Sustainability Inclusivity In Fashion


A full-figured model opening the show for noted couturier JJ Valaya or eliciting head-turns on the Manish Malhotra runway might have made for compelling fiction rather than fact, a decade ago, but for Sakshi Sindwani, a New Delhi-based content creator and body-positive advocate, it is her reality. Her cadence is almost cavalier in its matter-of-factness— after all, why wouldn’t women of diverse sizes claim their berth in the rarefied echelons of fashion? However, even while mainstream fashion is taking baby steps in course-correcting its inclusivity problem, it would appear that the world of sustainable fashion has yet to play catch-up.

Further heft to this notion can be found with model Varshita Thatavarthi, who might be gracing Sabyasachi campaigns across the world but has yet to be greeted by a diverse range of sizes in most sustainable stores. “Sustainable labels seem to believe that they won’t make enough money by selling plus-sized clothes, even though the average Indian woman falls in that category,” she rues.

Reclaiming the reins of control over this narrative would require eco-friendly brands to counter with an inclusive approach, but the journey is not without hurdles. For Kriti Tula of Doodlage, sustainability offers a vast terrain to cover. “Each of the supply chain solutions, from sourcing organic fabrics to ensuring circularity of fashion, comes at a heavy cost that can impact the final selling price. For us, this has meant intentionally maintaining a small in-house unit to make custom sizes that extend up to 6XL,” she explains.

Good intentions alone, however, cannot save the day as there are logistical issues to contend with. Tula adds, “Fabric width can become a concern as you move into larger sizes because your fabric consumption increases. When you have to create ten sizes for one garment as opposed to the traditional five, you might have to reduce the number of pieces produced or increase the production budget. It can be difficult for small labels to justify the additional costs.”

For the eco-friendly label Nicobar, this has meant favouring free- sized designs, such as kaftans and breezy dresses, that can answer to a more diverse size bracket. Aparna Chandra, creative director of apparel, says, “Our core collection is a timeless, seasonless offering where we first rolled out extended sizing from XS to 3XL. While we have always wanted to be as inclusive as possible, we have learned to take heed of customer feedback to guide the way.”

Likewise, Tula believes that brands intent on inclusivity will refuse to allow logistical issues to serve as a roadblock. “There are brands specialising in plus-sized clothing, so working with alternative supply chains is one way of approaching the gap. At the end of the day, inclusivity is a message everyone should endorse. It might not be your agenda from day one, but it should be in your pipeline.”

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