Prasanna Baruah, Head of Department (Fashion & Textile), School of Fashion, Pearl Academy

Prasanna Baruah has completed his Master’s Degree in Fashion & Textiles from Nottingham Trent University, UK and, later pursued a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education. Prasanna has over 22 years of experience in the related industry as well as academics.

As a Fashion Illustrator, he worked closely with renowned fashion designers, mass-manufacturing apparel industry and exhibited his works at various exhibitions across the country. He has cumulated rich experience of curriculum design, planning, and pedagogic research and now at Pearl academy, he shares his knowledge and experience with students and faculty members of Fashion and Textile as the Head of the Department.

 

Fashion has always been one of the cornerstones for setting the modern-day consumer sentiment and narrative that exemplifies with the changing demographics of cultures, societies, ideologies of any human settlement. The rapid modernization has crafted new social and cultural dimensions where designers are playing a much vital role than ever before. The opulent ‘Victorian’ style of fashion has changed to ‘Fast Fashion’ that complements with people from all walks of life.

India is not only a global leader in manufacturing but also the largest consumer market for fashion.  According to 2015 report released by Corporate Catalyst India on the textile industry, the Indian textiles industry (currently valued at around $108 billion) is expected to reach $141 billion by 2021 and is India’s second-largest employer after agriculture. The Indian textile industry has the potential to grow five-fold over the next ten years to touch the $500 billion mark.

There is a serious concern because 60 per cent of Indian textile is cotton-based, and cotton cultivation consumes 25 per cent of the world’s pesticides. The wet processing of textiles generates an enormous quantity of waste sludge and chemically polluted waters. Besides, the textile is the third biggest contributor to dry waste in most Indian states.

The fashion industry is now the second-largest generator of pollution on the planet after oil. According to data from Greenpeace, the fashion industry is said to produce 92 million tons of solid waste and 150 billion tons of clothing end up in landfills each year.

When clothing made of natural fibers ends up in landfills, it behaves just like food waste, producing the greenhouse gas methane, whereas synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon and acrylic are made of plastic and don’t biodegrade at all. Once they are in landfills, these chemical leaches into the soil and groundwater. The live example is Tirupur Knitwear Industry, where the whole region is still struggling to have pure groundwater.

It is evident that in the ever-growing need to produce more, faster and cheaper, the fashion industry in India has neglected the environmental values and sustainability factors. Over the years, many fashion brands and designers have paid lip service to sustainability, claiming that they are becoming more sustainable in the way that they source, produce and manufacture. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of brands are transparent about their manufacturing process.

Despite several challenges there are some measures that can be taken in regard to address these issues. One of them is circular fashion and conscious consumerism that can work as strong weapons to fight the battle.

With rising awareness of challenges, globally and in the Indian context, the brands, manufacturers and individual designers are preparing themselves for ‘self-disruption’ to build a ‘Circular fashion industry’. The industry is based on the theme of repair, reuse, reduce, recycle, and refurbish. It also ensures that each non-biodegradable product is reused, recycled and recast to the maximum extent possible.

With innovation permeating in our lives more than ever before, India is witnessing a positive transition and moving towards the concept of circular economy. The emerging new startups are experimenting and inducting innovation to achieve circular textile economy goals.

For instance, the Creative Director of ‘Doodlage’, Kriti Tula uses deadstock and industrial waste with organic cotton and sustainable materials for creating her collections. Another example is Meghna Nayak, who strongly believes that a clear supply chain is the hallmark of ethical fashion. One of the Puducherry based designer Uma Prajapati (Upasana) creates sustainable clothing by using organic cotton and handmade practices and uses design for community building.

While many designers, fashion brands or small entrepreneurs are gradually shifting towards circular fashion, the demand by conscious consumers will aid their shift the most. The question arises; can the circularity be the answer to fashion’s sustainability problems? While it is indeed a positive trend, it is not the cure to all. Without focusing on conscious consumerism, it might end up becoming a frontrunner of the greenwashing agenda.

For conscious consumerism, the shift starts within. We need to define our values, priorities to understand our mindfulness about fashion choices.

So what we as consumers can focus upon to support fashion and sustainability?

  1. Value what you already have and take good care of your existing clothes. There are many designer labels like ‘Doodlage’ by Kriti Tula, ‘Pot Plant’ by Resham and Saniya, ‘WeAreLabeless’ by Pallavi and Mehek that offers pop up workshops to train customers with cool DIY techniques. Learn techniques like mending, patching, hand embroidery to repair old clothes and use your creativity to find ways of reusing them.
  2. Buy less and choose well. As a conscious shopper, start avoiding impulsive purchases. One has to start taking responsibility for their actions and bring about a positive impact on the environment and influence the industry shift. Always check labels for fabric content as it is a great way of educating oneself! Support brands that utilize organic and sustainable materials, engage in ethical and socially responsible practices.
  3. Try alternative ways of consumption. Start supporting services like Rent the Runway, The ‘Stylease’ for designer rentals subscription and ‘StyleLend’ for peer-to-peer rentals. One can also check out ‘For Days’ that embraces innovative, circular and zero-waste business model.

One should take pride in making a responsible choice. The choices are plenty and the designers are offering a modern twist to our traditional textile. Earlier, the sustainable businesses were considered as an optional activity but consumer consciousness has made it a serious business opportunity. Now it is a need to radically scrutinize our actions and reasons for limitless consumption.  As designer Stella McCartney says, “Everyone can do simple things to make a difference and every little bit does count.”

 

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