The Indian fashion industry is sinking due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Now more than ever before, it's crucial to promote sustainable changes to recover after the COVID-19 crisis.
Expert designers and leaders in Indian sustainable fashion share a commitment to adopting innovative and environmentally friendly production processes.
"Sustainability and Green Fashion have been an important topic during this decade; it has been discussed in various international forums for a long time, so it’s not something new or in focus because of the pandemic. I believe the ‘COVID-19 break’ as I like to call it, has put a break on manufacturing, production, retail, and consumption, giving us a chance to think about what we want our future to be."
- Rahul Mishra, Indian luxury fashion designer
During the pandemic, large brands and retailers worldwide canceled orders and closed stores down. The consequences are devastating for many Asian countries where most clothes are manufactured today.
Thousands of farmers and garment factory workers were laid off and had to return to their hometown without enough resources to nourish their future and their families.
The most promising change post-COVID-19 is the globally growing importance of local, fair, ethical, and sustainable apparel production. Fashion doesn't have the luxury to ignore sustainability anymore.
"We have to realize that sustainability has to be at the heart of each of our actions. At our fashion house, every decision from manufacturing to the choice of lighting in the office factors in our progress towards carbon neutrality. [...] A crisis of this magnitude will get consumers to rethink and reprioritize their fashion consumption to make it less conspicuous and more responsive towards society as well as the environment. This can only be a good thing."
- Anita Dongre, Indian fashion designer, House of Anita Dongre founder
Thankfully, more than 90% of consumers are changing their behavior in favor of more sustainability in the fashion industry, according to the latest Lectra’s sustainability report.
Fashion lovers are becoming more conscious of the impact of their wardrobe on people, animals, and the planet. They are buying from sustainable fashion brands and are willing to spend more on sustainable products, according to the recent CGS retail survey.
"According to our research during the lockdown, most consumers are seeking sustainable brands and buying slow fashion that is both durable in quantity and over time. There is enhanced mindfulness that fashion choices can be made more sustainable if we buy less but better, and choose fabrics that are earth-friendlier."
- Nelson Jaffery, Alok Industries head of design
And many leading fashion designers in India implement sustainability initiatives such as limiting the amount of fabric waste during manufacturing and recyclings discarded textiles into new products.
Indian fashion also showcases several helpful practices to reduce the environmental impact of garment production, such as working with natural lighting, saving water, using renewable energy, and biodegradable packaging.
"Around the tiny weaving hamlets of my home state, Assam, handwoven natural fibers are commonly used. Every house has a loom. Such fashion -- more lifestyle for us - keeps the environment safe and has a trickle-down effect on the weaving and associated communities too."
- Nandini Baruva, Kirameki owner and lead designer
The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters globally. It's responsible for massive amounts of pollution, waste, and carbon emissions.
Brands and retailers need to do their best to lower their carbon, energy, and water footprint. Otherwise, they risk losing market shares, the trust of their employees, suppliers, partners, and customers.
One of the best ways to lower the impact of textile manufacturing is to source more sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, linen, and hemp.
"Hemp is a great insulator as it stays cooler in summer and warmer in winter. We also use Himalayan native nettle, a plant found in parts of India and Nepal, to make scarves. Apart from reducing the carbon footprint, sustainable fabrics also support communities that are producing them. It's a win-win."
- Nitij Singh, Aslee co-founder
Key players of the fashion industry need to prioritize sustainability over profitability. Conscious customers are asking for more eco-friendly products as they care about the environmental impact of products almost as much as price, style, and accessibility.
Sustainability is more important than ever before to stay relevant in the global market after the COVID-19 crisis, where environmental awareness keeps increasing.
"The reset button has been pressed and we've got to move with the times. The fear and havoc brought on by COVID-19 are catalyzing an increased sensitivity towards the environment. It is giving us time to reflect, restructure, and rebuild toward a future which asks us to be more conscious than ever before."
- Sunil Sethi, chairman of the Fashion Design Council of India
Everyone is responsible for making conscious choices to protect the planet, people, and animals, even end consumers. Fortunately, you have the power to drive change in the fashion industry.
You choose the clothes you buy and who you support with your money. Let's encourage a better fashion world that moves away from mindless consumerism, protects the environment, where all humans and animals are cared for.
"As millennials, we can make a huge difference by focusing on a greener wardrobe and buying fewer but value-driven classics that will endure through time and trends. We're learning to be more mindful of what we buy, use and discard, keeping in mind the damage caused to our planet. Because, quite simply, there is no Planet B."
- Tanisha Saxena, sustainable fashion advocate
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.