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Mystery of the missing capes

Mystery of the missing capes

Last week, a bag with 35 KARIGAR Capes went missing on a bus from Ukhimat to Dehradun.

What happens next is a series of nail-biting events.

Here’s what we know: at 11am, the bag with the woven Capes was packed and loaded on a state bus that regularly takes commuters down the winding, mountainous route. At the end of its typical 7-hour journey, our products are picked up from the bus station and passed on to our tailoring teams, who add their finishing touches with armholes, washing and tagging.

When we reached the bus stop to claim our goods, we discovered that our duffel bag was probably taken by an army jawan (soldier), who mistook the bag of 35 colourful capes for his dirty clothes. Possible, because our bag was made from Army camouflage fabric, similar to the bags that troops carry. This bus route is also a common one for troops, who travel to their barracks and back.

But this soldier had got off much earlier, his friend said, and taken another bus to his home in Uttarkashi.

Yes, he did come home, his mother confirmed when we finally tracked him down. He had indeed picked up the wrong bag, she said. Now he’s on duty in Jammu and has taken the bag with him.

As we write this, we are heaving a sigh of relief as the travelling Capes are being collected 509km from their original destination. They will soon be put on the commuter bus for Dehradun town, where Hari will be waiting to pick them up.

You’re probably thinking, why a commuter bus in the first place? As a young brand that’s ever-conscious of its eco-footprint, we are encouraged when we realise the positive impact of such decisions, no matter how small.

Every day, multiple times a day, there are commuter buses that depart from the bus stop not far from our weaving centres. Typically, a petrol-fuelled van that travels 10 to 12 km (or 6.5 to 7 miles) adds 1 kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the environment. If we wish to transport our products every single time from our weaving centres to our fulfilment centres, we would add an extra 10kg of CO2 to our carbon footprint.

By using a bus that will make the journey anyway, we might increase the risk of our bags going missing, but what we get is a reduced environmental impact.

Here’s how we see it: either way, this story has a happy ending.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Marloes van Doorn

#whomademycloth?

#whomademycloth?

Are you sitting next to someone right now? Great. Now here’s what we want you to do. Check what’s written on the cloth tag of the shirt or dress they’re wearing. Did you see it? The tag that says ‘Made in….’?

This week, the Fashion Revolution Week kicks off world over. Over the last few years a rising tribe of conscious consumers have been asking brands, who made their clothes? Back until 2013, people didn’t know at what cost their clothing was being manufactured. But when the Rana Plaza building collapse killed more than 1,000 garment factory workers in Bangladesh, people became aware of the perils of fast fashion and the impact it had on human lives.

As a fashion brand that wants to pull the curtains between the makers and wearers, we believe in the power of asking ‘who made your clothes’. People have used fashion revolution week to challenge top notch brands, many of whom still don’t have the answer to the question, ‘#whomademyclothes’? But there are many brands, like ours, that have insights into their supply chain and are happy to share images of their artisans or factory workers to empower this growing movement.

It’s a question that everyone’s asking and rightly so. Turn your garments inside out and the tag always tells you where it was made. From Bangladesh to Vietnam, the hangtags tell you about where your product was stitched into a final garment. But here’s what it doesn’t tell you: who made the cloth itself? Where was the material created and under what circumstances? What happens at the beginning of this entire making process? Where did the cotton that your shirt was made from grow? Who dyed the yarn? And what was the impact on all those people and the environment before the garment was stitched? Today these questions are hardly ever asked. But we believe that it’s time to go back to the true origins of your garment, starting from the source.

When we buy a piece of clothing, we are becoming part of a chain of events that have a far reaching impact on people and the environment. A typical clothing supply chain links the source of raw materials to the place where they are processed and turned into cloth, to the factories or units that make garments out of them and onto a network of distribution to reach the final customer (moving on to what happens after your garment is thrown away and to the people who recycle them – but let’s leave that for another time.)

While we are all asking for a fashion revolution, the question of ‘who made my clothes’ is limited to the stitching and sewing industry alone. It looks at the people who turn that material into clothes or garments. What we see on our garment hangtags addresses only one part of the production chain. When will the time come to start asking the bigger question, ‘Who made our cloth?’ or maybe even, ‘Who made the yarn’? because that is really where the story of your garment begins.

Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal
Photo: Marloes van Doorn

How Deep is the Love for Green?

How Deep is the Love for Green?

During a rare weekend visit to possibly Amsterdam’s only mall, I passed by the Mango store. Right at the front of endless racks of clothes, stood a single mannequin wearing an asymmetrical off-white shirt and off-white pants. The tag that hung from the shirt read ‘Committed’.

Aha! I was finally face to face with Mango’s answer to Join Life by Zara, the Eco edition by ASOS and Conscious by H&M. Made from organic cotton, the Committed capsule promised environmental sustainability in the pieces produced. Naturally curious to see the rest of the collection, I was met with disappointment when I saw just these two pieces of clothing. The store manager obliged with a reasonable explanation. “Customers have been asking for sustainable clothing in our store but we first wanted to see the response of people to this collection before we have more designs.”

 If you’ve visited the Zara stores and asked for their Join Life collection, be prepared to find either few pieces or nothing from the collection. Clearly there is a growing demand for sustainability from consumers who want to know more about the conditions in which their clothes were made or buy clothing made from environmentally friendly materials. These same consumers want to buy less, buy well and make their clothes last. According to a Euromonitor International Survey, more than 14% of U.S. consumers looked for apparel and accessories made from natural materials in 2016, up from 12.9% in 2015. And millennials, more than any other age group, looked for apparel and accessories that were "sustainably produced.

 But here’s the big question: are sustainable collections merely a tick in the box for the fast fashion brands or can it become the core of their business philosophy? The Join Life collection makes up just 1.5% of Zara’s assortment and the Conscious Collection makes up 3.5% of H&M’s assortment. In time to come, will these become the norm, making up a bigger part of fashion collections world-wide (currently a whopping 150 billion new pieces of clothing are produced globally each year)? Or will they continue to be a tiny percentage of the total?

Or is it just possible that we as consumers will have to drive this shift? If in addition to buying less and making it last, can we champion a bigger change by expecting that brands ‘produce less but produce well’? By demanding a change in the system, we ourselves could contribute to a green revolution.

 Text: Kanak Hirani Nautiyal