For the third time in a row, Arvind Limited, leading fashion and lifestyle company, bagged the top rank award in energy conservation and efficiency during the National Energy Conservation Awards 2016 organised by the bureau of energy efficiency (BEE), Union ministry of power. The ceremony was held on December 14, India’s National Energy Conservation Day.
The Top Rank Award recognises an industrial unit that wins the first prize for three consecutive years, and Arvind is the only textile conglomerate to reach the milestone. Competing against 43 players, Arvind clinched the first position by displaying consistent efforts towards energy conservation at its Santej plant in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
As compared to financial year 2015-16, Arvind was able to further reduce specific consumption in thermal energy by nearly 12 per cent, besides achieving 12 per cent reduction in specific electrical energy consumption. Arvind has also installed 1.30 MW roof-top solar power generation at the Santej plant – the largest of its kind in the Indian textiles industry.
“At Arvind, improving our plant’s energy efficiency has always been a focus, and we continue to invest in new technologies for sustained energy conservation. This award means a lot to the team at Arvind and we appreciate Government of India’s recognition of our plant as the most energy efficient textile unit in India for the third consecutive year,” said Susheel Kaul, CEO – lifestyle fabrics (shirting, khaki & knitwear) at Arvind.
“We were able to achieve power and thermal savings through various innovations, new technologies, continuous monitoring and all our efforts have paid off. We introduced various initiatives in our plant to conserve energy, such as mechanical vapour recompression for evaporation, polymeric multi-effect evaporation, efficient pumps, artic master on chillers, LEDs, use of renewable energy, such as day-light sheets and natural exhaust and gravity ventilations in production halls,” said Harvinder Rathee, head engineering – lifestyle fabrics (shirting, khaki & knitwear).
The award was presented by Piyush Goyal, Union minister of state, with Independent charge for power, coal, new and renewable energy, to Kaul. (KD)
*This story first appeared on Fibre2Fashion
Packing for a fortnight trip I carefully edited to what was essential. I calculated the number of days and the luggage allowance permitted by the airline. But, what would I carry if I had to go for a journey that could last a few months? And what if it this journey was on foot!
The Rabaris of the semi desert region of Kutch, West India, believing they are divinely designated to take care of the camel, migrate seasonally, looking for green pasture. The men of the Rabari community wear an upper garment kediyun (pl. kediya), always white. Regional garments including the kediyun were traditionally made by the women of the family. “Where would you find a tailor in the jungle?” commented Harkuben Rabari. So, it was essential to carry the knowledge and the skills, while making distant journeys. The women learnt the art of making the garments by observing the elders.
With my background in fashion, the dramatic cut of the kediyun had fascinated me. So for my masters research I found apprenticeships under three different makers of kediyun. I learned that long ago men of many ethnic communities of Kutch wore kediya. A few decades ago almost all the women in the local Rabari and Ahir communities could stitch the garment, however only a few could cut it. Cutting involved the understanding of body proportions, taking measurements and cutting the actual fabric. The approach in cutting was zero wastage. Everything was economically used. Understanding the fabric quality in relation to body and stitching is also integral to the process. When regional hand weaving became unaffordable and mill cloth replaced it, the women adapted the cut to fit the width of the mill cloth.
Religious and spiritual beliefs too are central to the making of the kediyun. According to a local tailor, hand stitching is not the same as machine. “With hand stitching your thoughts get stitched with the cloth too.” One day during my apprenticeship, I was told that in honour of Shetla mata, a goddess who has the power to cure or bring small-pox, activities which involved knotting, such as combing of hair or knotting the thread end for stitching, could not take place. It is believed that the Goddess could get stuck in the knot, bringing disease to a child in the family.
Even wearing a kediyun has cultural implications. The first time I wore a kediyun that I had stitched, I didn’t know how to wear it, particularly how to tie the garment. So I discovered how the garment brings two people together in an intimate way. The wearer is brought close to the person who ties the strings, as they stand close, facing each other. This relation is “equal”, as opposed to the feeling of hierarchy when a person stands behind a wearer, assisting him to wear a (Western) jacket.
After the earthquake of 2001 in Kutch, communities’ lifestyles and relationships with the environment saw a drastic shift, at a faster pace than ever before. Industries were introduced in the rural region with the dream of economic growth, often ignoring the local culture. According to Lakhabhai Rabari, “men from our village used to leave for work wearing a kediyun. On reaching the gate of the factory, they would change to pants and shirt as they were told that traditional clothes were not practical. This continued for a few months, after which the most of the men stopped wearing the kediyun altogether.” Kediya for special purposes such as weddings were adorned with embroidery in traditional styles that were distinctive of communities, as were the specific cuts of the garment. Traditionally one style of kediyun worn by the groom was made by his first cousin: the garment became a way of introducing her to the community. Among the young generation, the kediyun is now reduced to ritual wear.
One Rabari women complained that she used to stitch all her family’s clothes—juldi, kediyun, ghaghari. But her daughter in-law does not even know how to stitch a basic ghaghari (skirt); she purchases a readymade version. Machine made ready to wear kediya manufactured in Ahmedabad are available at selected local shops. A few tailors too make copies of the kediyun. However, the approach does not combine the traditional wisdom of the material culture.
