“Never purchase something less than fantastic. Then you’ll wear it again and again!”
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has caused all of us to pause and reflect on our effects on the environment. With the reduction in human consumption across the world, the environment seems to be healing, and the climate appears to be healthier. However, we understand that we must move quickly to save the planet we call home.
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An Homage to Sustainable Fashion in India
What do fashion, the clothing we wear, and the companies we endorse financially have to do with all of this?
As it turns out, the apparel sector accounts for 10% of global annual carbon emissions – five times that of flying! It is, therefore, one of the most polluting, waste-producing, and water-intensive sectors.
That is precisely why I wanted to write this comprehensive guide to sustainable fashion in India. One step at a time- one clothing at a time is how we will reduce our human effects on the world.
What Exactly is Slow, Sustainable Fashion?
As the names indicate, quick and slow fashion applies to the rate at which you alter/refresh your wardrobe.
Can you purchase new clothes on the spur of the moment that is environmentally damaging, neglect people, water-intensive, treat wildlife, and have a short shelf life?
Or do you actively invest in
- environmentally friendly apparel labels,
- do not use agricultural materials,
- offer equal salaries,
- and last a lifetime?
Sustainable Fashion apparel, in general, applies to clothing and accessories that are manufactured from
- eco-friendly or recycled materials.
- Use agricultural (pesticide- and chemical-free) fabrics and dyes.
- Use fair trade policies, such as no slave labor, no child labor, equal working hours, and fair wages.
- Refrain from utilizing animal-derived fabrics, inks, and other additives, and say no to animal research.
What’s The Problem With Quick Fashion?
Fast Fashion Depletes Natural Resources
- The apparel industry consumes 93 billion cubic meters of water per year – enough to supply the needs of 5 million citizens!
- Every year, 150 million trees are felled and converted into cloth due to ground clearing and plant pulps.
- Discarded clothing contributes half a million tonnes of disposable microfibers to the environment per year, equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. These microfibers make their way across the food chain and are almost certainly in our bodies right now.
With the growth of online shopping, more fast fashion companies opening stores in India, and the relentless demand to keep up with fashion trends, India is also on the path to welcoming fast fashion – at a high environmental expense.
Slow and Sustainable Fashion in India Has The Potential To Reduce Our Carbon Footprint
Only 15% of our clothing is recycled or donated. Even those eventually end up in landfills, where they steadily emit methane, a strong greenhouse gas that significantly leads to climate change. That is a clear cause for India to follow sustainable fashion.
Humans And Livestock Are Both Oppressed To Meet Our Fashion Needs
- Despite the reality that child labor is on the decline, the International Labor Organization reports that 170 million children worldwide are nevertheless required to work. Many of them produce textiles and apparel for major international brands.
- Leather is crafted from the skins of different species, including Oxen, pigs, alligators, ostriches, spiders, and sometimes kangaroos have been slaughtered. But, contrary to common belief, leather is not just a byproduct of the beef industry. Instead, it is an enterprise in and of itself, making billions of dollars by cleverly enticing people that they choose to wear or bear the skin of a dead body!
- The wool industry has come under fire for violently shearing wool from sheep, goats (cashmere), and rabbits (angora wool), sometimes resulting in open wounds, suffering, and damage to the livestock. These creatures are eventually slaughtered.
- A single silk saree necessitates the death of 10,000+ silkworms, either by smoking their cocoons or boiling them alive until they can mature into those lovely silk moths. According to the Higg Index, silk uses more water and releases more greenhouse gases than most common textiles such as polyester, viscose, and cotton.
How to make Smarter Decisions to promote Sustainable Fashion in India
Given the apparent need to transition to more eco-friendly, ethical, and aware design, here are some methods I’ve discovered for embracing sustainable fashion in India:
Ask The Below Questions Before Buying
Is that dress really necessary? Am I buying non-biodegradable cosmetics? Is it true that I’m using animal-tested hair products?
Before you purchase something, do some preliminary testing. Brands do respond to inquiries. You can message them on their Instagram accounts, send them a note, or call them.
In India, Invest in Eco-Friendly, Sustainable, And Cruelty-Free Brands
- Seek for clothing made of recycled cotton. Look for Better Cotton Initiative labeling to guarantee that lesser water and artificial dyes are used.
- Replace cotton clothing with eco-friendly natural fibers such as hemp and bamboo. Cotton consumes a lot of water and depletes the land, while hemp yields twice as much fiber per acre, use less water, and enriches the soil. Itshemp collects all hemp items available in India!
- Purchase imitation (fake) leather pieces, luggage, shoes, and belts. Innovative brands are also creating leather goods out of cork, upcycled flowers, cotton, and even pineapple leaves!
