How sustainable is the future of sustainability for fashion retail?

Sustainable consumer habits have gained quite a lot of significance over the years. The major driving forces include the realisation of environment damaging practices, and the strong desire to make eco-friendly choices. Further, millennials and Gen Z consumers have taken the movement forward by being ecologically conscious. The new generation looks for fashion that is sustainable, fair and circular without limiting the preference to latest trends. Sustainable and responsible consumers are encouraging brands to demonstrate transparency and in their supply chains. With customers becoming more conscious of the impact of the brands they buy on the Earth, brands are expediting their attempts to appeal to the ever-growing and evolving market.

 Meanwhile, retailers around the globe are understanding the flipside of fast fashion and are moving towards sustainability as it is beginning to dawn on them that the harmful chemicals and plastic waste created due to their heightened usage of polyester and other raw materials is non-biodegradable.

“A number of homegrown brands are investing into sustainable collections and several international fashion houses are launching ‘green’ collections as part of their product offerings,” explains , Managing Director, .

“We all are aware of the adverse impact textile and fashion have on the planet. As responsible businesses and professionals, it is expected of the industry to address this massive issue,” adds – Country Marketing and Branding Manager, South Asia & Thailand at .

Needed Fast: Slow Fashion

Slow fashion represents quality and longevity and there is nothing like quality when it comes to judging a product. Whether it is raw material like fibers and dyes to the fair treatment of human resources, slow fashion is synonymous with ensuring the best of all elements involved in making the product. At the same time, the end products have longer shelf lives in wardrobes. This is part of a larger solution where the goal is to reduce wastage and exploitation of resources making the concept of slow fashion very significant.

“We, as buyers, have not been very conscious when it comes to our buying patterns within the fashion stream. We are partaking in this tornado of constantly changing trends and the need to stay updated and relevant, but at what cost? Fast fashion supports the glamour and glitz that is the fashion industry, encouraging constantly changing trends, clothes that don’t last more than five to seven washes but are conversely designed to give us a sense of confidence. Sadly, all this comes at a great cost to the environment, since fast-fashion retailers use non-biodegradable materials in their endless collections and depleting the Earth of its resources for every garment that is put on those fast-selling racks in a bid to cut costs and work towards skyrocketing profits. Our production processes have increased by 200 times in the last 15-16 years, and consumers must pause and assess if the implications of their buying habits are worth it. The notion that needs to be popularized among our consumers, no matter the age bracket, is to Buy Less and Buy Smart as every purchase matters, and every product counts,” explains , Founder, .

 

Working Towards a Sustainable Future

 

Indian Terrain “Reaffirming Indian Terrain’s 20 years commitment to offer best-in-class quality products to customers and echoing the nation’s call of creating strong national brands, we have joined forces with Fairtrade India to create an exclusive sustainable fashion line that protects the environment and empowers Fairtrade farmers in Gujarat. Indian Terrain‘s Fairtrade capsule collection gives consumers in India more options of Fairtrade fashion and also makes them aware about the farmers and workers behind their everyday choices.

 

Going forward we intend to produce over 50 percent of our entire portfolio from sustainable sources such as Fairtrade cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyester and organic and natural fibres such as bamboo, hemp, sourced consciously and sustainably over the next three years. We will work with certified suppliers and highlight the traceability of the raw materials used, to ensure supply chain partners are aligned with our objectives. We will also extend the sustainability initiative to other processes through bio-degradable packaging and product circularity.

 

We embarked on our sustainable journey in 2019 with the launch of our exclusive Earth Khaki product line, launched as a part of the SS20 collection. The entire collection is dyed with naturally obtained pigments,” explains Charath Narsimhan, Managing Director, Indian Terrain Fashions Limited.

 

Lenzing Group

 

“TENCEL™ and ECOVERO™ fibers are some of the best in fiber brands currently available in the market when it comes to sustainability. It has become the reason for our global success. The focus starts from the very initial stage – raw material sourcing. The wood used for Lenzing fibers is sourced from FSC and PEFC certified sustainably managed forests. This ensures that no endangered forests are harmed. The production process for our different fibers is trailblazing.