Jamanben Ahir, one of the last makers of the kediyun who still continues making and even repairing, was proud to have me as a pupil. Although Jamanaben’s husband wears a kediyun, her son has never worn one. Her daughter, who uses a sewing machine, had previously never recognised her mother’s knowledge. She became curious and started to observe her mother teaching me.
Most of the Rabaris don’t have camels anymore; there are only a few exceptions of families who still migrate with their herds. What these communities do carry is the knowledge, skills and most important concepts of sustainability, slow fashion, well made objects and of style—an approach that could open new ways of thinking if applied in mainstream fashion design education.
Based in Ahmedabad, India, LOkesh Ghai is a textile artist, researcher and academician working with traditional craft practice. His work has featured at the V&A Museum of Childhood, London; Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire; Gallery of Costume, Manchester and Ahmedabad International Art Festival. He has been visiting lecturer at numerous institutions both in India and the UK including the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Gandhinagar, Royal College of Art, London and Somaiya Kala Vidya, Kutch, India’s premier design institute for traditional craft communities. Recently LOkesh showcased his work as part of India Street in Scotland; the show was a runner up for the most sustainable design practice award in the Edinburgh International Art festival. Currently he is working with the Warli tribes of folk artists as part of Re:imagine India, towards the 70th year of Indian independence.
*This story first appeared on Garland
Fast fashion is the practice of rapidly translating high fashion design trends into low-priced garments and accessories by mass-market retailers at low costs. There are a number of elements that are key to the fast fashion process, namely: the price of the garments and accessories; the method and timeline of manufacturing; the trend-based nature and disposability of the clothes themselves.
The fast fashion model has developed from a product-driven concept based on a manufacturing model referred to as “quick response,” developed in the U.S. in the 1980s. This moved to a market-based model of “fast fashion” in the late 1990s and the early part of the 21st century. (Wiley). It has since come to occupy a very profitable position in the market.
The fashion apparel industry has significantly evolved, particularly over the past several decades. The evolution of manufacturing and consumption has resulted in the intake of “400 percent more clothing today than we did 30 years ago. That shift from mid-market to fast fashion has also tracked a shift from domestic production to cheaper overseas locations from Hong Kong, to mainland China and now to even lower cost centers including Vietnam and Bangladesh.” (CNBC).
“The changing dynamics of the fashion industry have forced retailers to desire low cost and flexibility in design, quality, and speed to market, key strategies to maintain a profitable position in the increasingly demanding market.” (ResearchGate). Fast fashion retailers both meet and fuel this demand by marketing “apparel that may not be made with the finest quality materials to last a life-time, but that is cooler and far more affordable.” (CNN).
Elements of Fast Fashion
i. Price: The widespread availability of low-cost garments and apparel is a distinguishing factor for fast fashion retailers. “The fast fashion business model is based on reducing the time cycles from production to consumption such that consumers engage in more cycles in any time period.” Spain-based Zara, the world’s largest fast fashion retailer, has prices similar to those of the Gap: coats for $200, sweaters for $70, T-shirts for $30, and denim for $69. This is markedly more expensive than H&M, the Swedish-based company, which offers most coats for $69 (though some go for as low as $29), sweaters for between $29 and $34, t-shirts for $5.99, and denim for $19.99. Forever 21, the Los Angeles-based brand, is priced comparatively to H&M. It’s new concept store, Forever 21 Red, however, offers even lower prices, such as camisoles starting at $1.80, jeans at $7.80, tees at $3.80, and leggings at $5.80.
Irish retailer Primark offers some of the lowest prices in the industry. Its first U.S. store features a selection of jeans for $7, t-shirts for $3.50 and tank tops for a mere $1.60, prices that are lower than all of its fast-fashion rivals, analysts say. The retailer boasts prices that are 40% less than H&M’s and 75% less than Gap Factory stores’, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs.
Costs are largely reduced by taking advantage of lower prices in markets in developing countries. “In 2004 developing countries accounted for nearly 75 percent of all clothing exports and the removal of several import quotas has allowed companies to take advantage of the even lower cost of resources.” (Bruce, Margaret, and Lucy Daly. “Buyer behavior for fast fashion.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management). Workers in Bangladesh, where 80 percent of the country’s exports are apparel, currently earn the lowest minimum wage in the world, taking home about $43 a month. Chinese factory workers make slightly more: $117 to $147 a month. In contrast, American garment workers earn about $9 an hour, taking home $1,660 a month. (http://bust.com).
ii. Manufacturing Timeline and Availability: A significant point of differentiation between fast fashion retailers and non-fast fashion brands is the rapid rate of manufacturing. “The fast fashion business model is based on reducing the time cycles from production to consumption such that consumers engage in more cycles in any time period.” (Hines, Tony. 2001. “Globalization: An introduction to fashion markets and fashion marketing.”)