- Choose personal care and makeup products that do not use animal additives that have not been tested on animals, such as shampoo, insect repellent, lipstick, kajal, toothpaste, and so on (cruelty-free). Look for the cruelty-free label to identify products. For example, most colored cosmetics include red carmine dye derived from insects, lanolin derived from the glands of wool-bearing animals, keratin derived from the horns and claws of snakes, fish, or birds, and silk protein derived from boiling silkworms! Instead, use natural, vegan, and cruelty-free cosmetics.
- You can use non-plastic toiletries and makeup. For example, replace disposable plastic bottles with soap, shampoo, and conditioner bars, which are often simpler to transport when traveling.
Slow and Sustainable Fashion is Gaining Popularity in India
- Rather than purchasing something fresh on the spur of the moment, indulge in clothes that have been beautifully upcycled. For example, Refash and Bodements sell clothes that have been upcycled from pre-loved fabrics!
- Buy from zero waste labels such as WeAreLabeless and Adah by Leesha, who use every piece of cloth and plastic to make something fresh, taking none to the landfill.
- Repurpose sarees that you or your family possess. LataSita transforms sarees into stunning skirts and other designer wear. Mishcat Co transforms saris into artisan carpets!
- Participate in a Clothes Exchange Program in your region. Check out Instagram for accounts like Bombay Closet Cleanse or take part in Mahima Agarwal’s Swap Soiree.
- Allow your friends to see it in your closet. Then, by asking your mates to mix and match your suits, you can get a new pair from a particular perspective!
- Donate gently used clothing to nursing homes, orphanages, and everyone else in need. Some retailers, such as H&M, need you to swap your old clothes for points or new purchases.
Sustainable Fashion and Affordable Clothing in India
Even as quick fashion takes over the world, many labels sell apparel exclusive and homegrown, upcycled, fair-trade, sustainable, ethical, and environmentally conscious. That is a true fashion comment!
InSom by Sajal Jain is a sustainable and upcycled clothing line that guarantees zero waste production. Not only is it chic and comfortable, but the company often recycles waste, defective, and surplus materials from large-scale sustainable fashion clothing processing sectors and turns them into wearable masterpieces.
B Label is an apparel brand owned by Bombay Hemp Company. This Agro-based corporation uses hemp as a lens to reimagine the future of Indian agriculture and healthy living. Their garments are made of natural hemp fibers that subdue UV rays, avoid mold and mildew, and are carbon-negative.
The Aditya Birla Group’s groundbreaking Viscose Staple Fibre (VSF) is 100 percent renewable, extremely absorbent, has a fantastic feel, and is biodegradable. The Liva fabric has changed the way clothes looks and what it leaves behind.
Hoomanwear is only and India’s first casual wear company, contributing more than 30% of its revenue to non-profit organizations doing active work. The company’s founder, Harshil Vora, is a vegan, and all of their t-shirts, crop tops, and hoodies are plant-based (less than 5% synthetic fibers) and customized with various vibes. Furthermore, they are manufactured only on demand (zero waste), have no animal products, and are sold in recycled pizza boxes or cloth packets!
Madhulika Umapathy and Aiswarya Kutty created Pomogrenade to reduce the volume of fabric that ends up in Indian landfills. Their comfortable, everyday wear skirts, tops, shorts, belts, and men’s shirts are all manufactured in Bangalore by a fair trade manufacturing house and marginalized communities from surplus cotton cloth and natural dyes.
To complete the circle, they go beyond and above by accepting any pre-loved (used) Pomogrenade clothing and offering a voucher for future purchases on their website in return!
Maati, founded by Neha Kabra, collaborates with a Rajasthani collective to produce one-of-a-kind clothing using traditional Indian printing techniques. A portion of the cloth is upcycled, the dyes and print colors are derived from nature (rather than animals), and the package is free of plastic.
I was stunned to find that the majority of swimsuits leach microfibers into the water. And I was astounded to discover PANI Swimwear, created by Leila, a Mauritius-born international development specialist who now lives in Mumbai. PANI makes body-positive swimsuits for a variety of body sizes out of recycled fishing nets! Unfortunately, microfiber leaching continues in these, so at the very least, they are part of a circular economy before something better comes along.
Apurva Kothari created No Nasties, Goa’s first organic apparel company and a leader of sustainable fashion in India. On fair trade plantations, organic cotton seeds are included. Synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are strictly prohibited. The whole seed-to-clothes method is environmentally sustainable and ethical, even down to the inks used (made without animal ingredients).
Increscent, established by Kamakshi Singh to be affordable, offers antique apparel (dresses, tops, skirts, etc.) made in small batches by a Rajasthan group. 60% of the garments they use are recycled from different export houses’ deadstock!
