The collapse of Rana Plaza factory building, killing more than 1000 garment workers, had not just shocked the world but also reiterated the dire need of sustainability in fashion. The tragedy threw emphasis on the poor infrastructure in which those workers worked and also how little those workers were paid. This unfortunate incident was a shocking example of the exploitation of workers. This collapse, once again opened the chapter of responsible or sustainable fashion.
Since then, there had been many debates, discussions and developments on sustainability in fashion on diverse platforms. Some fashion designers and entrepreneurs have even implemented the sustainability and accountability factors in their collection. In an effort to stress on the issue of responsibility in fashion, they have worked with the poorest of the weavers, the most basic materials and have brought forward the long forgotten eco-friendly fabrics.
On the occasion of The Coalition TC/3- the festival about creativity and creation, distinguished designers, David Abraham and Anita Dongre talked about the initiatives they have taken to make fashion sustainable.
On Implementing Sustainability
Designer David Abraham, Creative Director of Abraham&Thakore (A&T), said that sustainability in the first place is a very wide term and there cannot be a particular definition to it. He highlighted on the usage of natural fabrics and recycling as a road towards sustainability. He cited the example of A&T’s recent collection, ‘Old New’ as the brand’s personal step towards initiating responsibility in fashion. He talked about using the old Bengali Kantha technique and adding waste or discarded materials such as X-ray films artistically in the collection.
Anita Dongre, felt that bigger responsibility in fashion is creating livelihood. Her label, Grassroot is a tribute to India’s handcrafted traditions and works on three principles- Revive, Sustain and Empower. Her brand aims at celebrating India’s indigenous heritage by incorporating the skills from grass root level. She talked about her experience of working with the village ladies of Charoti and Bhuj and making them feel empowered and giving them a chance to earn extra income. She too like Abraham emphasized on preserving natural fabrics and age-old techniques.
Abraham and Anita, while both of them agreed on the fact that designing a cloth that meets the demand of urban population is of utmost importance, they differed on the pricing strategy. Abraham was of the opinion that his brand is focused on high-end clients or simply the customers who can afford his outfits. In a layman’s language he explained that till the time you are not going to charge a good amount, how will you pay to the skilled people involved in the making of the collection, how will you support them.
However, Anita said that Grassrootis priced in a way that more people can buy the outfits. She added that larger the number of consumers buying the clothes available at Grassroots, the more will be the awareness generated.
On Responsible consumers
The question asked was that how consumers would know what is sustainable fashion? Should designers attach a label to the outfit that this is sustainable fashion? On that Abraham, answered that consumers have access to so many means of information, so a responsible consumer should research and then buy. Anita commented that while sustainable has to fashionable in order to sell and it need not have a label of sustainability but a consumer should be self-informed and socially conscious.