While the fashion industry largely operates on a seasonal calendar, fast fashion retailers deliver new garments and accessories to their stores every four to six weeks, sometimes even more frequently. Inditex brand stores (including Zara), for instance, receive deliveries of new clothes twice a week. This is significantly quicker than Salvatore Ferragamo, for example, which has centralized inventory and established computer links to suppliers , cutting the design-to-delivery cycle by 20 percent, to 10 weeks – making it one of the most speed-forward houses in the upper echelon of fashion.
The rapid speeds of delivery for which fast fashion retailer are known are largely based on the location of their manufacturers. For Zara and other similarly situated brands, “The trendiest items are made closest to home, however, so that the production process, from start to finish, takes only two to three weeks.” (NY Times). While manufacturing in local markets – such as Spain for Zara or Los Angeles for Forever 21 – may be more costly than more far-flung locations, such Bangladesh or Cambodia (which offer significantly cheaper labor), these higher labor costs are offset by greater flexibility. Items are produced in lower quantities and so, no extra inventory is left lying around and subsequently offered up at sale prices.
In addition to the widespread availability of fast fashion garments due to the brands’ rapid manufacturing turnaround times, their garments and accessories are physically widely available due to volume of goods produced and the companies’ penetration of the market both by way of e-commerce stores and brick and mortar locations. In 2012, Inditex, for instance, was making “840 million garments a year with around 5,900 stores in 85 countries, though that number is always changing – Inditex has in recent years opened more than a store a day, or about 500 stores a year. Right now there are around 4,400 stores in Europe, and almost 2,000 in Spain alone.” (NY Times, 2012).
Forever 21 “operates over 600 stores throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Europe, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.” (Forbes). “H&M manufactures at least 600 million items each year and operates more than 3,200 stores in 55 countries. If you include its subsidiary brands, such as COS, that number jumps above 3,500 stores, and the company is expanding its locations by 10% to 15% each year.” (Quartz).
iii. Trend-based: As indicated above, the vast majority of fast fashion retailers stock trend-based garments and accessories, particularly those derived from the most recent runway collections at any given time. Due to the speed of manufacturing, fast fashion retailers are able to get their garments and accessories, which are commonly line-for-line copies of designer goods, to stores long before the actual designer. “Fast fashion poses a threat since its logic is based on copying the designs of high-end producers and quickly diffusing them—sometimes even before the high-end goods, which are based on a complicated and high quality supply chain, are distributed. As such, it mines the overall investment in style by design departments of high end producers.” (US News).
This model of manufacturing and marketing thrives on constant change and the frequent availability of new products. The continuous release of new, trend-drive products essentially makes the inventory a highly cost effective marketing tool that drives consumer visits, increases brand awareness, and results in higher rates of consumer purchases. One soruce reports: “Fast fashion companies have also enjoyed higher profit margins in that their markdown percentage is only 15% compared to competitors’ 30% plus.” (Hines, Tony. 2001. “Globalization: An introduction to fashion markets and fashion marketing.”). To keep customers coming back, high street retailers routinely source new trends in the field, and purchase on a weekly basis to introduce new items and replenish stock (Tokatli and Kizilgun 2009).
“It’s not uncommon for shoppers to wear items once or twice before discarding them. Sometimes, it’s not even a choice because the garments are so poorly made that they fall apart after only a few wears.”
iv. Disposability: Disposability plays a key role in fast fashion. “Fast fashion has paved the way for outright disposable fashion. It’s not uncommon for shoppers to wear items once or twice before discarding them. Sometimes, it’s not even a choice because the garments are so poorly made that they fall apart after only a few wears.” (US News).
Labor Concerns Associated with Fast Fashion
A number of tragedies have been directly connected to the production of fast fashion and its lower manufacturing and labor costs. In order to offer low cost clothing, fast fashion retailers source garments and accessories from factories in countries where labor costs are extremely low. For years, this was largely in China. However, “factory workers in China are increasingly pressing for higher wages. Companies have responded by moving production into places where wages are even lower, like Bangladesh.” (NPR).
India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey, among others, have become popular locations for the sourcing of fast fashion garments and accessories. However, such countries largely lack the sophisticated manufacturing infrastructure of China. Per Maxine Bédat, co-founder of Zady: “Low cost means low regulation. Governments in today’s textile producing countries have little oversight into what happens in their factories.” (CNBC).
This extends to labor conditions and wages. The health of laborers “is affected by the chemicals used to produce the cheap fabrics made into T-shirts that are snapped up for $5 in Western stores.” (BI). Moreover, “in the rush to fill the void, tragedy has sometimes ensued.” (NPR).
Most significantly, in April 2013, “the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,100 garment workers died, showed the lengths to which manufacturers will subvert zoning, labor and safety requirements to score contracts and keep inventories full of on-trend fashions at bargain-basement prices.” (Al Jazeera).
On the heels of the Rana Plaza building collapse, safety problems are still extremely widespread: “A recent inspection of Bangladesh garment factories was conducted in connection with the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a legally binding agreement between international trade unions IndustriALL and UNI Global, Bangladesh trade unions, and international brands and retailers. The round of inspections took place at 1,106 factories used by 150 Western brands, and resulted in the identification of 80,000 safety-related problems. Per the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, safety hazards were found in every factory inspected, with nearly 20 factories being labeled as bearing a heightened risk of collapse, and 110 other factories were deemed to have notable structural issues.” (TFL).
