Upcycling

Meet Lina Mayorga: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Lina, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Lina Mayorga

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Lina:
Sustainable design is my medium to promote love and compassion for our planet while honing my passion in fashion design. When I became vegan, I started reading about the detrimental effects of the fashion industry and decided that I wanted to be ethical in every aspect of my life, including my design philosophy and practice.
Fashion and sustainability should not be mutually exclusive, but mutually beneficial to create a better world for future generations.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Lina:
I was inspired by a United Nations youth conference on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals that I attended.
To my surprise, no one talked about the fashion industry, so I wanted to promote the goals through my colour – blocking graphic collection. I believe that our planet should aim to reach these goals no matter how far-fetched they seem to be to us. If our society is aware of the problems, subconsciously or consciously we can start creating a positive change. For this collection, I applied the design techniques of up-cycling and reconstruction using textile waste sourced from a textile recycling company and leftover fabrics from old projects.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_USA_LinaMayorga_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Lina:
I learned that there are always new ways to improve your designs and make them more sustainable. Also, that the road to sustainability is a never-ending path of acquisition of valuable new knowledge, and that I should trust my hard work and my good intentions.
I also learned that as a designer I should educate my customers on how to care the garments to make them last longer since the biggest pollution production comes from the time we wear our clothes.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Lina:
We need to break the stereotypes of sustainable fashion and show to people that the resources available in the world are coming to an end because of the mass production. We need to be aggressive in spreading the word about these issues in order to finally move sustainable fashion from being niche to mainstream. There are enough ethical ways to source and use materials for the production of sustainable clothing, these can look as beautiful and well-done as regular clothing.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Lina:
I’m always explaining to people that sustainable clothing doesn’t mean recycled junk made into clothing. There’s a misconception that sustainable clothing is bohemian, hippy-like and not versatile. This is incorrect because sustainable clothing can be made with different design styles and can look amazing.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Lina:
If you believe that your designs and philosophy are right, ethical and key for the future of the fashion industry, you shouldn’t listen to people who want you to remain working in the wrong mindset. Be honest to yourself and the planet and eventually you will find the perfect path for you and your designs.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Lina:
I’m planning to apply for the Redress Design Award 2018 as well as look for options that would help me to start my own sustainable brand. I am still designing sustainable vegan clothing and spreading the word about sustainability through my website, youtube channels and instagram.

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You can follow Lina’s work on Facebook, Instagram and her website.

Catch the debut broadcast of Frontline Fashion 2 on Lifetime Asia at 8 pm (Hong Kong/Singapore time), 23 March 2018. Watch the trailer here.

Find a screening of the Frontline Fashion documentary in India here.

 

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Meet Joëlle van de Pavert: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Joëlle, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Joëlle van de Pavert

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Joëlle:
I used to be an over-consumer – at times I still am – driven by the satisfaction of a purchase. During my studies in fashion design I have learned how to appreciate a good garment through tailoring and design and hope to inspire behavioural change through my own exploration with textile waste, encouraging a shift away from one of the most challenging human issues of our time that is over-consumption.

I think it is important for the new generation of fashion designers to communicate a message about being aware of what happens in fashion nowadays, and to confront “over-consumers” about their behaviour.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Joëlle: 
The concept of my collection was about confronting myself as an ex-over consumer who has learned to value timelessness. For this collection, I was inspired by the multiple ways the same materials can be manipulated and transformed, creating the sense of a never-ending story. I’ve used design techniques such as zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Netherlands_JoellevandePavert_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Joëlle:
A few things! I discovered the world of sustainable fashion. Before the Redress Design Award, I wasn’t familiar with sustainability, so this was the most interesting aspect for me when developing my collection. It was also an experience that made me confront myself as a designer in general and discovering where I want to be as a designer. Finally, it was fantastic learning other approaches and perspectives on sustainability from the all other finalists.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Joëlle:
When people become more aware and better informed about sustainability, they will also become more open for changing their behaviour – just take myself as an example. We all have to do it together for it to become mainstream.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Joëlle:
The biggest misconception about sustainability is that it’s for a certain group of “green” people. That it’s kind of boring and “old”. That’s so not true because there is can do so much more you can achieve with various sustainable fashion design techniques. You can also get very creative because of various limitations.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Joëlle:
Just show the world what you can do with what you think is sustainable. Even if you don’t know that much about the topic, you’re already taking a big step. Just go for it!