 

TENCEL™ lyocell fibers are known for their environmentally responsible closed-loop production process. ECOVERO™ fibers are produced with 50 percent less impact on water and energy compared to conventional viscose.

 

All our fibers are further certified as biodegradable in soil, compost, and marine environment. These fibers have one of the lowest rankings on the HIGGS Material Index – the lower the ranking better the product. The focus from raw material sourcing to disposal – all of it has the least amount of environmental impact,” says Arpit Srivastava – Country Marketing and Branding Manager, South Asia & Thailand at Lenzing Group.

 

Vrone “At Vrone, we have pledged not to use polyester or any non-biodegradable materials in our collections, and also, we have cut off the use of plastic in any form. We will also be looking at launching seasonal collections with limited and exclusive pieces. This also streamlines our agenda of ‘buying less’ and will end up leading to less discarding due to the use of sturdy fabrics in production processes.

 

Apart from the eco-conscious approach, we also want to work towards being socially conscious within our streams of production. Less environmental pollution leads to a cleaner and safer society for individuals to reside in. In times of the overriding pandemic, and even moving forth, we will work towards giving the craftsmen behind the clothes the importance and security, along with the recognition they deserve.

 

We envision the use of sustainable fabrics in every genre of the fashion business to become a norm and not a choice for retailers.” says Varun Bansal, Founder, Vrone.

 

 

Engaging Consumers

Sustainability practises should not be limited to the end product but should also be followed for sourcing and manufacturing processes. Brands can encourage consumers to be a part of the sustainability movement through their product offerings, use of non-polluting raw materials, zero-waste production facilities and transparency in the sourcing and manufacturing process. Further, with the widespread support for the Vocal for Local campaign, brands have the opportunity to work towards the development of local craftsmen and communities by collaborating with them for sustainable collections.

“Educate customers on the point that sustainability is about a better product in the end. Fashion supply chains have been built on the back of the cheapest price, which results in many short cuts throughout the chain. This most often leads to a subpar product. Embracing sustainability gives us an opportunity to correct that approach and ensure that the customer receives the best product possible for their hard-earned money,” says Narsimhan.

“While aesthetics and performance have been the common theme for most consumer engagement activities, this needs to be extended to topics covering sustainability. The engagement needs to be backed by consumer education on this topic. The impact of fashion and its potential to make a difference needs to be actively brought forward to consumers,” adds Srivastava.

Making Sustainable Fashion Cost-Effective

 

Charath Narsimhan, Managing Director, Indian Terrain Fashions Limited

 

“Embrace technology such as 3D sampling & biological textiles.”

 

Arpit Srivastava – Country Marketing and Branding Manager, South Asia & Thailand at Lenzing Group

 

“We offer superior products at competitive prices making it easier for brands to incorporate these in their core product lines. The continuous strengthening of localized supply chain partnerships in different regions is a key growth driver in this direction. Our aim remains to make sustainable fashion easily accessible.”

 

Varun Bansal, Founder, Vrone “Sustainable fabrics are expensive when compared to other non-biodegradable fabrics, and hence, our primary focus at this stage is to promote the consumers to buy less and buy smart. Cost-effectiveness comes into play as a secondary priority, which we have tried to incorporate within our operations.

 

We want our consumers to try and limit their consumption and utilize every single garment purchased and not buy more and progressively not be allured into this funnel of Fast Fashion.”

 

How Bright Is the Future?

There has been a growing consciousness and preference among consumers for sustainable offerings over the years. Consumers are mindful about what they are consuming and the impact it has on planet and people. The current pandemic has made people look inward at their own life choices and in a way accelerated this mindfulness and inclination towards sustainable products. Buyers are actively seeking information on sustainable options before making purchase decisions. This has led brands to expedite their attempts to appeal to this growing and evolving market, thereby bringing sustainability front and centre in how they conduct themselves and operate their businesses.

“As more and more brands are integrating sustainable products into their offerings, this trend is here to stay. Brands are also working upon this as a larger part of their business goals. They are actively and permanently switching to sustainable raw materials and processes,” adds Srivastava.

“In the future, consumers will have a higher demand for sustainable products with minimum damage and social implication. Hence, the new age of conscious consumerism calls for an increasingly eco and socio-friendly approach,” concludes Bansal.

With Inputs from Charu Lamba