For over two years beginning in 2011, Zara was under investigation for the use of slave labor and sweatshop conditions in factories in Argentina and Brazil. In 2011, the “Spanish high-street retailer [was] accused of allegedly accepting slave-labor working conditions supplanted by more than 30 of its outsourced plants running in Brazil.” (Forbes). Bolivian immigrant workers “were caught in slave-like conditions in garment production for the Galicia-based company, which is part of the Inditex group.” (Forbes).
Less than two years later, “immigrant workers, including children, were discovered by the workers’ rights group, La Alameda, producing clothes for Zara in ‘degrading’ sweatshop conditions, investigators claimed […] They were not registered and they were living in terrible conditions. They had no official documents and were held against their will, they were not allowed to leave their workplaces without permission.” (Telegraph).
In October 2014, textiles mills in the Tamil Nadu area of India have been accused of employing forced labor and have been linked to major fast fashion giants including H&M, Primark and C&A. According to “Flawed Fabrics,” a report from the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and the India Committee of the Netherlands, which was compiled “through a mixture of desk research and interviews with workers,” an array of core labor rights are being violated. Girls and young women are “being lured from their home villages [at as young as age 15] by false promises” and are working under “appalling, prison-like conditions” in which the women are often bonded. (TFL).
In early 2014, at least four people were killed and more than 20 were injured when police outside Cambodia’s capital opened fire to break up a protest by striking garment workers. Wages in the garment-manufacturing sector in Cambodia remain low by international standards. In October 2015, Government officials in Cambodia announced that they will raise the minimum wage for clothing workers by 9.4% to $140 a month, hoping to ease tensions in the country’s main export industry. The new wages take effect at the beginning of 2016, but the increase falls short of the $160 a month wage proposed by unions. (TFL)
Environmental/Sustainability Concerns Associated with Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is, by its very nature, “a fast-response system that encourages disposability.” (Fletcher 2008). With brands like H&M “producing hundreds of millions of garments per year,” there is a growing public consensus that the mass production of so much cheap clothing is an enormous waste of resources such as fuel and water. (NPR). As an industry, “Fast fashion depletes the Earth’s resources and uses slave labor all over the world.” (Vogue).
In addition to a lack of regulation in terms of working and safety conditions and wages, environmental and related regulations stemming from the use of chemicals and pollutants are lax in low cost centers of manufacturing. As such, “textile companies just keep engines roaring, running largely on coal, while they systematically dump their chemicals untreated back into their local water. This has all added up to the apparel industry being the second most polluting industry in the world, behind only the oil sector.” (CNBC).
And the side effects do not stop there. The increase in production of garments and accessories has lead to an increase in waste: “Inevitably, much of this excess finds its way into landfills. In the US alone more than 10.5 million tons of clothes end up in landfills each year, and even natural fibers may not break down easily.” (Quartz).
*This story first appeared on The Fashion Law
Benita Singh: Founder and CEO of Le Souk, the first online global textiles marketplace.
Tell us about your business and the work you do.
Le Souk is the first online textiles marketplace where designers can search, sample and source directly from leading mills and tanneries around the world. Our mission is to provide unparalleled transparency to designers and brands looking to build direct relationships with trusted suppliers.
We started the platform to provide market access for suppliers who could not afford the high cost of attending trade shows. As the model began to prove itself, established suppliers, many of whom do attend trade shows, began to approach us to showcase their latest collections as well. Four years later, we’re hosting the online showrooms for suppliers in over 19 countries – from repurposed salmon leather from Iceland to vegetable dyed cotton from India.
What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?
For us at Le Souk, it means bringing transparency to the sourcing supply chain. Too many designers don’t know where their materials come from, not because they don’t want to know, but because it’s simply impossible for them to trace where their fabric comes from. By working exclusively with textile mills and leather tanneries, we work only with suppliers who spin and weave (or tan) their materials.
This model means that designers can communicate directly with a representative at the source of production. This facilitates greater ease of access to information and certifications. And for suppliers , they’re closer to the market (and can increase their gross margins.)
How important is water to what you do?
It needs to become more important, which is why we’re thrilled to be a part of the Collaboratory. Water usage is largely overlooked when it comes to fabric sourcing, and it needs to become top of mind for more designers. Through the fellowship, we want to inspire and challenge our suppliers to re-think their modes of production while at the same time, bringing those materials that use less water to the forefront of Le Souk in a way that educates designers.
What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?
More knowledge on water impact from industry thought leaders will better position Le Souk to be an even greater resource for our 18,000+ active designers – both in terms of content but also in terms of materials that are water efficient. It’s our job to communicate the importance of this issue to designers, and by participating in the fellowship with both brands and companies that interface with brands, we look forward to coming up with creative ways to inspire the industry to take a hard look at how it uses water.
What’s your Levi’s® story?
My relationship with Levi’s® goes back to 2006 when the non-profit that I co-founded, Mercado Global, was fortunate enough to receive one of its first grants to advance its work with artisans in Guatemala from the Levi Strauss Foundation. Ten years later, it’s a thrill and honor to be collaborating with Levi Strauss & Co. again.