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Joëlle:
This March I am going to start my career, working as an assistant designer at a Dutch sustainable womenswear brand called Vanilia, based near Amsterdam.

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You can find Joëlle’s work on Instagram.

Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.
Find a screening of this documentary in India here.

The next cycle of the Redress Design Award is open for application till 13 March 2018. Interested designers can find more details here.

Meet Amanda Borgfors Mészàros: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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Through the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Amanda, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Amanda Borgfors Mészàros

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Amanda:
I wanted to work within fashion mostly because it truly is a main tool for many people to express their identity and we are all constantly surrounded by fashion. I was intrigued by how we can work with fashion to really contribute to a change towards a more sustainable way of dressing and producing fashion. I would say that I am very driven by challenges, and we sure do have a large challenge in front of us within the fashion industry. I feel that I have a great responsibility by working within fashion, and that makes me excited and very determined to contribute in my best possible way through sustainable thinking and acting.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Amanda:
I draw inspiration from the contrasts seen above and below the ocean surface. I am applying the design techniques of zero-waste, and up-cycling to industry surplus textiles, blending diverse fabric textures to form my collection.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_Sweden_AmandaBorgforsMeszaros_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Amanda:
1) A key way of creating visionary and innovative design is through collaborating with others with similar areas of expertise.
2) I learned to challenge my design process, and to push myself to make more sustainable decisions.
3) The most interesting thing I learnt is that designing sustainable fashion is fortunately no longer a trend. For me, it is the only way of designing that should exist. Hopefully all individuals working within the fashion industry will soon come to that conclusion so that we can create an all-sustainable and innovative fashion industry.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Amanda:
I believe that the big companies within the fashion industry have a role to play, as they have a great impact on society and also impact what trends the smaller brands pick up. I also believe that fashion and designs schools that produce the next generation of creatives have a great responsibility to teach sustainability.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Amanda:
People always think sustainable fashion is not fashionable enough, and that it is too time-consuming to produce. For me, it took less time to produce my collection ‘Global Nomad’, compared to my previous collections because I had limited choices of fabrics to work with. I also actively tried to reduce the man-hours and construction methods to make this collection as productive and sustainable as possible.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Amanda:
Challenge yourself when it comes to your selection of materials and your working hours. Best of all, try to collaborate with people that share the same love for innovation and desire to question our current fashion industry as you do.

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Amanda:
I am working on my graduate collection at Beckmans College of Design in Stockholm. I will graduate with a BFA (Bachelor in fine arts) in June 2018. I will continue to question our fashion industry and work towards a more inclusive, explorative and innovative industry.

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You can follow Amanda’s work on Instagram and her website.

Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.
Find a screening of this documentary in India here.

The next cycle of the Redress Design Award is open for application till 13 March 2018. Interested designers can find more details here.

Meet Claire Dartigues: Finalist Redress Design Award 2017

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Through the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of Redress Design Award 2017 (earlier EcoChic Design Award). Redress Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Thursday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Claire, finalist of the Redress Design Award 2017.

MeetTheFinalists-Claire Dartigues

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?
Claire:
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. If we want to live better and longer, we need to dress smarter! Sustainability has been part of my education and now I consider it as a core value of my activity.

I always had a sustainable frame of mind, but it was only at university when I was getting some sustainability teaching that I put two together and realized I was a sustainable designer.

What was your inspiration for the Redress Design Award collection?
Claire:
The collection takes inspiration from polluted rivers all over the world because of chemicals products used to dye fabrics and sets out to connect the two very different worlds of finance and blue-collar workers. I applied the up-cycling and reconstruction techniques along with natural dyes to industry surplus clothing and textiles.