Renge, founded by animal lover Sheena Uppal, imports surplus fabric from factories to create one-of-a-kind, limited-edition designs for women. Renge proceeds are also used to fund animal shelters in India.
Hemp Kari, a homegrown brand, is the newest addition to India’s rising hemp revolution. They have natural hemp-based fabrics with traditional hand embroidery performed by local artisans in Lucknow and surrounding villages. The tops are shipped in plastic-free packaging with hemp paper tags and stickers.
Karishma Shahani Khan developed a clothing line out of plastic gunny sacks, outdated chandeliers, and second-hand sneakers. Her Ka Sha label, which is now headquartered in Pune, explores natural fabrics and collaborates with artisans worldwide. In addition, her zero-waste “Heart to Haat” line upcycles recycled clothes.
Nicobar, a slow and sustainable fashion brand influenced by tropical living and introduced by Simran Lal and Raul Rai. They are larger than most of the brands listed in this guide, with physical locations worldwide. That means that you’ll have to take on more responsibilities.
Their main line is made entirely of organic cotton, as well as natural fibers such as bamboo. Their woolen wardrobe is constructed entirely of recycled wool, and their children’s clothing is made entirely of surplus cotton. Most of their goods are packaged without the use of plastic.
Environment-Friendly Winter Clothing
Kosha is a genuinely forward-thinking homegrown winter-wear company established by mountaineer Yuktie Jhangiani Verma on the concepts of slow & sustainable fashion, mindful travel, and sustainability. Kosha’s animal-friendly #NoLeatherNoFeather collection includes sustainable bamboo cotton (made from bamboo fiber), sweatshirts, and joggers, as well as parkas, hats, and pullovers free of wool and down feathers – many of which survive temperatures as low as -20 degrees!
Unlike several quick fashion labels that need garments to be changed regularly, Kosha prides itself on long-lasting apparel and provides a repair shop to patch cuts, zippers, and hoods! Packaging and shipping are done using scrap cloth, recycled boxes, and drawstring backpacks.
Pratibha Krishnaiah, a Bangalore native, left her corporate job to serve as a Youth for India fellow in rural Uttarakhand. She agreed to remain in the remote village of Kheti Khan after the fellowship and launch Himalayan Blooms, a social enterprise that aims to provide financial independence to local people. They hand-knit the most beautiful shawls, sweaters, scarves, Ponchos, and neck warmers using acrylic yarn and cotton (no wool) – available for India-wide distribution right from the heart of the Himalayas!
Cosmetics That Are Ethical, Vegan, And Cruelty-Free in India
Surprisingly, many animal products can be used in our everyday toiletries and cosmetics. Among them are the following: Honey is a bee’s diet. Beeswax is extracted by crushing their painstakingly constructed combs, which are used to house their young and store honey. Gelatin is derived from animal hides, limbs, and tissues.
While knowing what works on human skin and scalp, certain (big) brands like Maybelline, Estee Lauder, and Clinique still test on animals in 2020!
Here are some Indian organic cosmetics brands that help local entrepreneurs use natural products and do not research on animals:
Mamaearth is an Indian brand headquartered in Gurugram, Haryana. Varun and Ghazal Alagh created it in 2016 to provide toxin-free, safe baby care, skin care, and hair care items. It claims to be Asia’s first brand to be accredited as “100% non-toxic” by “MADE Healthy” and “cruelty-free” by PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In addition, it does not support or carry out animal experimentation.
SoulTree is the first Indian brand to sell natural personal care and cosmetics goods that Europe has accredited. These items are made with authentic Ayurvedic recipes and ethically-sourced raw, sustainable fashion ingredients that do not hurt but only benefit. SoulTree takes the course of nurturing in a world full of makeup fast fixes and chemically assisted makeovers. They have healthier skin, hair, and beauty treatment options backed by comprehensive research and growth. The emphasis is on a deep repair that comes from the inside, with no adverse side effects. The same way it is in nature.
Disguise Cosmetics is an Indian company that believes in establishing a truthful, ethical, and cost-effective beauty ideal for our skin. Therefore, animal oils, carbohydrates, pigments, secretions, and proteins are not used in their cosmetics. Their matte lipsticks and all-day gel kajal are trendy!
I can’t say anything about how much I adore this brand. The Switch Fix fulfills all of my expectations: There will be no plastic or palm oil, and it will be cruelty-free, organic, plant-based, water-saving, and non-polluting!
They have all of our personal care requirements covered, from shampoo bars (no spills, no problems when checking in, last up to 50 washes) to bamboo toothbrushes.
a locally based brand Plum has an extensive range of vegan and paraben-free hair, face, body, and skincare items. They will also recycle your unused plum plastic bottles and offer you a Rs 50 gift voucher for potential usage!