Jesus Ciriza Larraona: Founder and executive director of The Colours of Nature, a natural dye company specializing in indigo.
Tell us about your business and the work you do.
In 1992, I spent time in Kashmir, India, designing Persian silk carpets and exploring manufacturing approaches. It was during this time, by the beautiful lakes around Srinagar, that I became aware of the environmental impact of the dyes and finishing processes used to make the carpets.
As I had also seen industries destroy rivers where I grew up in Spain, at this point I decided to try to find alternatives for the chemical dyes being used. Naturally, I looked to the ancient traditions of natural dyes, for craftsmen and industries alike. I founded The Colours of Nature (TCoN) in Auroville, India. TCoN is a company exclusively dedicated to the use of eco-friendly natural dyes. Over the years we have been dyeing organic cotton yarns and fabrics, as well as making fabrics, including batik and shibori fabrics, and garments. Last year we started to dye cotton fiber, which is relevant as dyeing at this stage, before yarn- or fabric-making, can really help reduce water.
What does it mean to you to create a more socially and environmentally responsible apparel industry?
For me, both go hand in hand, as the pollution of the industry also, in many cases, affects those who work in it, by polluting local aquifers.
Whilst protecting the environment is the reason we are in business, we are also focused on improving conditions for workers. Exploitation of workers in the textile industry in developing countries can make it impossible for workers to lead dignified lives, in turn limiting their choices and power to create a sustainable future. So again, for us, social and environmental responsibilities go hand in hand.
How important is water to what you do?
It is well known that good drinking water is becoming increasingly harder to come by in many countries and that many industries all over the world do not pay enough attention to the environmental impact of their activities.
In 1993, working with dyers from a small village in India (Guledagudd), we recovered an ancient natural indigo dye fermentation process which was almost forgotten. This biological process works for many years using the same dyeing water. In fact, the natural indigo fermentation dyeing water currently in use at TCoN has been in use since 1993. We have a working prototype to up-scale this natural indigo fermentation process for industrial purposes at our premises. It’s a process that can be used by craftsmen or industries!
What do you hope to get out of participating in the LS&Co. Collaboratory?
Our aim is to share our learning with regard to natural dyes, and to learn from the other Collaboratory participants.
*This story first appeared on Levi Strauss
When Allison Hayes made her first trip to India in 2012 for a friend’s wedding, she was fascinated by the exquisitely handcrafted fabrics and textiles she found there. Four years later, the associate creative director at agency Venables Bell and Partners and that same friend, Jayshri Chakraborty, a former finance professional, teamed up to launch their own fair-trade clothing line.
“The &Collection” is direct-to-consumer fashion brand launched two weeks ago. It sources traditional textiles and prints directly from artisans across India.
“We’re committed to developing local businesses by promoting entrepreneurship in these areas,” said Hayes, adding that 20 percent of the proceeds from each item go back to the artisan community that embroidered or printed it.
The “&” in the name is a connector, she said, and each collection is named with an “&” attached to the part of India that collection is from. For example, the “&Santiniketan” collection is from the eastern state of West Bengal and predominantly features the “Katha” technique — an elaborately embroidered running stitch technique that artisans in the region have been practicing for centuries. There are two more collections, “&Udaipur” and “&Jaisalmer,” from two cities in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.
It helps that the company has come up at a time when more consumers are clamoring for increased sustainability in fashion. The & Collection is the latest fair-trade clothing brand that is part of a growing brigade of brands that are responding to consumer calls for increased sustainability and transparency in fashion. Producing ethical fashion and being transparent is becoming more of a priority for brands across the board from luxe cashmere brand Naadam to designers Diane Von Furstenberg and alice + olivia.
“It’s not just about showcasing the textiles, but also the communities,” said Hayes. “We want to be able to tell a story, which would be lost if we were to outsource our clothes to another retailer.”
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Here's a sneak peak at our Neelaj skirt. "Neelaj" means "indigo" in Hindi, which is the type of leaf found in this pattern. It's one of the Multani family's oldest working blocks. Every skirt is hand-stamped using dye made from real brass powder. #Fancy #blockprint #handmade #organic #ethicalfashion #india #style
Being direct to consumer also makes sense, because the company can constantly interact with its customers to make informed decisions on product and sizing. Depending on what our customers like and don’t like, we’d know what to focus on for future collections,” said Hayes.
The textiles may be coming directly from the artisans, but that does not necessarily mean they are cheap. Clothes from “The &Collection” range from scarves priced at $75 to skirts that go up as high as $365 — almost four times the price artisan collective groups in India would sell it for. Hayes admits that the clothes are marked up by approximately two-and-a-half times to factor in costs of production, tailoring and shipping. She said she was hopeful of bringing that down, however, as the company evolves a more efficient business model and begins to control more of its supply chain.
“We’re not turning a profit yet,” she said. “But current sales will immediately be invested back into the company for additional sourcing in the future.”