EcoChicDesignAward2017_Finalist_France_ClaireDartigues_Full Collection

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?
Claire:
During the challenges I learnt a lot about the circular economy and how you can make it work on a bigger scale. Redress took us to visit manufacturer, TAL’s facility in China, where they make shirts for big brands all over the world. This visit was an amazing experience, I learnt so much about the manufacturing world and how to make it more sustainable on a huge scale.
I discovered different visions of sustainable fashion thanks to the other competitors. We came from all over the world with so many different culture, it was a pleasure to learn from them and listen their vision of fashion.
I also learnt a lot about myself, this competition helped me to grow as a fashion designer. It increased my motivation to develop a better fashion industry! 

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?
Claire:
We need consumers to change their behavior. If they show – through what they buy – that don’t want to buy fast fashion any more, the industry will start to change their strategy seriously. Fashion companies also need to communicate about their products better to be more transparent.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?
Claire:
In France, one misconception is that most of the people think that you can’t do sustainable fashion if the production is in Asia, which is completely wrong. I think every country has a specialty and we live in a globalized world. I agree that producing in the same country where you’re selling your product to avoid transportation and carbon impact is good, but at the same time if you can’t find the expertise you need to relocate this to get your best product. The problem is not the relocation but how brands can make sure that they continue to respect their sustainable values wherever they produce.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?
Claire:
Sustainable fashion is not an exact science. You can do your best to be sustainable, but you don’t have to fill all the criteria immediately. Take one step at the time!

Where do you go from here? What is next in store for you?
Claire:
I just returned from the USA to live in France. I have my own atelier in Paris Suburb where I am developing my transformable zero-waste accessories line. I am also working as a free-lancer for other brands all over the world. I am actually working on some projects with Indian brands right now!

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You can follow Claire’s work on Facebook and Instagram and her website.

Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.
Find a screening of this documentary in India here.

The next cycle of the Redress Design Award is open for application till 13 March 2018. Interested designers can find more details here.

Do You Have What It Takes To Rethink Fashion?

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Global expansion of Redress Design Award feeds urgent need to embed sustainability into the fashion industry as an economic necessity.
Social media_Redress Design Award 2018_AWARD

Entering the eighth competition cycle of the Redress Design Award, organisers

Redress – a Hong Kong environmental NGO committed to reducing textile waste – are as determined as ever to intensify their impact on the fashion industry. In a year which is widely marked as a critical tipping point for consumers, designers and brands to incorporate sustainability across the fashion value chain, the 2018 cycle of the world’s largest sustainable design competition has expanded to a truly global search for emerging talent. Amidst ongoing industry pressures to produce more clothes at less cost, the Redress Design Award continues to shine a light on the push for sustainability, and the growing power of the circular economy, whilst championing emerging talent to fuel this new future for fashion.

An official launch event at Eaton House in Hong Kong marked the opening of the Redress Design Award 2018 (formerly the EcoChic Design Award), further strengthening Hong Kong’s position as a leading sustainable fashion hub in Asia. With the continued support of Create Hong Kong, who have sponsored the competition since its inception in 2011, the award offers the top ten finalists the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong in September 2018 to present their innovative waste-reducing collections and vie for First Prize, to design a collection for up-cycled brand, The R Collective, proving to the world that sustainable fashion is not just a trend but instead a business reality.

Social media_Redress Design Award 2018_Design

FEEDING AN INDUSTRY GAP

A recent industry report predicts sales across nearly all fashion categories will almost triple between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile the number of garments produced annually now exceeds 100 billion pieces. With this rapid rise in production and consumption comes a staggering increase in waste, as consumers buy more and more whilst simultaneously disposing of their clothing twice as fast as they did 15 years ago. In Hong Kong alone, approximately 125,195 tonnes of textiles were sent to landfills in 2016.

Redress Founder, Christina Dean commented, “The fashion world’s ethical barometers are now switched on and we’re seeing an overarching yearning for positive change. Hope is now sewn into the core of fashion. We are now at a critical tipping point to act, especially for emerging designers who are ready to prove to the world that circular fashion can be a beautiful, retail reality.”

Hong Kong designer, Victor Chu, who is one of over 130 fashion game-changers in the growing Redress Design Award Alumni Network, co-designed The R Collective’s inaugural up-cycled collection, which launched in Lane Crawford and Barneys New York. He commented, “I remember being quite shocked as a student when I learned through the Redress Design Award that around 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage. My experience in the competition and then later joining the design team at The R Collective has shown me how my design decisions can be part of a positive solution from the outset. What’s more, I really believe that there is retail appetite for sustainable fashion in Hong Kong, Asia and the rest of the world!”

