World Environment Day: What is sustainable fashion? How will this impact trends? Woodland’s Harkirat Singh explains

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“The fashion industry still identifies a looming gap when it comes to meeting social and environmental goals,” Aero Club CEO (The Maker of Woodland & Woods) said.

Eco-fashion has become the talk of the town since today’s consumer is very knowledgeable. He realized the damage done to the environment in the past and the need to act immediately to reduce it with human effort. Sustainable and recyclable materials are now becoming more readily available and affordable due to the increase in consumer demand for sustainable textile and apparel products. Woodland, a leading manufacturer and supplier of apparel and accessories, is a strong supporter of sustainability since as an outdoor brand, nature conservation is its central pillar. Since its creation, the brand has used environmentally friendly products such as organic cotton, recycled rubber, etc. to manufacture products, as well as to design and build better performing and more durable products. In an exclusive conversation with Financial Express Online Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Aero Club (The Maker of Woodland & Woods) talked about sustainable fashion, green goals for the fashion industry, and more. Extract:

What do you mean by sustainable fashion? What should brands do to make their products eco-friendly?

Sustainable fashion is a very sincere two-pronged approach and we are one of the proud brands that have been built on these principles since their inception. Our philosophy has been very clear, that is to say:

  • Ensure careful selection/sourcing of natural resources and use them effectively and efficiently in the production, manufacturing, packaging as well as sale of our products.
  • ensure the best of quality to ensure comfortable remanufacturing, reuse and recycling of the product as well as its components.

The early 90s was the time when we ventured into India and it was the time when companies were more focused on profit with minimal focus on brand building which is a vision short-sighted. However, as part of our global presence, we have always thought of being an eco-friendly brand and have followed universal philosophies regardless of region of presence / cost implications since that is what is backbone of the Woodland brand, very effectively represented. by / synonym of the tree logo.

However, over time, this awareness has been well recognized by consumers and as a result, brands have started to work in the same direction as the times require.

In a recent study, major brands were found to be falling short of their green goals. What about sustainable fashion? Why are brands not reaching the goal?

The fashion industry always identifies an impending gap when it comes to meeting social and environmental goals. For an industry to achieve its goal, sustainability must be practiced at all stages of the product’s life. Companies have to put in the effort, from the design, acquisition and production of raw materials to manufacturing, then in transport, storage and marketing to the final sale which leads to the use, the reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling of the product and its components.

The main reason for failing to achieve these goals is the inability to complete all of these milestones. Then there are many durability issues; The fashion industry encompasses a complex web of factors including human rights, affordability, supply chains and materials. This means that for sustainable fashion to succeed, it is important for consumers and businesses alike to rethink the world of fashion.

What will be the impact of being sustainable in the long term?

The fashion industry accounts for around 10% of global carbon emissions and nearly 20% of wastewater. For example, textile dyes pollute bodies of water, with devastating effects on aquatic life and drinking water. And the stretchy spandex material woven across many on-trend styles is made from plastic-derived synthetic materials, which reduces recyclability and further increases environmental impact.

Knowing all this, consumers have become selective in their fashion choices. This industry is about emotional attachment, loyalty and enthusiasm for brands. And we believe that going forward, brand love and brand loyalty will largely depend on the sustainability attributes a brand enables or builds with its consumers.

What challenges (monetary, etc.) do fashion brands face when going sustainable? To explain

The rising cost of sourcing raw materials is one of the biggest challenges the fashion industry faces when going sustainable. Not only the cost of cultivation/sourcing, but also the cost of processing and processing the raw materials needed to manufacture new fabrics and design lines has been on the rise for a long time. Unless technology helps us recycle fabrics and clothing more efficiently, the current cost of collecting raw materials will further strain the fashion industry.

Money versus environment: has sustainability paid off for you? How much extra money does a brand need to become sustainable? How much more did you spend on this move? How much money do you plan to invest or raise more to follow your goal?

Sometimes companies are measured beyond their monetary impact. The first “extra” required is the mindset needed to contribute to ProPlanet Insiders; there’s a reason we say “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Our brand was built on sustainability being the strongest pillar and we have never hesitated to invest in the same since it is part of our long term strategy and started a few decades ago when we started our activities in Canada and the USSR.

How has business been during the pandemic? When was the product launched? When did it become sustainable? When do you plan to become sustainable? How do you see the future of sustainable fashion?

Business during the pandemic has been slow overall, although this situation has certainly created an awareness of the need to care for/conserve the environment. In the current scenario, the need for sustainable fashion has become even more important since the consumer has well understood the need to take care of the environment.

Defining the future of sustainable fashion hinges on the extent to which people are aware of the source of clothes, such as where the clothes come from and how environmentally friendly their production process is. But with ever-changing consumer habits, more and more people are curious about how production is going and how it affects Mother Earth. Many customers buy from brands whose value they identify with and many opt for sustainable fashion. Today, over time, reusing, recycling, swapping and donating clothes is becoming more and more common in the fashion world. Conscious consumers have started choosing quality over quantity.

At Woodland, as part of one of our Pro Planet Community initiatives, we have strategized and mastered the technique of using discarded rubber to make shoes. The use of recycled rubber ensures minimal use of valuable resources during the manufacturing process, saving impressive amounts of natural resources, energy and therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing down global warming.

In apparel we have a series of technical fabrics that help eradicate the dangerous pet bottles that have become a by-product of our daily lifestyles. Woodland has developed a special ‘PureGreen’ yarn which is made from the processing of non-biodegradable pet bottles. By developing such technologies, we wish to clean up the environment and use these problems for the benefit of humanity.

Are customers willing to pay more for sustainable fashion?

The purchasing behavior of consumers also depends on their income. So while premium customers are willing to pay more for sustainable fashion, others are finding other ways to contribute to sustainable fashion, in their own way. That said, there is still a large community that finds it hard or difficult to know which fashion merchants are committed to sustainable retail.

What can be done to make fashion sustainable and price sensitive?

Sustainability in the fashion industry has become the buzzword over the past decade and the power lies with the consumer. The fashion industry can become more sustainable in a few ways:

· First and foremost, the use of eco-friendly raw materials and processes which leads to skin-friendly products that smooth our eyes, our skin and above all, our mental satisfaction.

Second-hand shopping: As millennials embrace second-hand shopping, many brands and retailers have come forward to embrace this trend. Thrift stores have unique and vintage styles that stand out from current fashion trends.

· Repair, Redesign and Recycle: Brands and retailers improve the customer experience by providing repair facilities for their garments. Even clothes that cannot be repaired are redesigned according to the latest trend. And upcycle fashion uses pre-consumer and post-consumer waste to make new products. The process reuses old clothes without going through the recycling process.

Is there anything Indian brands can learn from the West when it comes to sustainability or is it the other way around?

Indian brands are moving towards sustainable fashion with minimal impact on the environment. Developed countries are much more aware of reusing and rejuvenating materials. Now these values ​​are followed here, and there are also startups that come to promote sustainable fashion. We can also say that the pandemic may have affected some changes in attitude and behavior among consumers.

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