To grow, the company is focusing on building social followers primarily on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest — places where people often find fashion inspiration. The sustainability aspect is played up in its posts on these platforms — a smart move to draw more customers, said Nathalie Huni, creative director at Huge. Its Instagram feed, for example, proudly showcases members and snippets of daily life from the community it sources its textiles from. It is also looking to partner with influencers and considering dabbling in paid social advertising on Facebook and Instagram.
“A career in advertising uniquely prepares you for a lot of the hard stuff that comes with starting just about anything,” she said. “With ‘The & Collection,’ I didn’t just come up with the concept and design the clothes, I also designed the identity and website as well as shot, styled and retouched all photographs, wrote the copy and developed the brand voice.”
Two weeks since its launch, the company has sold over 10 percent of its inventory. It continues to take a page from the playbooks of other brands prioritizing sustainability and working with similar models, said Hayes, such as Maiyet.
“The biggest challenge is that coming from advertising, I am used to having big budgets,” Hayes, who leads all creative for brands like 76, Phillips 66 and Massage Envy at her agency job, said. “It’ll remain a side business for a while I think.”
*This story first appeared on Glossy
Last year, handlooms witnessed a great revival both on and off ramps and became a major talking point in the Indian fashion industry. The government’s efforts to make Benarasi weaves the fabric of the year contributed to a growing consciousness too. Ecological practices have been steering the fashion industry towards a greener environment. And while one-off initiatives are a boost, there are some designers who are shaking things up at the very core by opting for the sustainable route right at the onset of their careers, tirelessly narrowing the gap between grassroots and glamour.
Designers Mia Morikawa and Shani Himanshu of 11.11 / eleven eleven — the pret label of CellDSGN Pvt Ltd — have consolidated the roots of their brand in the luxury space with an organic method. Their seed-to-stitch approach towards making garments generates human capital, with zero use of machinery and electricity, resulting in the lowest production of industrial waste. “Since the launch of our 100 per cent handmade line in 2013, we’ve been guided by desire to create consciously,” says Morikawa. The brand is now synonymous with khadi denims where the hand-spun denim is made from 100 per cent khadi cotton and is dyed in natural indigo. The kala cotton used is 100 per cent native organic cotton, the production of which is an environmentally conscious process and a viable alternative to agricultural practices that require irrigation and chemicals. This season, they have revisited bandhani, clamp-dyeing and block printing as embellishment techniques while continuing with their ever evolving signature hand-painted aesthetic.
While Morikawa and Himanshu work together to add value to traditions, designer Rina Singh of Eka singlehandedly nurtures her brand by working with handloom clusters around West Bengal. “We have a long-standing relationship with the weavers and provide employment to almost all the families that work with us throughout the year. Supporting them adds sustainability to my business,” says Singh. She does not work with a whole lot of traditional textiles and weaves, but tries to modernise the methods and bring a new flavour to the looms. The fabrics she employs are natural yarns and blends of wool, silk, linen and khadi cotton. “I never buy off the rack, all the fabrics for any given season are worked on at the looms by us,” she adds. Anavila Misra of Anavila, applauded for her immaculate sari drapes just as much as for her saris, is all about fuss-free apparels. She uses fabrics like linen, organic cotton, cotton linen, silk and wool, and jamdani, khatwa, and hand-block prints.
The up-and-coming designer Priyanka Ella Lorena Lama, of P.E.L.L.A, who recently showcased a capsule collection at the HUL Green Wardrobe Week with Lakmé Fashion Week, used indigenous pure eri, aka ahimsa silk, and its yarn waste, noil fibre. For her recent summer resort collection, Maitake, showcased at Lakmé Fashion Week, she also incorporated reclaimed wood work by budding artist Mayank Saini. “The wood is retrieved from packaging used for shipping containers, giving it a new life. It is not about reusing; it is about not creating any further waste,” says Lama. The exotic mixture of lightweight handwoven pure ahimsa silk, cashmere and pashmina is what she usually plays with each season. “Each thaan (fabric roll) is different and some have inherent impressions on the fabric. We consider them to be the impressions of beauty of the human weaving it,” she says. Not only the fabrics and techniques, but the NIFT graduate also incorporates zero-waste principles in pattern-making itself. “Every design includes minimum measurement and sewing but is painstakingly hand-rolled and hemmed, which is invisible to the naked eye. Each garment is made from a single block of fabric with no zippers or buttons for fastening, save for a sash which holds at the waist,” says the young designer.
Craft revivalist and textile conservationist, designer Madhu Jain has been instrumental in introducing bamboo fibre, an alternative textile, in 2004. “Textiles made of bamboo yarn are ideally suited for hot Indian summers because of their breathability and anti-bacterial properties. They are naturally UV-protective and biodegradable. I don’t use factory-produced fabrics, though there are some great innovations out there. Each textile is rendered differently and has its own unique production technique.
For instance, the Srikalahasti kalamkari that I specialise in uses organic raw materials such as indigo, iron rust, cow’s milk and katha (catechu). I have just experimented with it in a khadi version which has proved to be a highly successful line,” says the veteran.