The Redress Design Award 2018 is now open to emerging designers and students with less than three years’ industry experience. Applications are now being accepted until the closing date on 13 March 2018. Applicants are tasked to design a sustainable collection that re-claims unwanted textiles in unexpected ways and they must source 100 percent textile waste for their competition collections. In addition to this, designers must incorporate one or more of the three core sustainable design techniques of zero-waste, up-cycling and reconstruction in their designs. Various career-changing and educational prizes are up for grabs, including first prize with The R Collective to create an upcycled collection for retail, a mentorship with sustainable visionary, Orsola de Castro and multiple other professional prizes. The ten finalists will later compete to win in Hong Kong in early September 2018 at a live grand final fashion show at the city’s fashion week.

Redress Design Award 2018_Instagram_KeyVisual

Watch Frontline Fashion, a documentary that traces the journey of finalists from the 2016 cycle in Mumbai on 17th February.

10 Things You Can Do to Shop More Sustainably

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Small — and big — changes you can make today.

The 2015 documentary The True Cost has largely accomplished what it set out to do: wake up Western consumers to the horrifying impact of the fashion industry on exploited workers and the environment. And more consumers watch it every day.

But there’s one criticism of the movie that rings true: After all the visual carnage, viewers are left with no next steps. If we agree that mass-produced fashion is awful, that garment workers shouldn’t die making our clothes, that rivers should not be poisoned just for a cheap T-shirt, and that 1.715 billion tons of CO2 released a year (or about 5.3 percent of the 32.1 billion tons of global carbon emissions) is way too much, what can we do to change it?

Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent in the fashion industry to Michael Pollan’s sharp, easy-to-remember instructions: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s because the fashion supply chain is so confoundingly opaque and complex, that even if you buy a purse that was handcrafted by a Peruvian artisan, the leather tannery might still have poisoned the local river, and the cows that provided the leather might have been abused. It’s exceedingly difficult as a shopper to say with any certainty that you are making the “right” choice when you buy something from a green collection or one that is purported to be fairly made.

Still, once you know all the horrible, awful, no-good things the fashion industry does to the planet (pouring carbon into the atmosphere, dumping increasingly large mounds of waste into landfills) and to (mostly female, mostly brown) workers, it feels wrong to throw up your hands and say, “Welp, everything sucks, and I’m going to do some retail therapy at Forever 21.”

As complicated as it can be, there are still things that you can do to lessen your impact on the planet and, of course, not feel like a total hypocritical dirtbag. Here they are.

According to this analysis, a full 22 percent of a garment’s climate impact comes from the process of a consumer driving to the store to try something on, driving to another store to try that thing on, then bringing their final selection home in their car. If you live in a city where you can walk or take public transportation to a store, then do that!

And don’t feel guilty about ordering items online. First, because a UPS, FedEx, or USPS truck is like public transportation for your clothing: efficient at moving a lot of stuff with minimal fuel. Second, your clothing probably comes through a distribution center, skipping the process of going to the store at all and going straight to you. And according to multiple studies, online shopping has a much lower environmental impact than brick-and-mortar shopping. It may feel wrong to get an item of clothing in a plastic bag in a box, but rest assured that if it goes to a store instead, it’s also showing up in a plastic bag — the bag’s just gone by the time you see it on the rack.

Another benefit of shopping online is the opportunity to be more thoughtful and discerning with what you buy. In a physical store, it might not be possible (or even occur to you) to research every brand you encounter then and there on your phone. But when you’re home and on the internet, you probably have more time, along with more access to resources, to do some deeper digging.

There are some excellent resources documenting the bad, good, and gray areas of shopping. The Good on You app lets you search for a brand’s environmental impact, labor policies, and even animal-friendly considerations, plus makes recommendations in different categories (dresses, hosiery, outerwear) of sustainable and ethical brands. Project JUST does about the same thing — carefully researches the impact and policies of various brands, plus puts out roundups of the most ethical and sustainable brands in categories like athletic wear and denim — but on a website.

