We live in a world of fast fashion. It is often defined as cheap, trendy clothing that samples ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture turned into garments in high-street stores at breakneck speed. With the looming doom and gloom of the environment, many industries have been called out for their carbon footprint and to make changes in their ways. The fashion and beauty industry is no different as it is considered to be the world’s second largest contributor to pollution. As many of us are starting to reassess our lifestyle - by reducing single-use plastic and opting for more organic and green products - our fashion choices need an overhaul too.
Could sustainable fashion be the answer? Sadly, sustainable fashion has been typecast as unflattering, dull and minimal. But, before we make any judgements, let’s explore what sustainable fashion really is. You can interpret it as: monetarily valuable, ethical, sentimental and environmentally friendly. Basically, it is the way money is invested and spent; how to shop with brands whose values reflect our own; and the change in the way we assign value to what we buy and wear. All of these define fashion values and what the consumer needs to look out for.
In the fashion world, there are many indie brands abroad that have opted for a sustainable route; in Pakistan, a prominent example is of Designer Huma Adnan. She collaborated with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2018 to develop ‘Craft Stories’. Recently, she showcased the new spring/summer 2020 collection by the label at the fashion trade show, ‘Who’s Next’, held at Place de la Porte de Versailles in Paris. “Sustainability has many forms namely economic, community, financial, organisational and environmental. In my case, its economic, community, financial and organisational sustainability. My project helps in raising the standard of living of the people who have been displaced and have nowhere to go. It will generate financial gain to continue the project in future,” shares Huma.
“Craft Stories creates jobs and allows the artisans to become self-sufficient and earn a dignified living. The project will continue to function on an earned income. It is a brand that originated on the premise of creating handcraft with women force who otherwise aren’t involved in any activity. They get a purpose in life and they look forward to contributing to their families. The community spirit, coming together as a group to create something, gives them a purpose to live. My team of experts and I work locally with the refugees, manage designs, quality, production, supply chain and logistics for refugee made product lines which in turn stimulates local economies,” informs Huma.
Fashion trends keep changing frequently with an undue pressure on the consumers to conform. Apparel industry churns out cheap and affordable items which one goes through pretty quickly. To counter this cycle, we need slow - quality clothing items that lasts longer - and circular fashion - clothing items that can be recycled and made into other items. It seems like a mammoth task to accomplish but not an impossible one. Since consumers are now more aware of the consequences, this change could be made easier. In this regard Huma reflects, “I know for a fact, sustainable fashion is the future. In my case, the viability of a project depends on its supply chain. It’s important for designers to have inclusion in their business and act now for positive fashion. Besides economic sustainability, it also includes reusable, recyclable, eco-friendly fashion. Designers must manufacture their collections taking into consideration new factors such as the sourcing of raw materials, working conditions, product traceability, the use of chemical ingredients and the impact of products on health. These are all concerns that consumers now have and brands have to increasingly address this. When it comes to clothing, there are eco-friendly materials that we can opt for like recycled threads; fabrics leftovers from an overrun; eco-friendly mixed use of cotton, polyester fabrics and threads; and opt for vegetable dying.”
If sustainable fashion is the future, does that mean we have to stick drab outfits that all look the same? Absolutely not! Which brings us back to our point about the typecast mentioned earlier. This is the time when you let your creativity take the lead. While most brands will feature basic attires, it’s up to you how you accessorise and style it. Pair a regular solid colour kurta with some colourful accessories and change it up the next time you wear it. A neutral outfit is only boring if you don’t allow yourself to break out of the mould. “Consumers get a fashionable accessory to buy with a purpose. It should be the product and the design that should lead to the consumer and in our case it’s exactly that. The underlying message is that it’s crafted by refugee artisans but it first catches the eye for the design,” explains Huma.
Find something meaningful that you would hold on to for longer. There is no shame in repeating clothes and we need to normalise this. “The sustainable fashion industry is the need of the hour. We must think differently in terms of creativity by considering a fashion industry that is no longer subject to the uncertainties of moods and trends. We must return to clothing itself and create historical pieces that will last a long time and not disposed off easily,” concludes Huma.