actually go 9-10 weeks without washing your jeans. Just make sure that you put them out in the sun and stick them in the refrigerator every now and then to keep the odour at bay.Get Them Repaired Properly
One reason why denims don't last long is because people don't bother to get them repaired. And even if they do, they get it done in a very frugal manner. Try getting your denims to one of those boutique stores that stitch denim garments and ask them to help you out. You'll be surprised at the difference when you get your pieces repaired professionally
Other than these three steps, you could also:Avoid Dirt Cheap Clothes
There's a reason why dirt-cheap clothes are dirt cheap. Their makers certainly do not have quality in mind, and neither are they concerned if a pair of denim jacket or jeans last you through a year. Avoid buying such clothes. You may not realise it, but you are annually sending a good number of pieces to the landfill. Not to mention the underpaid labour that made it.Look out for labels that actually practise sustainability
Here's where you need to be a little vigilant. Opt for manufacturers that actually have sustainability practices. See how they are with their repair services, if at all they have one in place. Also, lookout for labels that buy back not just old pieces, but any, generic pieces, and recycle them or donate them after refurbishing them.
There really isn't any concrete reason as to why we cannot switch to sustainable fabrics. Take plastic for example. “The process of converting them into fabric is actually not that complicated,” says Atiya. “The used plastic bottles are first washed and chopped into flakes, which are then melted and formed into chips. They are then extruded into yarn. The yarn is woven into fabric and then dyed using eco-friendly processes to make the final fabric."
Maybe the day isn't that far away when all of us will be wearing some or the other piece that is made of plastic.