There’s also the DoneGood browser extension, which pops up in the corner of your browser when you’re shopping and tells you whether or not the brand site you’re on is sustainable and/or ethical, and links you to alternatives if it’s not. If you’re visiting a conventional webstore, it also highlights which sustainable brands you should check out while you’re there.

Also, look through the About section or — even better — the sustainability or social responsibility section of a brand’s site to see if they say anything about how items are made. (If they don’t, it’s a bad sign. Skip ahead to step #7 and reach out to your favorite brands.) Google the brand’s name and look for recent news. And finally, check and see if it’s in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a trade group that requires its members to quantify their supply chains’ impact on the environment and is funding some really cool initiatives along the way. (It’s not the same as a third-party certification like the ones mentioned below, but does indicate that a company is serious about making changes.)

Of course, all of this supposed efficiency will be negated if you’re the kind of person who buys a dozen things from a dozen different stores and returns 11 of them. All of this advice really only works if you’re the type of person to use the internet to buy smarter, rather than impulsively.

Look for certifications.

There are a few gold-standard certifications that indicate that an objective deep dive into a product’s supply chain has been conducted. OEKO-TEX is an independent test and certification system for textiles, and it offers multiple levels of certification, the most basic of which indicates that the product is free of hazardous chemicals. The next level up concerns whether the textiles are made in socially and environmentally responsible conditions. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is a certification for textiles that contain “a minimum of 70% organic fibers.”

Forest Stewardship Council certification indicates that any trees involved (yup, some fabrics are made from trees — more on that later) were sustainably harvested. Fair Trade certification indicates that the factory workers are paid at least the minimum wage, and that the working conditions are safe.

Avoid these fabrics.

I’ll keep it short: Polyester is made from oil (it’s basically a plastic thread) and all synthetic fibers (excepting a few alternatives mentioned in this piece) shed microfibers into waterways. (You’ve probably ingested these fibers in your last seafood meal.) Acrylic is even more toxic to produce than polyester. Viscose rayon (this includes bamboo rayon) turns plants into a textile through a toxic, polluting process and is contributing to the disappearance of rainforests.

Conventional cotton relies on pesticides and herbicides which are improperly, excessively, and dangerously applied in underdeveloped countries, and might have led to the worldwide decline of insect populations. The typical leather tanning process is so toxic that 90 percent of the people who live in the leather-tanning neighborhoods in Bangladesh die before they reach 50.

A man shopping for rings
Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Look for these fabrics.

It’s pretty hard to avoid polyester altogether, especially if you enjoy athleisure clothing, swimsuits, or anything with stretch. So look for polyester that’s made of recycled water bottles, fishing nets, carpet, and other post-consumer products. These products financially support the recycling industry and help to keep plastic waste from the landfill and ocean.

Tencel is a viscose rayon alternative by the Austrian company Lenzing made from sustainably-sourced eucalyptus trees in a closed-loop process that ensures no toxins are released into waterways. Silk, hemp, linen, and wool are all natural, low-impact textiles. (Just watch out if you’re vegan — the typical silk thread process kills the silkworms, and wool-producing sheep aren’t always treated the best, especially in Australia.)

Vegetable tanned leather doesn’t use heavy metals in the process (but as an FYI, that means it’ll take longer to soften up and break in). More leather alternatives are coming, but right now the best new alternative available for purchase is Piñatex, which is made from pineapple leaf waste.

Seek out brands that pay their artisans fairly.

Understanding the environmental impact of your garment’s entire supply chain is nearly impossible — all the variables (production, dying, finishing, shipping), debates (are GMOs bad or not?), and scientific reports can lead to a mental burnout on the whole idea of conscious consumption. But picturing the positive social impact of a fairly-made garment is much more inspiring — and easy.

Many fair trade brands, like LemlemVozSiizuBrother VelliesPar en ParAce & JigUniformManos Zapotecas, and more, have photos and information on their websites of the women and men who hand-make the garments or the factories they use. Other brands, like Reformation and Saint James, give factory tours. Still others, like Naja and Nisolo, give you a report on working conditions, pay, and benefits, plus how getting paid to use their community’s traditional skills positively impacts a worker’s community.

