While fast-fashion was all the trend until last year, the effects of these practises has been widely viewed by consumers. The environmental damage by fast-fashion and the uncovering of horrible conditions at sweatshops have forced us to review our shopping habits. Indians are adopting sustainable fashion fast, and things have certainly changed with the emergence of the concept of eco-friendly clothing. But how does one know which brands to trust and how to shop ethically?

We engaged in conversation with Nidhi Yadav, the Creative Head & Founder of AKS Clothings, who helps you understand sustainable fashion and how you can make the change towards ethical purchases.

1. What does sustainable fashion mean? 

Sustainable fashion means indulging in activities that promote environmental, social and ethical consciousness while producing and consuming fashion products. I think it’s wonderful that this has now become a movement and more and more people are joining in every day. 

2. How do you know if a fashion brand is sustainable and ethical?

We can easily identify whether a fashion brain is sustainable and ethical or not by comparing it against the seven parameters of sustainable fashion. These include:

  1. Second hand and vintage products
  2. Custom-made products
  3. Green and clean products
  4. High-quality products that are timeless
  5. The principles of repair, redesign and recycle to make the most of the product
  6. Renting, leasing and swapping
  7. Brands indulging in fair and ethical practices.

If a brand is performing well on these seven parameters, then it is sustainable and ethical.

3. How has fast-fashion impacted sustainability in the fashion industry?

Fast fashion is definitely detrimental to the cause of sustainability in the fashion industry. The term itself explains the problem. Fast fashion refers to low cost, low-quality garments that copy the latest catwalk styles and get pumped quickly through stores in order to maximise on current trends. The problem with this is that since those garments don’t cost much and aren’t of high quality, they’re quickly discarded – which only adds to the problem. 

4. How can you, as a consumer, find out whether a brand is sustainably and ethically producing merchandise?

Let me give you 5 quick tips that would help you identify whether a brand is producing the merchandise ethically or not.

  1. Read the brand’s About Us page on their website. It’ll tell you a lot about how transparent they are in their manufacturing process, and it’ll also tell you the kind of raw materials they’re using for the manufacture of products. 
  2. Try to find the factory information. If a brand is open about its manufacturing process and willing to share information about its factories and workers, then chances are that it’s an ethical brand.
  3. Find out where they’re sourcing their fabric from. Though it’s not a necessary condition, they’re definitely ethical if they’re GOTS certified, OEKO-TEX and Standard 100 certified.
  4. Stalk them on Google and social media. If they have positive posts about them from ethical influencers, chances are that they are ethical. 
  5. Look for certifications. There are some certifications like Certified B-Corporation, Fair Trade Certified, World Trade Organisation, and FAIRTRADE that are only awarded after rigorous checks. So if a brand has these certifications, it’s most likely ethical.

5. How can existing fashion labels & ventures go green with sustainability?

There are several measures that fashion brands can take to become more sustainable. Let’s start from the beginning i.e. the supply chain. If you can make your supply chain more transparent and know where the raw materials for your products are coming from, you can ensure that they are produced in an ethical, sustainable way. 

Also, you should try to always buy from sustainable textile mills. Although it might not always be easy, especially for smaller labels, this is the way. Inorganic textiles cause tremendous damage to the environment that we need to stop. 

Last but not the least, I think it is very important to pay attention to the product end-use. Fast fashion isn’t going anywhere and landfills are littered with past season’s clothes. As manufacturers, we have to think about what would happen to our product after it gets discarded. Will it decompose easily? Can it be recycled? These are the few questions you should ask yourself as a fashion business company.

6. What are some small steps you can adopt as a consumer to stay true to sustainability while shopping?

As a customer, it is our responsibility to ensure that we buy garments that support sustainability. This can be done in a number of ways:

  1. Always check the product labels to see what materials have been used during the manufacturing process. Rely more on natural fibres and natural dyes than synthetic ones. 
  2. Vintage is back in fashion, so the best thing to do would be to buy second-hand clothes. Not only would they give you the chic look, but they’ll also cost considerably less. 
  3. Shop locally. Not only is that good for the country’s economy but it also saves plenty of fossil fuels that would otherwise have to be burnt to deliver you a dress from overseas.
  4. Buy clothes that would last you a long time and don’t fall into the fast fashion trap.