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Defining Sustainability

Defining Sustainability

Classrooms are one of the best places to learn, we discovered last week. These are such exciting times to go back school, especially as an online student. Having signed up for a 5 week course on how to build and grow a sustainable fashion business, we hoped to be able to learn from industry best practises and engage with others in the field.
 
A relevant subject today for all those who work in the fashion industry and also for the more conscious consumers, sustainability can be interpreted in multiple ways, as we soon discovered during Week 1 of the course.
 
“Sustainable fashion means less consumption of fashion”. “Sustainability is about thinking in the consequences, how anything we do has consequences”. “Sustainability means maximising benefit to people and minimizing impact on the planet and environment”. “To me, being sustainable means causing minimal or no damage” – were some of the definitions of what sustainability meant to my course mates. Others raised questions about zero-waste fashion,  growing concepts such as the Circular Economy, while one cited the example of Lease a Jeans by Amsterdam-based company MUD jeans that allows consumers to rent/lease jeans and send them back to be recycled when they are done wearing them.  

And because there is no single definition for sustainability, businesses and individuals tend to choose aspects most applicable to their ideology and make those their business philosophy.
 
This discussion also got us thinking of Karigar’s definition of sustainability – our decision to work with beautiful natural materials, to stick to handmade and work with and re-train rural artisans to use skills that have been passed on to them through generations. By choosing to be a sustainable business, we have had to often say no – no to using synthetic yarns, no to mass production. We work with our artisans using fair trade principles, giving them the respect they deserve as makers of beautiful products. We document the creation of our products to give consumers an insight into the making of each design through our Talking Tag. We create designs that aren’t fashionable for just one season but designs that are season-less, encouraging consumers to wear our products over time and even pass them on to the next generation, in effect reducing waste.  We ensure the product stands the test of time by using natural materials to be treated with love and care.

But there is always that question of could we be doing more? For example, how can we ensure we use ALL the products we make, including the pieces that are unused? Better still, can we find consumers to accept the flaws and buy those textiles that we set aside for minor weaving or colour faults?
 
There is so much to learn in this world of unlimited access to information and data. Over the coming weeks we hope engage in some more relevant discussions and hope to get some answers from our peers in the fashion industry across the globe.
 
Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Pictures: Marloes van Doorn