Thrown around like confetti, sustainability has become fashion’s favourite buzzword – abused to the point that the word itself is teetering on the edge of becoming a cliche. It is now attached mindlessly peppered into press releases, without actual translation into the collections. Understandably then, I was apprehensive before taking a very different kind of fashion trip to Indore. This was to view the progress at Pratibha Syntex – a giant fabric/garment manufacturing factory – after receiving funding from Good Fashion Fund (a Netherland-based fashion investment firm). When I think factory, I imagine large chimneys bellowing out dark smoke, sustainability is a far cry. This was nothing like it and I was plesantly surprised.
The Ground Zero Of Growth
On a cold December morning, I and a few other fashion journalists along with the Good Fashion Fund team landed on the grounds of Pratibha Syntex. A sprawling 6000 acres of the facility strategically divided for each unit with housing space allocated for a few of their employees. Before the official tour began, the core team took us through the process, giving us an idea of how our day will map out and patiently answered our few initial inquisitive queries. What was interesting to witness, was how transparent the whole process was—the journalists and the key investors were invited together to review the progress of the investment, inviting an open conversation about anything and everything.
Goals Of The Good Fashion Fund
With a target size of USD 60m, the Good Fashion Fund is the first investment fund focused solely on driving the implementation of innovative solutions in the fashion industry. Currently, apparel supply chains are plagued by their negative environmental and social impacts. But while sustainable solutions do exist, there is a lack of capital available to scale these technologies within the supply chain. The Fund was created to address this gap, connecting the most promising technologies to the industry to collaboratively tackle its challenges.
The Good Fashion Fund was started in Amsterdam in 2019 with the aim to bring a systematic change in the textile and apparel industry by financing them to implement disruptive technology. The idea was to change the infrastructure and operations of labour-heavy Asian countries like India, Bangladesh and Vietnam and to arm them with instrumental devices for innovative solutions to the fashion industry’s current problems. Initiated by Fashion for Good, the Fund is a collaboration between C&A Foundation, Hong Kong-based The Mills Fabrica and Fount. For its first-ever deal, the team of Good Fund decided to back Indian manufacturer Pratibha Syntex with a 4.5 million dollar loan. The deal was signed in 2020 and the last infusion of money by GFF was done in June 2021. The investment since then has been fruitfully utilised to replace machinery in the spinning, processing and garment divisions, as well as to install newer equipment for the expansion of other activities and facilities.
“With the capital provided by the Good Fashion Fund, Pratibha Syntex can invest in securing a sustainable future for our processes which will have positive, compounded effects along the value chain. We’re extremely pleased with the partnership and excited to continue on our journey for positive impact.” shared Shreyaskar Chaudhary, Managing Director, Pratibha Syntex Limited, as he took us through the details of this partnership.
What Happens At Pratibha Syntex
Taking ‘farm to fashion’ to a whole new level, folks at Pratibha Syntex are invested in not just the final outcome but everything that leads up to it. Leading manufacturers of knitted textiles since 1997, Pratibha has managed to create and sustain relationships across the value chain. 25,000 farmers, 6500 employees and apparel brands from over 20 countries, all seamlessly connected through one organisation. They supply to internationally-recognised (mostly acknowledged as fast fashion) brands like C&A, H&M, Patagonia and Zara, but Pratibha makes it a point to be thoroughly involved in the agricultural process. It is pivotal for them to track the organic authenticity of the garment right from the moment the seeds are sown till the time the final package leaves the warehouse. They also make sure that the farmers are not just taken care of, but are continuously educated about newer techniques, types of equipment and raw material. The idea is to make the farmers self-reliant, even outside of their association with the company.
Another USP of this company is the vision they have for the women in the organisation. Earlier, the backend of the fashion industry saw all the heavy lifting predominantly driven by men, but the decision-makers at Pratibha have decided to change the narrative. By first inviting them to teach the craft and getting the women comfortable in the environment, they have successfully managed to earn their trust. Now, women are taking charge and leading multiple projects at this firm. Going forward, they plan on opening a branch that is completely women-led, where in every position (small or big) the ladies will be in charge.
Big Little Progress
At the first on-site monitoring visit, we established that Pratibha Syntex has comfortably surpassed the threshold of 50% savings in all key areas (specifically energy, water and materials), after the investments and the instalments. Even before we witnessed all the big changes, we saw their earnest effort in all the little things around the vicinity. Ankita Saxena, the ever-so-enthusiastic Communications Head at Pratibha Syntex, meticulously explained the changes they were making in every nook and corner. From the upcycled ribbon attached to our visitor’s card and the chemical canisters refurbished as planters to the fabric room made out of the dismantled wooden boxes the heavy machinery came in—sustainability to them isn’t just a one-dimensional approach, it percolates down to the very process.
Speaking of the big moves, Pratibha Syntex has installed new spinning equipment, solar panels and a continuous tumble dryer. The new spinning equipment has already shown signs of more efficiency, in terms of energy usage and waste generated as compared to the older machinery. Solar panels have already generated 30% renewable energy aiming to hit 50% soon. The game-changing equipment has been the continuous tumble dryer, it has replaced several pieces of equipment used for treating fabrics and has fully eliminated the need for water and has significantly reduced power usage in this process. “If we were to draw a comparison, the new machine not only uses lesser resources but also leaves the water less contaminated. It also navigates the fabric’s shrinkage process, cutting down on wastage. We make sure even the residual waste from this process is tended by the company’s latest biological plant. We are one of the only factories to recycle everything from the dyeing process to 100 per cent,” educates Ankita, as she breaks down the finer details of this mammoth initiative.
Looking visibly impressed as we conclude our elaborate tour—Bernadette Bloom, Director of the Good Fashion Fund shared her overview of this experience before we entered the last leg of the tour. “The first environmental, social and financial impact resulting from our investment is above expectation and in line with our mission to connect and create impact with impact with technologies while collaboratively tackling the challenges in the industry. So far into the visit and we are already clear that sustainability is ingrained in their DNA and that is where we are fully aligned. We will continue to invest in apparel manufacturers in India and Bangladesh to deliver good fashion practice, economic growth and fair jobs – demonstrating how to invest beyond sustainability and towards a restorative and regenerative apparel supply chain.”
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