The Way Forward for Fashion

"Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes." - Diana Vreeland

As we all continue to navigate our changed world in the wake of a global pandemic, industries all over the world have come to realise their shortcomings and that includes the fashion world.  It’s been a tough time all round but there are a few silver linings that could mean a far more favourable way of working in the future. When discussing the future of fashion, it’s been encouraging to see that sustainability has come to the forefront!

As our green heart-ers would know, Sui has always strived to pave a more conscious path and, hopefully, show others how their fashion choices can make all the difference to our planet. We have always tried to encourage green conversations and bring as many to the table as we can to share their own experiences. The emergence of our climate change discussions in connection with fashion is one we welcome wholly and we wanted to share what green steps those in the fashion world are finally starting to take!

Mindful design & production

In this article, the expected trend - as that has occurred during previous recessions - is that the public will prefer simplicity over everything. From classic t-shirts to jeans, closet staples are said to be what more and more crave which is why many industry professionals have been considering being more mindful and minimal in their designs. Considering how this is sustainable, it’s a great shift in perception and urges people to invest in their clothes rather than just follow constantly changing trends that lead to clothing waste - worn today, forgotten tomorrow.

Moreover, consumers have also been engaging in discussing the overproduction fashion is responsible for as well as their own overconsumption and materialism. In our digital age, there is so much information at our fingertips, and so the general public are now looking further on who is actually being transparent about their production processes and are then making the decision to invest in those who are mindful of their whole supply chain.

Seasonless collections & going virtual

Luxury designers around the world have been working hard to rethink their traditional systems and seasonless collections have been a large part of the conversation. What this means is that, like mentioned before, this will result in designs that are more appropriate for all days of the year resulting in less throwaway trends.

Gucci’s Alessandro Michele earlier this year announced that the brand itself would be going seasonless as well as reduce their fashion shows to just twice a year. When considering how India is approaching this, Aparna Badlani, owner of Mumbai-based boutique Atosa, stated, “Indian fashion, anyway, is not so season oriented, it’s more summer/holiday /travel/destination wedding and bridal-oriented… most of our designers, in my opinion, work on seasonless collections anyway, and it has worked very well.”

Another development is how the virtual experience can be efficiently used, for example, when looking close to home, Lakme Fashion Week rolled out a ‘Virtual Showroom’ earlier in the year which acted as a marketplace platform that not only featured current collections from various designers but also previous ones in order to make as much of their inventory available as possible to the public. A great way to both keep everyone safe in the comfort of their homes while making sure clothing is not wasted away.

Pre-loved fashion & thrifting

“I think the culture of vintage in India is growing at a fast pace. Millennials and Gen- Z consumers alike are more aware about the pressing issues that affect the world around them. We are in the anthropocene, and every step we take towards our ecosystem matters. Vintage clothing is the most sustainable option that exists. What can be more ecological than reusing and not creating more garments that will eventually end up in landfills?,” says Divya Saini of Mumbai/Paris vintage brand Bodements.

Here in India, hand-me-down clothing is a cultural norm and it’s a great green practice we can all learn from, while in the West, thrifting has become more and more popular as years have gone by. This notion of pre-loved clothing has also become avidly talked about in our COVID world as people become more aware of the lifecycle of their garments. As discussions carry on, it’s become apparent that our habits so far have been unsustainable but, thankfully, we are realising a change is well overdue!

Green Heart-er thoughts

Here, we open the floor to others to share their experiences and how the pandemic has challenged their way of thinking/working and where to go from here.

Saachi Bahl, Entrepreneur, Sustainability Consultant and Founder of Saahra, lives in New Delhi and shares some of her thoughts on the impact of Covid-19.

“I believe it's quite early to ascertain the true impact of the Covid-19 crisis. On the one hand, the pandemic has played a role in accelerating conversations around sustainability and conscious living. However, on the other hand, the pandemic has come with its own challenges, contributing to a humanitarian crisis with loss of jobs and livelihoods adversely impacting the most vulnerable in our society. Given the nature of this crisis demanding increased sanitation, the general trend has shown a sharp rise in waste and plastic pollution. I believe, to navigate our way out of this crisis we will require our personal and collective conscience to rise, and we will need to operate in the world with greater purpose and empathy. 

As a business, while we are focused on sustainable fashion, the pandemic has pushed us to talk about sustainability-centric issues across other industries also. We have been concerned and actively raising awareness regarding tackling plastic pollution, unemployment and advocating for building sustainable and ethical businesses.”

Chu Wong is based in Singapore. She’s the Founder of Shop Bettr, a sustainable fashion search engine, and Country Coordinator of Fashion Revolution Singapore, the local chapter of the world’s largest fashion activism movement. These are her thoughts.

“COVID has really thrown a spanner in the works for the fashion industry as we know it. Major fashion companies are starting to realise that producing in large quantities and relying on discounts to offload items that aren’t selling don’t make financial sense. They’re discovering the benefits of producing nearer to HQ, instead further away where labour is potentially cheaper but shipments may be delayed. They’re also learning that consumers are wising up to their accountability (or lack thereof) for social and environmental issues, and paying lip service is no longer enough.

While the pandemic has been and is a difficult time for almost everyone anywhere across the globe, I think in many developed nations it has also led to more conversations around our personal values as our lives slow down and we’re able to focus on what matters to us. I’ve had friends who previously had little interest in sustainability reach out to me on the topic as they notice lower air pollution in their cities, or as they realise how much clothes they’ve unknowingly accumulated in their wardrobes over the years! This wasn’t something I expected going into lockdown.

Shop Bettr was founded to curate beautiful products made by better businesses so consumers can find sustainable alternatives to their shopping needs. We do so by improving accessibility to sustainable fashion, while spotlighting and celebrating the brands that care. In that sense, the pandemic hasn’t changed our mission, but has only strengthened it as we realise how important it is for us as consumers to transition to a more responsible way of consuming so that together we can make fashion a force for good.

But responsible consumption extends beyond clothing. For example, more people are buying take-out nowadays, myself included. While I used to have to check with hawkers if they would be open to placing the food directly in my own container, I’ve noticed that most hawkers in my neighbourhood no longer have an issue with that because increasing my neighbours are doing the same! That’s been a heartening observation in a short span of time. It’s small steps like this that will slowly move us forward.”

Devyani Kapoor is an Indian based Entrepreneur. As the Founder and Curator of Shuffling Suitcases, a platform that highlights sustainability in fashion, she speaks more about how current times have been affecting her and her business.

“Covid hit the business when we were at the peak of out momentum and were expanding into the International market. While we had to let go off the team, we kept the vision of why we are doing what we are doing alive and navigated our way through to find solutions to still keep running the business and keep the momentum. During the peak Covid period we launched out website that we personally worked on while learning new things and swiftly moving the model around. We are back to being a 2 woman run show and that had taken us a year and half behind in our growth. But this did not and will not put us down.

Things are very different at the moment. Never in our dreams had we thought of a day where we would have to live one day at the time rather than making annual plans. But this period has taught us skills that we’d otherwise need years to learn. The pandemic has also changed the way our consumer behaves and that has been the silver lining. What we have been practicing and preaching for years is now how the world is living and thinking of living so that is clearly a win-win.”

The fashion world, like many other industries, has definitely reached a point where change is necessary. Our hope is that we all push forward to a greener future, only then will we see our planet flourish!

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