Veganology is a young company that uses essential oils to make moisturizing soap bars, body butters, lip balms, and even an organic, chemical-free talcum powder.
FAE stands for Free And Equal, is an Indian start-up that contradicts traditional, skewed conceptions of beauty. Their extensive lipstick collection is organic, cruelty-free, and paraben-free.
The country’s first celebrity beauty brand Katrina Kaif introduced Kay in 2018, and it is said to be vegan and cruelty-free! She said that she wished to develop goods that would spark a vegan cosmetics revolution in India, and I believe she is well on her way.
Colorbar is the third largest cosmetic brand in India. It is cruelty-free, with a large selection of vegan items that are clearly labeled on the website.
The Ayurvedic concepts underpin the Khadi Essentials brand, which was created in India. The majority of their personal care ingredients are organic, cruelty-free, and free of parabens.
Lotus Herbals is well-known among Indian consumers. This local brand is committed to the riches of nature while still being humane to everyone. There are no pesticides, no synthetics, no food ingredients, and no animal tests.
Mr. Manal traveled in Myanmar (then Burma) in the early 1900s when he came across locals feeding the roots of a native herb to ease a herd of restless elephants. His insatiable appetite drove him to launch a revolution in Dehradun in 1934, developing all-natural personal care resources focused on Ayurveda, research, and nature. As a result, Himalayas proves to be a game-changer in the world of healthy living! In addition, the Himalaya toothpaste and other items make it much simpler to live a vegan lifestyle in India and elsewhere.
I’m sure we can all recall the Vicco Vajradanti advert from our youth in India! Sounds old school, but Vicco is currently a leader in vegan and natural goods in the region.
The Body Shop, a British brand, led the cruelty-free trend, but some of their items include animal ingredients such as beef, sugar, beeswax, and so on. The vegan items, on the other hand, are clearly labeled. In addition, they are often packaged in plastic, but The Body Shop has recently launched a campaign to involve women in local communities in the production of recycled bottles.
Forest Essentials is a genuine, authentic skincare company founded on the ancient science of Ayurveda. As a visionary of Luxurious Ayurveda, it has evolved into the quintessential Indian beauty brand, combining ancient Ayurvedic beauty practices with a chic, urban style with a more critical focus on effectiveness, sensory experience, and pleasure of use.
India’s sustainable lifestyle bloggers
Here are a few bloggers and Instagrammers to look up to when you hear about responsible, fair-trade, cruelty-free, and sustainable fashion design in India:
Swati Dixit @swatidixit28
Swati Dixit’s profile, which documents her journey toward exploring responsible fashion, is one you’ll come to appreciate. She speaks about the significance of slow fashion. Still, she also actively blogs about brands that work in this field and significant trends such as the fashion revolution linked to the fallout from the Bangladesh factory collapse. She is vivacious, fun, and eccentric, and her blog reflects this fully.
Neha Sharma @the_stylewali
Neha Sharma is an ardent sustainable fashion design writer, and you can join her for your regular dose of fashion. She discusses ethical fashion and supports local and crafted clothing. She advocates for purchasing from small artisans and brands rather than significant brands. Her look is more retro, trendy, and classy, emphasizing Indian traditional ethnic wear.
Ankita is a well-known fashion blogger who has a large following on Instagram. You’ll fall in love with this design and beauty blogger’s job, from talking intricately delicate items by local artisans to her line of chunky silver jewelry. In addition, her photographs can provide you with plenty of ideas for incorporating sustainable fashion design into your wardrobe as soon as possible.
Tanvi M Sidhu @theurbanboho
This is the place to go for your regular dose of indo-bohemian lifestyle inspiration. The blog is ideal for those looking for serious tips about living a more healthy lifestyle and creating ethical and conscious lifestyle choices. Tanvi’s blog will provide you with a welcome breath of fresh air and will inspire you to adopt this environmentally friendly way of life.
Sharmistha Guha Chowdhury @nomadicwardrobe
Sharmishtha is a design blogger from Kolkata’s City of Joy. She is a happy Bengali woman who collects beautiful locally produced sarees and admires Indian textiles and weaves. Her blog focuses on the wearability of apparel rather than experimental fashion, making it your go-to stop for comfortable and stylish attire.
Tell Us What We have Missed
So that’s about it from my side. This is as little as I can say about fashion at this moment. At least on sustainable fashion for now. Let me know what do you think about it if you have read it till the end. There must be thousands of different views that you may have on this topic and I would love to hear those as much as possible.
Tell us what is your public comfort wear while going out on a holiday.
I will finish it off here by just wishing you good luck in your travel plans.
Stay Safe, Keep Exploring, Keep Traveling. I will see you on the other side.