‘It’s not business as usual in the fashion industry since the pandemic struck. As more voices are rising against the throwaway culture of the fast fashion industry, a few homegrown slow fashion labels are taking a different approach to fast fashion’s take-make-waste linear economy, with a nod towards circularity. Independent, slow fashion brands are rewriting the script, and the customer is becoming more aware about green washing. Here’s a look at how the fashion industry is becoming more circumspect in 2022.
Khadi denim labels FTW
Denim is said to be one of the most polluting fabrics. Ticking the boxes of environmental, social, and economic justice—khadi denim is emerging as a viable alternative to this much-loved fabric. Handloom denim is made from soft handspun yarn, including organic cotton, which is handwoven into the fabric, and is available undyed, dyed in natural indigo, and even madder roots, onion skins, pomegranate rinds, and marigold petals—making artisanal denim popular with labels such as Rias Jaipur and even international outdoor label Patagonia.
Labels using natural dyes
Food and plant waste is emerging as a popular natural colourant for clothes, as more labels look to embrace natural dyes. Recently launched label MoonRay, founded by Avantika and Karishma Swali, is made using fabrics such as GOTS-certified organic cotton and FSC-certified viscose and plant-based dyes. Explaining the growing interest in using food and flower waste as natural dyes, Prernaa Lohiya, the founder of the organic clothing brand Something Sustainable, says: “A simple thought, ‘there is no waste in nature,’ inspired me to work with residuals. As a solution-based, nature-inspired brand, our aim is to reclaim the residual with love. It means we work with things that already exist and give a new lease of life to something which is otherwise considered as waste. We consciously use food and flower waste to achieve rich and stable hues.” The label works with a small craft community based out of Mumbai that also innovates with the dyeing process to create pastel hues. Though fabrics dyed with natural ingredients do fade faster than chemically-dyed products, that is the beauty of these environmentally and skin-friendly dyes and their popularity will only increase.
Circularity with technology
While thrift and preloved stores have been around for a while, tech is supporting brands to set up their own preloved shops on their websites. Kirti Poonia, the former CEO of Okhai, is the co-founder of Relove that helps apparel brands start their own resale program. This adds authenticity without diluting the brand’s narrative with each resale. “There’s a huge shift towards circularity in fashion,” she says. Relove (check out the platform at Summerhouse) is a full-service tech solution handling logistics from seller to buyer, packaging, and managing customer care and fraud prevention, while helping labels generate revenues from the resale market, which they are currently excluded from. “This enables brands to scale revenues from the circular program, making it meaningful commercially. It adds to the top and bottom line both, while saving the planet,” she adds, with more slow fashion labels signing up in the future.
Labels using plant-based materials
Science and design have resulted in fabulous material innovations that we have seen in the recent past, and this will expand a step further. Samvatam Pure has created a line of clothing based on plant-based natural fibres such as eucalyptus, orange, and even aloe vera plants, while Studio Beej works with natural cork, Piñatex (made from pineapple leaf fibre), Desserto (a vegan cactus leather), and Khesh (a material made in Bengal from recycled saris). “2022 will see a surge in the use of ‘next gen’ materials. Next-gen materials are livestock-free direct replacements for conventional materials like leather, fur etc. While mass-scale, competitive pricing and consumer education will continue to be challenges, we will see a lot more research as well as material adoption by brands globally as well as India,” says Arundhati Kumar, founder, Studio Beej. Next stop? Regenerative agriculture and raising the bar when it comes to using agro-waste to make innovative material malleable enough for fashion, as Malai is doing by working with waste discarded from the coconut industry in Southern India and Green Whisper is doing with fabric made from the banana plant.
The incessant lockdowns and work from home culture saw people slumming it at home in slouchy, shapeless togs, and comfy clogs. This made room for sustainable athleisure brands tapping into this underserved Indian marketplace. I Am Animal is a recently launched organic and consciously-crafted unisex athleisure brand that creates comfortable clothes that are stylish and multi-functional. Kunal Avanti, co-founder, I Am Animal, says: “We couldn’t find many brands that offered organic and sustainable clothing with an international appeal. With the climate crisis in the spotlight, more and more people are looking for clothes that don’t just look good, but are good for the environment and fellow living beings.”
Amar Preet Singh, co-founder and COO, Neeman’s—which makes footwear from natural, renewable, recycled and as well as biodegradable fibres—expects customers to slide their feet into sustainable shoes this year. As the world gradually opens up post the pandemic, comfort wear on the feet will rule the roost. “New eco-friendly fabrics will be popular in 2022, giving consumers an array of options. Shoes that are tough and durable, but still soft and comfortable will be in vogue. Relaxed and multipurpose footwear, especially the slip-on styles will be popular,” he says. Expect retro and classic aesthetically pleasing high-performance footwear in lighter and offbeat combinations to don feet in 2022.