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Sustainable is the New Luxury

Focus on Sustainable Design

By Manoshi Kamdar

Sustainability has hit fashion with a bang.What seemed unimaginable 5 years ago has become a reality in today’s fashion business.For brands who are starting out or thinking of making the switch to sustainable fashion here are few things that you should keep in mind as you go through the design process.

 Design Thinking: For those of us who went to design school a few years ago we weren’t taught to think of sustainable design from the get go. For sustainable fashion brands it is absolutely essential to keep sustainability as a primary thought while designing and not an afterthought. If designers start thinking sustainably from conception a lot of processes that are harmful in the supply chain can be pre-empted and eliminated. It might be tough in the beginning to rewire the thinking completely however with time it improves fabrics & quality, reduces wastage and betters inventory planning. While designing please think about seasonality and perennial trends and do not be obliged to follow the rat race.

Fabrics: For sustainable fabrics correct research is the key. There are a lot of challenges and grey areas while sourcing fabrics and minimum order quantities don’t help small or emerging brands. However, insist on certification (research what applies where) or testing while buying fabrics. Study fabric compositions especially when vendors claim something is “organic” or “recycled”. Question dyeing, weaving and printing practises. Along with fabrics think of sustainable materials for trims and notions. These are not very easy to find especially in India but there are ways to work around this through smart design.

Inventory Management: For sustainable fashion brands planning inventory is quite essential to avoid over production and wastage. Create a model and work with factories where you can manufacture limited pieces even if it might be a little more expensive. Think of ways in which you can assess customer demand prior to production e.g.preorders or Instagram reviews. In the longer run a slightly higher garment cost is much better than unsold inventory and also less harmful for the environment. If you are left with unsold stock, repurpose or upcycle it into new collections.

Right Manufacturing: This is the most important step in sustainability but hardest to control. If you are working with contract factories or outside vendors definitely conduct sanity checks. There are many different types of factories who operate in the sustainability/ethical realm so understand who does what. Brands get better output when they invest time in educating the factories about wastage, new ways of pattern cutting and other sustainable processes. Most of these processes are pretty new and everyone is still trying to adapt so information exchange will greatly help.

 Manoshi Kamdar, is the Founder of Aara Inc.

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