Anita Dongre Shares Her Take On Sustainable Fashion In India
The veteran designer also recently spoke about this at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit
For years, Indian or even global fashion for that matter has been allowed to carry on without any accountability towards the environment or human rights. The pandemic has been a good wakeup call in that sense. Before the lockdown, there were only a handful of designers talking about sustainable fashion, however, in the last couple of months, the conversation has picked up, and more brands have started making this a part of their brand narrative. “We have a long way to go in terms of being truly sustainable, but I am glad creatives have started taking the initiative. It is gratifying to see young designers today passionately taking the helm of responding to the need for sustainability. However, it is the responsibility of the designer to evaluate eco- cultural practices they wish to abide by as there are many misconceptions surrounding sustainability,” says Anita Dongre, who runs an ethical fashion brand called Grassroot in addition to her couture label, two high street labels and a jewellery brand.
Through her presentation, ‘Taking the Pulse of the Fashion Industry’, Dongre spoke about learning from the villages in India and making sustainability a key factor in evaluating the progress of any brand. She adds, “Designers can use this collective pause as a re-thinking strategy. Start at the core of your brand, re-evaluate the principles that govern your design choices. See if you can improve your sourcing to more ethical raw materials, introduce interventions to your manufacturing that has a minimum impact on ecology and economically employ natural resources, and ensure that your end-products justify the means of production. We should all remember that it is these baby steps that will create a large impact in the long run.”
For any designer to introduce long-lasting, sustainable methods is a big investment and will require re-strategising on a lot of levels. “It is important to realise that the cost-cutting mentality has contributed to our industry being regarded as one of the most polluting. Cheap labour and cheap raw materials ultimately come with a big price. If the situation that we are in has taught us anything, it is that conscious fashion is the only way ahead. One cannot just think short term and start cutting costs. We need to involve long-term impacts into business decisions and come together as a community,” adds Dongre.
“There are many misconceptions surrounding sustainable fabrics. Cotton, for example, although natural, can come with a high ecological footprint. It’s better to shift to ones produced more responsibly, and at the same time pay attention to nature-friendly innovations in fabric manufacturing. It pays to learn about these topics in depth before committing to fabrics that do more harm than good,” says Dongre. Another misconception that is usually attached to sustainable fashion is that its expensive. In reality, it’s the opposite. It’s actually about minimising waste.
The consumer today demands more, and there is a lot more awareness of sustainable, non-mass produced clothes. The need for hedonistic fashion is over, and there will be a return of Indian crafts and quality in a big way. “As of now, the subset of consumers demanding sustainable products is still narrow. The media can play an important role in bringing it to the forefront and making it the centre of mainstream conversations. It is important to educate the Indian consumers on why championing sustainability is in their best interest. The shift will be slow, but once consumers see the value for money, they will start moving towards it and make more calculated choices,” concludes Dongre.