While high-street chains pour with fresh and affordable designs every week, with supplies exceeding demands, sustainable fashion faces many challenges. “The Indian handlooms sector is in desperate need of a boost. With markets leaning towards synthetic, man-made textiles, weavers are turning away from old traditions and migrating in search of jobs,” adds Jain, who is currently supporting 300 weavers. “When you make things with hands and add details manually, you add cost at every step,” says Misra. “We have to partner with retailers and other organisations that understand the what, why and how. Infinite patience and pure passion is necessary to take the slow route,” adds Morikawa. Singh too agrees that it is a slow process but the results boast longevity and she contends that her designs transcend age, race and cultural barriers. “The boutiques I work with across the world are wholehearted supporters of this fashion movement that we endorse. Also, these relationships are not fickle. The challenges in real time would be the weather conditions, the floods that stop the weavers from being back on the loom unexpectedly…the rains that hinder the process of beating the wood used to make the printing blocks…the harsh summers that make the yarns crisp, causing them to break at every odd warp. But we’ve learnt to overcome these setbacks. Sometimes I do feel that our signature style creates limitations for us in terms of our entire product portfolio. But then that’s that! Not everyone gets this language. We might have a less number of buyers who would like to invest in a piece of handmade clothing sans embellishment and frills, but with the growing ecological awareness, that number is growing too,” she says.
When asked at which point in time the whole sustainable shift began in the country, Singh explains that the movement started when veteran designers such as Rajesh Pratap Singh, Abraham and Thakore, Ritu Kumar and Rohit Bal put sustainability of crafts at the forefront of their brand philosophies. “They worked extensively with artisans and craftspeople across India and with the best available natural textiles. The only difference between then and now is that no one used it in their marketing strategy. Today it has become a design language which for me is a more contemporary take on traditional textiles,” says the designer.
As much as there is a shift towards all things bygone and indigenous, there’s also a change in the mood. Clothes have become a lot simpler in form, function and appearance. There’s a growing love for earthy, subtle hues as well as light and comfortable fabrics. The results of going natural have been refreshing as people are now more attracted towards ease and utility rather than trends. The connection between sustainable fashion, comfortable silhouettes and minimal adornment is getting stronger every season. “I prefer zero ornamentation because I feel that the textile that is so laboriously crafted is corrupted by adding five more elements to it. The whole idea is to bring attention to the painstakingly woven fabric, its feel and its fall. Heavy embellishments cannot be sewn on handmade materials and the functional aspect of the garment is maintained only by not machining the textile heavily,” says Singh.
There is a wave of change in the Indian fashion industry, and the most impactful one the industry has seen in years. As awareness is gaining momentum, more and more designers are using India’s sartorial traditions to make their designs super covetable and cool. So be it Rahul Mishra’s Gandhian philosophy, Aneeth Arora’s Kutch-inspired designs on Chanderi and Maheshwari dresses, Suket Dhir’s androgynous silhouettes in fine mulmul, wool and bamboo or Anita Dongre’s Grassroot, to name a few, the synergy between fashion savants and weavers and artisans is empowering the nation. As individuality takes the lead, a new consumer has emerged, one who’s willing to blur the lines between ancient and au courant by passionately proclaiming that we are what we wear.
*This story first appeared on Verve
Imitating Nature Offers Sustainable Choices in New Textiles
Nature provides the inspiration for many innovations, including in the field of textiles. Some efforts, however, are quite specific in imitating nature. In fact, an entire field of science has blossomed under the name “biomimetics,” a term first coined in 1969 by Dr. Otto Schmitt, who spent much of his career as a professor and researcher at the University of Minnesota. Since then, the field has grown with many commercially successful products such as the Nanotex technology. Biomimicry has enabled the development of functional finishes, soft materials, textile technologies, binders and other products.
What is Biomimetics?
As Yogi Berra is credited with saying, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” Biomimetics is all about observing and trying to mimic nature in order to develop value-added finishes and products, such as water-repellant coatings and improved adhesives, as examples. Biomimicry involves understanding how nature adapts and borrowing those underlying principles to develop value-added and functional products and processes.
Many discoveries and inventions in physical, engineering and biological sciences have stemmed from observing nature. Biologist Osamu Shimomura, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry discovered the green fluorescent protein (GFP) in jellyfish, Aequorea victoria, which is an important biological tool these days, supporting research in cancer and HIV, for instance.
There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between biomimetics and nanoscience. One of the early commercial successes with the application of nanoscience in textiles was based on bio-inspiration.
In 1998, Nanotex was founded based on the inspiration from nature in repelling water from a surface. This technology copied nature’s process using nanotechnology. Nano molecules bonded to textiles provided an efficient stain-repellant mechanism that resulted in magic stain removals, which caught the attention of retail brands and consumers. Today, Nanotex is part of Crypton Inc., and the nature-inspired Nanotex technologies are used in over 100 brands around the world.
Since the late 1980s, there have been tremendous efforts globally to develop nanofibers for a variety of applications from filtration to tissue scaffolds. As nanofibers are submicron-sized fibers, they provide high surface area. Also, additional characteristics that mimic nature, such as three-dimensional (3-D) structures and self-assembly, are important for using nanofibers for growing cells.
