I grew up absolutely in love with clothes and fashion. As a child, I would save movie posters and cut outs from magazines for my next trip to the tailor. At age 6, my biggest passion was simply wearing the clothes I saw in my favourite stories on the big screen.
And even as I grew up, my love for fashion remained. So naturally, when the biggest fashion brands of the world – the Zaras, H&Ms and Uniqlos came to India, I was excited. Eventually, though, I realised that the colours and fabrics that I loved were hiding a dark, dark truth. The very clothing that gave me a sense of expression, that I wore and treasured through the best of times were sown together by a woman, barely of age, massively underpaid and constantly working in fear – of violence & worse.
And that’s when my sustainable fashion journey began. As I read, watched and learnt, I realised how much things had changed since I was a child. The fast fashion model is extremely similar to that of fast food.
You’re hungry at that moment, so you buy a quick fix for your hunger and move on. It isn’t a healthy, nutritious or complete meal. Similarly, fast fashion claims to bring you the current trends – to wear a few times and move on. It isn’t a good quality, well made garment, merely a quick fix for a few weeks. This use and throw system has multiple implications, low prices mean poor quality materials and low wages.
The system of rapid disposal means that out waste management systems are dealing with a problem they aren’t equipped for, and our fabric waste simply lies in landfills for many, many decades. It is said that nearly 60% of the clothing that is made ends up in landfills within a few years – not only does this not justify the huge amount of resources that were required to purchase it, disposal into landfills ensures that it continues to harm our environment for many decades to come.
As the world tends towards a climate emergency, the impact of this is huge – but also avoidable. Trends are unlike seasons – one needs warm clothes during winter, airy cottons in summer. But trends are created by people – to force us into a cycle of over consumption.
Therefore, it is entirely possible for us to break the cycle.
My advice to anyone who is getting started with sustainability is:
1.Read, learn and discuss. Do not desensitize yourself into thinking that there is nothing you can do. Your individual actions have the power to make multi-billion dollar MNCs, so they have the power to promote ethical businesses as well.
2. Do the best that you can. Sustainable clothing may be too expensive, too inaccessible for you. So my advice to you is to make the best choice possible. Instead of buying 5 clothes that are poor quality and will last only a few months with your money, buy one excellent, original design and wear it with pride and style.
3. Don’t be impulsive. A lot of my personal purchases have been impulsive – bought after seeing an influencer wearing them or just because they were on discount. I now try to be more thoughtful about what a purchase, instead of buying it immediately.
4. Know your body, know your style. Many garments and trends may look great on social media promotions, but they may not be right for your body type and your style. Instead of following what may not even be right for you, create your own style. Experiment with clothes and silhouettes and buy only what love yourself in.
5. Speak up. Activism as the power to change things, so even if everything else seems beyond your reach, speak up for the cause you believe in. You are the beginning of change.