We could argue all day about relative merits of recycled polyester versus organic cotton, or how much you’re benefiting the environment by paying more for organic cotton, but it’s hard to argue with a mother getting paid a fair wage in safe working conditions. It feels a lot more rewarding, too, which can help keep you motivated.

Buy secondhand.

There is a glut of secondhand fashion in the West. Secondhand shops can only resell about 20 to 45 percent (75 percent on a really good day) of unwanted threads — the rest is downcycled into insulation, carpeting, or rags, or (if it’s still wearable) shipped to developing countries to be resold for a few dollars.

This overabundance of orphaned clothing makes secondhand the perfect solution for fashion addicts who feel guilty about their waste and wallet. It prevents production of toxic or exploitative new clothing, and it keeps textiles out of the landfill or from being shipped overseas. Secondhand stores are almost all charitable, locally, or family-owned, so you direct your dollars away from multinational corporations and to small business. And best of all, it’s a way to get fresh threads (sometimes with the tags still on!) for fast-fashion prices.

If you have something really specific in mind and find the chaos of the thrift store intimidating, you could shop online at affordable sites like ThredUp and Tradesy, or Vestiaire Collective and The RealReal for upscale and designer items.

Show your favorite brands you care.

Not ready to pass up on that so cute ruffled viscose top from J.Crew? Curious where it’s made? Email or tweet at the brand! “Consumers think their voices don’t matter, but they do,” says Jessica Radparvar, the founder of the social impact communications consultancy Reconsidered. “Tweets, emails, questions asked in retail stores — if frequent enough, these communications get laddered up. I know many Corporate Social Responsibility teams that then use these anecdotes as ‘proof points’ to show that consumers are demanding transparency,” she says. “That can in turn help them get buy-in, approvals, and funding for projects they want to push forward.”

Again, that only works if the brand has a team like that instated. If they don’t answer, and you can’t find any information anywhere about attempts to go sustainable or ethical, you might want to cross them off your shopping list.

Capsule your wardrobe.

The best thing you can do is just buy less stuff. And you can buy less stuff if you buy things that are timeless and high-quality enough to last a long time.

How you launder it, how you dispose of it, even where it’s shipped from — all these factors are a sliver of the total impact of a typical garment. But most of the impact comes from the very fact that it was produced. The longer you use a garment, and the more times you wear it, the lower the impact. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy exclusively locally-made, organic fashion that costs well in the hundreds of dollars. Whatever it is, if you think you will wear it 30 times or more, that’s definitely a sustainable choice.

One popular notion in the conscious fashion world is the idea of a capsule wardrobe: an extremely edited collection of versatile pieces that can be endlessly mixed and matched, so that you get maximum use out of minimal possessions. If you want some guidance in this area, try the app Cladwell, which helps you discern your style, whittle down your wardrobe, donate or sell what you don’t love anymore, and come up with interesting new combinations.

The goal is to stop getting tossed about on the expensive seas of new trends, and confidently stand in your own personal style, with a closet full of (and only of) pieces that make you feel like your best self. If you love your closet and can easily put together a great outfit, you’ll never say, “I have nothing to wear!” and run out to buy something last minute to make you feel beautiful again, nor will you be tempted by whatever fun cheap thing is in the window at Forever 21, because you already have everything you need, thank you!

Try renting.

If you’re keen to try out a new trend, have a special event coming up, or you’re just bored with your closet but on a budget, renting lets you feel fabulous while using fewer resources. You can try Style Lend, which lets you rent luxury fashion from real women’s closets; Le Tote, which sends you a box of everyday items to try; or the OG of renting, Rent the Runway.

Donate to NGOs and watchdogs.

Don’t stop at conscious consumption! Direct your dollars to organizations that are trying to create systemic change. You can help send a Bangladeshi garment worker to college, fund Canopy’s efforts to save the rainforest from destruction by rayon-viscose pulping mills, donate to Greenpeace or Natural Resources Defense Council, which respectively combat toxic garment factory effluent and increase the energy efficiency of factories, or become a supporter of Project JUST and their deep research on the sustainability and ethicality of large brands.