According to biotechnologist, Dr. Uday Turaga of Texas Tech University, “Everything inside the body is three dimensional and at macromolecular level, the extra cellular matrix is 3-D and nanofibers simulate the 3-D structure, which cells face in vivo.”
Despite the established protocols associated with growing cells on petri dishes, which are two dimensional (2-D), Turaga says these 2-D structures do not mimic the condition in vivo. In these circumstances, nanofiber meshes provide practical advantages. Turaga has been working extensively in the recent past to develop environmentally friendly nanowebs using biocompatible polymers such as ploy (vinyl alcohol).
These nanowebs are functionalized with natural antimicrobial products (for example, honey!) for developing value-added products such as wound dressings. Poly (vinyl alcohol) bandages with safe antiseptics, such polyhexamethylene biguanides, showed excellent antibacterial efficacies against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, according to Turaga.
The Growth of Biotextiles
The field of using natural products to impart functionality to textiles is growing. This field can be conveniently called “biotextiles.” Coimbatore, India-based Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women (Avinashilingam Institute) has been a pioneer in the field of biotextiles. Professor Vasugi Raaja, Dean of Home Science at the institute says that the institute is one-of-a-kind in offering a post-graduate course in biotextiles. The program began accepting students in 2005. Courses in the program focus on the theoretically practical aspects of utilizing natural products’ chemistry, such as enzymes and herbs, to impart functionalities to textiles. For more than a decade this institute has worked on interesting projects says Dr. Kalaiarasi, assistant professor of biotextiles. Amylase enzymes were isolated from bacterial and fungal species such as Bacillus cereus and Aspergillus. Papaya leaves have been used to extract protease enzymes, which can be used for degumming silk. Natural byproducts are used for effluent treatments, such as the decolorization of reactive dyes.
The textile dyeing and finishing industry would definitely benefit from such environmentally benign treatment technologies. Natural dyes are developed from natural products using ultrasonic processes, so that extraction becomes efficient. Dr. Prabha, assistant professor at Avinashilingam Institute, who has undertaken her dissertation research on using natural herbs to impart antimicrobial characteristics to textiles, says that the raw material is cost effective, so if the processes are optimized, these alternative treatments will be environmentally friendly and commercially viable.
Her project extracted flavonoids from natural products, such as Vetiveria zizanioides roots andPhyllanthus niruri leaves to impart mosquito repellency to cotton fabrics. In addition to utilizing natural products, the project utilized emerging environmentally benign processes such as plasma to improve the process efficiency and the durability of treatments.
The Watch List
A team of multidisciplinary researchers at Stanford University, Calif., has developed a skin-like fabric that cools the body more efficiently. The use of nanoporous polyethylene fabric resulted in the lowering of skin temperature by about 2.7 degrees Centigrade when compared with another commonly used next-to-skin fabric. According to Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science at Stanford, the fabric effectively cools the person, which makes cooling the building unnecessary, thereby saving energy.
Scientists at Uppsala University, Sweden, in collaboration with German virologists have developed cellulose nanofiber sheets to remove viruses from water. Nanocellulose filter paper, termed mille-feuille filter because they have a layered structure resembling the French pastry mille-feuille, will be able to remove even small-sized viruses. These new, structured nanocellulose sheets are affordable filters that not only can remove viruses but also can have long life, according to Uppsala University. Compared to tea bag kind of cellulose filter, these French pastry-like filters have pore structures that can filter viruses that are normally resistant to physical and chemical countermeasure processes.
The Uppsala team, led by professor Albert Mihranyan, collaborated with virologists from Charles River Biopharmaceutical Services, Cologne, Germany. According to Mihranyan, their goal is to develop filter paper that can remove viruses from water as easily as brewing coffee.
Another team of scientists and students at Imperial College, London, has engineered bacteria found in green tea to produce cellulose that can find applications in filtration and the textile industry. The team has developed DNA tools to engineer a specific strain of bacteria found in fermented green tea to produce modified bacterial cellulose. This technique also enables incorporating proteins and other biomolecules into the bacteria.
Among many potential applications, protein-incorporated bacterial cellulose filters can be used to target contaminants in water supplies. An interesting application is the development of sensors using cellulose material that can detect biotoxins based on color change.
Biomimetic textiles are an exciting and emerging field within the high-performance and functional textiles category, and as an interdisciplinary field, it deserves due attention from the smart fabrics sector, as well.
With the need to use environmentally friendly products and processes, drawing inspiration from nature is indeed a good idea to develop products, such as waterproof materials, nature-inspired biocidal substrates and biomimetic adhesives.
As it is clear from the commercial successes of products such as Nanotex, technology, practical applicability and cost have to work in harmony to achieve this. Dr. Prabha of Coimbatore echoes this premise; in the case of natural products, they can be cheaper if they are available adequately, such as those she had used in India.
In addition to the cost advantages of using natural products, other important aspects are product durability and applicability. The ease of adapting nature’s ways and the durability of bioinspired products pose definite challenges for the next-generation textile industry, whether the field is biomimetic textiles, wearable textiles or some other market area.
*This story first appeared on Advanced Textile Source