In today’s society, businesses can’t be seen in isolation. There is a growing need to produce and consume in a way that helps grow a business as well as support the people who directly or indirectly contribute to it, and have a business that impacts the society in a positive way.
In short, a sustainable fashion business model is where business owners or fashion designers are mindful about their resources, workers, artisans, and environment.
Even though there is no set definition to “sustainable fashion”, it all boils down to a fabric’s lifecycle. A sustainable fashion will think about whether:
- The garment was made locally or not.
- The garment is made from green, organic products.
- The business model is fair and ethical, thus giving every artisan what they deserve.
- You are using what is already made,i.e is your material recyclable.
- Minimum transporting or importing time for textile, resulting in minimum carbon footprint.
Rise Of Sustainable Fashion In India
With a steady GDP increase of 6% to 7% a year, India is experiencing an increase in consumption by 12%. If figures are to be believed, with the anticipated global rate of 5%, India will be the third largest consumer market by 2025. This gives rise to a new middle class of consumers with disposable income. But, these consumers are not just any consumers. They are millenials. They are inclined towards changing a social change and are not hesitant to spend more in the name of sustainability.
“Brands that establish a reputation for environmental stewardship among today’s youngest consumers have an opportunity to not only grow market share but build loyalty among the power-spending Millennials of tomorrow, too,” says Grace Farraj, SVP, Public Development & Sustainability, Nielsen.
Artisan handicraft is still the second largest source of employment in India with more than 200 million workers at the core of the handicraft industry. Millennials have rightly identified the true potential of respecting and utilizing the resources. They also believe in keeping everything transparent, where the material came from or who the artist it.
To keep the consumer market happy and engaged, it has become important and crucial for a company, growing or established, to include sustainable fashion to their clothing line. Consumer is now more inclined towards buying something that has a story behind it.
How Indian Companies Are Embracing The Change?
Many start-ups have started their journey with sustainability as their core value. Companies like Okhai.org, an e-commerce website, is making fashion for working women by working women. It offers handcrafted apparel and lifestyle products created by rural artisans from across India.
Another e-commerce company called Anokhi is also dealing with apparels that are made by local artisans who are extremely good for appliqué, embroidery, patchwork, and bead work. To add to their sustainable business model, they do all their fabric procurement, finishing, checking, and packaging at Anokhi’s office at a farm on the outskirts of Jaipur.
This change is not only embraced just by start-ups or sustainable designers. High-end fashion designers are also compelled to add the touch of sustainable fashion to their business model. Anita Dogra’s Label called Grassroots is a way to connect with the consumers who are perceptive to social causes. Similarly, clothing line called Doolange by Kriti Tula, Durality by Shani Himanshu and Mia Morikawa, Pero by Aneeth Arora, and Kasha by Karishma Shahani are all examples of sustainability making room in the high-end fashion market.
Urban Renewal, a line of Urban Outfitter, reuses surplus textiles and vintage clothing for its fashion line. Each piece is hand-updated and made modern by the Urban Renewal team.
How Can You Start Your Own Sustainable Fashion Label?
Today, business is more than attractive website or social media marketing. It is about building a brand that has a strong social cause behind it. Keep the following points in mind while setting up your sustainable fashion label.
- The procurement of the material should be done locally. Think “Make in India” campaign where every business is urged to use local resources.
- Organic materials are the way to go.
- Give a story to the product. The consumer loves to know who, what, when, or why about the product that he has purchased.
- Analyse your operations right from fiber to a garment. Analyze how green its footprint is. This analysis can help you make various operational as well as marketing decisions.
- Use designs that are going to make minimum environmental impact.
- Production line uses a lot of water and energy. Think about ways to reduce water and energy consumption. Meeting people who have already set-up sustainable fashion would be of great help.
- Carbon footprint can also be reduced by analyzing your distribution model. Leave minimum carbon footprint. Marks & Spencer, UK retailer, has been reducing their CO2 emissions while distribution by using aerodynamic teardrop-shaped trucks since 2007. This was part of their initial plan.
- Your packaging should not involve a lot of elements. Simple yet impactful packaging will reduce carbon footprint.
- Think about ways your garment can be recycled or reuse. Use your platform for charity by associating yourself with NGOs. Levi’s in association with Goodwill, an American recycling charity, informed their customers that they can return any of their unwanted clothes in the same packaging that they got their jeans in during the Christmas season of 2015.
- Above all, your artisans and employees should be paid a fair wage.
A sustainable fashion label is nothing short of having a clothing line with a soul. Keeping environment and artisan in mind is the right and new way of starting a fashion label.