The perspectives on the aesthetics of sustainable fashion are as varied as the colors on a palette. Some resonate with the idea, while others diverge onto a different canvas of thought. “Regrettably, apparel crafted by sustainable clothing labels in India does share a certain resemblance,” remarks Shivangini Parihar, the creative maestro behind The Summer House, a paragon of slow fashion. “Many of us do possess kindred aesthetics, but I firmly believe that change is afoot.” On the contrary, Vincent Declety, the visionary behind Indigenous Industries in Ahmedabad, a producer of sustainable clothing for esteemed international brands like Galleries Lafayette and Matter Prints, firmly refutes the notion that contemporary sustainable fashion adheres to any mold. “Perhaps this was true a decade ago, but today, sustainable fashion traverses an array of styles. For instance, we craft sporty shorts utilizing recycled polyester, yet one wouldn’t discern its eco-conscious origins just by a cursory glance.”
Amidst these varying voices of expertise, recurrent themes did emerge during my dialogues, offering insights into the coherent semblance of conscientious clothing.
“The Essence of Slow Fashion”
In its very essence, slow fashion serves as an antithesis to the whirlwind of fast fashion. Rather than frequenting Zara and H&M weekly for the latest trends—animal print slacks and off-shoulder dresses—slow fashion encourages a more discerning approach. It beckons us to invest in fewer, high-quality pieces destined for a prolonged sojourn in our wardrobes. It’s perhaps this very principle that elevates understated, neutral-toned essentials to the apogee of sustainability. They exhibit versatility, timelessness, and a promise of becoming enduring treasures within our attire. This predilection could elucidate the proliferation of simple whites, blacks, and beiges within the oeuvre of sustainable clothing labels. Swati Dixit, a conscientious fashion influencer bridging Bengaluru and Atlanta, articulates, “While slow fashion revels in every phase and minutiae of the creation process, fast fashion perpetuates a relentless stream of pieces, indifferent to the intricacies. I concede that sustainable brands may encounter certain constraints when it comes to fabric, hues, and designs. Nevertheless, the entire concept of ‘trendy’ clothing is inherently subjective. Personally, I find a basic white shirt and a pair of denims profoundly stylish and timeless. I’d prefer a style that embodies comfort, timelessness, and resonates with my persona, over something ‘trendy’ that is hastily assembled.
Have you ever embarked on Instagram’s 10X10 challenge? Spearheaded by Lee Vosburg, the luminary behind the sustainable fashion blog Style Bee, this viral social experiment tasks participants with selecting a 10-item capsule collection from their own wardrobes. These 10 items are their sole sartorial companions for 10 consecutive days, albeit with the liberty to accessorize with hats, bags, and jewelry. This challenge’s rules necessitate a profound introspection into one’s style choices and consumerist tendencies. It’s a safe bet that many of these capsule wardrobes prominently feature the serene hues of neutral basics, embodying a conscious and calculated approach to fashion.
Natural Materials, Artful Designs Distinguishing fast from slow fashion lies in the selection of consciously-sourced, raw materials such as cotton, silk, and wool. These natural wonders lack the stretch of lycra and polyester, favoring roomy, unrestrictive fits over cinched silhouettes. Handwoven versus factory-produced fabrics is another pivotal consideration; handwoven textiles are limited in width to the weaver’s arm span. Hence, designers aiming to support traditional weavers while championing inclusive sizing must ingeniously incorporate center cuts or seams, paradoxically fostering greater uniformity in garment construction.
Eco-Friendly Alchemy Fast fashion’s notorious environmental fallout often results from chemical dyes seeping into our surroundings. To combat this, conscious clothing labels embrace vegetable dyes, composed of benign, natural ingredients. However, these dyes, typically offering a warm color palette, forego flashy neon hues and micro prints—a trade-off that eco-conscious consumers often embrace.
A Palette of Constraints The financial constraints of crafting a single collection typically limit the color spectrum to a mere four or five shades. Consequently, sustainable fashion labels tend to offer a plethora of styles while keeping their print and color options limited, favoring earthy tones like mustard, beige, and indigo.
Embracing Individuality Does sustainability dictate abandoning your inner fashion maven? Not necessarily. India’s love for color and flamboyance remains unwavering. In response, some labels have introduced azo-free dyes, blending style and sustainability. As India continues to evolve its fashion landscape, technology promises to revolutionize raw materials and eco-friendly production processes. Innovative materials, including pineapple leather and bean fiber from food waste, are emerging, while regional experimentation with indigenous plants offers exciting new fiber possibilities.
Vintage Verve Choosing vintage or pre-worn clothing is a conscious shopper’s elegant compromise. Vintage pieces not only reduce environmental burdens but also infuse a dash of uniqueness into your wardrobe. Moreover, their quality far surpasses hastily-made fast fashion counterparts.
Finding Your Ethical Style For those seeking sustainable fashion havens, I Was A Sari repurposes pre-loved saris into accessories and beachwear. In Mumbai, the No Borders shop in Khotachiwadi boasts a treasure trove of vintage clothing, including upcycled Hermès scarves and denim jackets by Péro. Sustainable fashion may gravitate towards earth-toned basics, but those with a style vision always discover ethical avenues for personal expression.
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