The main thing to know is that you can take or leave any of these tips and build a sustainable wardrobe that feels right for your lifestyle, your budget, and your personal style. There’s no one way to be a conscious consumer, just like there’s no one way to dress yourself. And as the sustainable fashion movement grows and evolves, dressing yourself with thought will hopefully only get easier with time.

*This story first appeared on Racked

This Budding Designer From Delhi Makes Eco-Friendly & Affordable Wedding Wear From Waste Fabric

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Can fashion go hand-in-hand with being environmentally conscious and affordable to the masses? With heavy price tags, swiftly changing trends and lack of recycling options, the clothing industry ranks low on the eco-friendly scale. Moreover, fashion is associated with being accessible only to the elite. These are notions that budding fashion designer Devyani Kharbanda hopes to change for the better.

Raunaq by Devyani is the young designer’s brainchild—a line of ensembles made from kataran, the waste fabric left behind after making a garment.

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Devyani, a final year student of fashion designing at Pearl Academy of Fashion, Delhi, began working on the initiative as part of her college curriculum. Her aim was two-fold. One was to bring down the cost of special occasion wear, and the other was to take an eco-friendly approach to design.

“Wedding dresses these days are exorbitantly priced,” she says. “Having elaborate surface work adds up to the cost of the garment along with the kind of fabrics used. Hence I chose kataran to make my garment look more interesting, unique and beautiful. My main aim was to make best use of the waste material available without spending a lot on the beautification of the garment.”

She began by sourcing the waste fabric. No place abounds in leftover fabrics more than tailoring shops and that’s where Devyani began sourcing. “I went to nearby tailors in and around my colony,” she says. “That was a task, as tailors don’t entertain students easily. Though at some places it was easy, but at times convincing the tailors to take out time and give me all the kataran they had was difficult.”

As she collected the scrap fabrics, she also simultaneously worked on the design element. Her strength as a designer lies in surface ornamentation and her designs showcase the possibilities of using waste fabrics to create eye-catching ornamentation and detailing on the garment.

Devyani conceptualised Raunaq as a collection of five brightly-hued ensembles, celebrating the union of two souls.

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She started the design process with a hypothetical celebrity for whom she could make garments to wear at wedding functions. Devyani chose director Kiran Rao as a subject. “Keeping in mind what kind of garments she generally wears, the garments don’t have a lot of bling. According to me it would suit her kind of styling,” she says.

She adds, “The concept of using kataran for beautification is not very common, so a celebrity client would’ve been perfect to probably start a trend of such beautification techniques and spread amongst people as we all generally look up to celebrities and their clothing.”

The vibrant ensembles that make up the Raunak collection also showcases a variety of surface techniques. Devyani used couching, fabric flowers and yoyo flowers in the garments, and also made a lot of tassels using waste fabric.

 

Devyani admits that while the project seemed easy to start with, she faced many challenges during the process, which have helped her grow as a designer. “The biggest challenge was to bring my thought into reality as most of my garments were hand-done. Procuring the fabric, deciding colour combinations, doing the surface work and giving a finished designer look to the garments, while meeting timelines was another challenge. I even made matching accessories with the garments.” She credits her family and mentor Ambika Magotra for supporting her through the process.”

Devyani’s first designs were showcased, along with other student projects, at the latest edition of Amazon India Fashion Week.

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The affordability of the designs made Devyani’s ensembles stand out in the crowd of designer ensembles. She says, “I made sure that I do something to beautify the surface of my garments without spending a lot. Making it eye catching but not having to spend too much on purchasing it was appreciated by everyone.”

The young designer is elated with the response the show has generated. “Post the show, reviews and media have been very encouraging which has boosted my confidence. I received a lot of positive feedback from everyone for my designs and unique idea,” she says.

 

Once she completes her degree, she hopes to work in an export house and learn about its operations. “I will hopefully one day build my own export house, where I plan to make garments using waste materials, inculcate eco friendly practices and explore further innovative ideas to incorporate in my design process.”

Till then, Devyani is eager to craft garments from kataran on request from interested clients. Invested in combining great design with sustainable practices, she says, “I would love to work on reusing waste fabric and offering something beautiful yet eco friendly. This way,, even though little, I am surely able to do my bit.”

To contact Devyani, click here.

*This story first appeared on The Better India