Photo: Prakhar Pandey
Environment-friendliness is today a rage the world over. Recognising the serious threat to Nature and the environment, sensitive citizens and governments are promoting organic food, environment-friendly building materials and non-conventional energy resources. Now there is a push for creating fabrics that will not cause health hazards, and also for discouraging the use of animal skin in fabrics. The adverse impacts of the current practices are already visible, and are compelling animal rights activists all over the world to call for a complete ban on the slaying of animals. That the threat to the environment is not illusory or weak is being increasingly realised in India as well. Gurgaon’s premier fashion institute, the Institute of Apparel Management (IAM), recently organised a first of its kind seminar, ‘India towards Sustainable Fashion 2020’, at Apparel House. The aim was to promote ‘Sustainable Fashion’ amongst the young fashion entrepreneurs in the country. Fashion industry leaders from around the globe were in attendance. The event aimed at building sustainability as a short-term and long-term vision of the Indian Fashion industry, with emphasis on future raw materials, and development of new skills and competencies. There were fashion experts, designers, and innovation and sustainability experts. “The Event was designed to help all of us safeguard our future, protect our environment and improve the lives of end-consumers, workers and suppliers around the world,” said one of the student. Sustainable Fashion highlights the fact that the fashion industry is today locked in a non-sustainability cycle – by using more and more of the Earth’s resources, and in some cases continuing to exploit cheap labour (to protect its ever-decreasing profit margins). The views of Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, on environment and animal protection are well known. At one of the inaugurals, Mrs Gandhi said, “Sustainable Fashion is the need of the hour. It is not about recycling and reusing, but utilising alternative natural resources and converting them into fabric.” Khadi producers need to adopt new technologies and come out with trendy designs and patterns, the Minister added. This will help revive the Textiles industry, and a big employer. The Event underscored the role of technology and innovation in ‘responsible’ manufacturing, supply chain management and consumption.
India has traditionally been a textiles country - one of the largest in the world. However, we have not been able to aggressively export textiles, because of our poor adaptation to the latest technologies – like Sustainable Fashion now. Dr. Darlie Koshy, DG & CEO, IAM, ATDC, said, “India has great potential to be one of the largest exporters of Textiles.” He pointed out that despite being the second largest producer of jute, silk and cotton, India has not been able to harness this potential. Dr Koshy added, “Sustainable India 2020 holds many crucial challenges for the global Fashion industry: with changing geographies of production, falling prices, intrinsic values, climate and demographic changes, new technologies, and a paradigm shift in the global economy. Sustainability should be seen in this context. Reducing consumption is not the way to achieve sustainability in fashion. Sustainable Fashion has to be taken as an approach. For example, tendencies to ‘over-shop’ should be avoided.” Experts from across the globe participated in various sessions – some through Skype/Google hangouts. The discussions veered around the need for Sustainable Fashion and deliberated on the roadmap to be followed by India, to not only inspire the fashion industry, but open up a better future for it and the country. Apart from the panel discussions, unique workshops were also organised. ARS - Crafts Workshop featured a live workshop of rare and exotic crafts of India that are facing virtual extinction due to industrialisation and modernisation. The deliberations were aimed at how everyone could help promote the artisans and their invaluable crafts and techniques, and help them survive and sustain in a fiercely competitive global market. A fashion show, with the theme of Sustainability, was another highlight, wherein the students of IAM designed and showcased clothes and accessories that were eco-friendly. At the conclusion, the legends, veterans and eminent professionals of the Fashion industry, who had done great work in the area of Sustainable Fashion, were recognised. Their outstanding contributions to the crafts of India and the Fashion industry were also showcased. There was a Star session on High Fashion: Designed for Make in India. This special session was attended by Dr. Darlie Koshy, Rina Dhaka, Sunil Sethi (President, FDCI), a number of Managing Directors and CEOs of different fashion institutes, industry experts from NIFT, Pearl Fashion Academy, IIT Delhi, Walmart, Adidas and Body Shop, and fashion columnists. These experts spoke candidly, prodding the Textiles industry to urgently adopt the global Sustainable Fashion vision, for its own longer-term survival and sustenance.