With all the emphasis on craft, sustainable materials, organic dyes and clothes that last forever, India's dressing traditions are certainly having a moment.
Fashion's future is often created by reinventing the past and finding fresh inspiration in tradition. As fashion focuses on becoming ''good'', many Indian companies are looking at innovation in ways to recycle, upcycle and make the supply chain more eco-conscious and less wasteful. It really is in the countries of manufacturing where the change needs to happen. With India being a global manufacturing hub its role in taking the ''good fashion'' conversation forward is vital.
Fashion for Good (FFG) is a global initiative based out of Amsterdam. Their Innovation Programme focuses on technologies, developments, and innovations in -- solving water pollution, hemp value chain, bio-based pigments, and dyes among other advancements in the industry. FFG recently announced its global list for the third patch of selected startups, and three (Chlorohemp Agrotech, Graviky Labs and Deven Supercriticals) of the ten companies are from India. The companies which are shortlisted become part of a nine-month long programme which includes an introduction to Fashion for Good's Investor Network and also a chance to participate in pilot projects with FFG's network of global partners.
Here is what Katrin Ley, Managing Director at Fashion for Good had to say about India's role in sustainable innovation in the fashion industry:
Q: Tell us about the innovator programme?
A: The Programme scouts the most promising innovators and brings them together-- global and local apparel brands, manufacturers, and investors, with the aim to accelerate the transition towards a circular economy and to scale the much-needed sustainable innovative solutions.
Q: Where does FFG feel India stands in the whole sustainability conversation?
A: India is a key country with regards to sustainability, not just as one of the largest manufacturing markets, but it is also turning into a large consumption market with a third of the world's population buying more and more. The Indian fashion industry has so far played a reactive role in the sustainability conversation. There's been a lot of push from the west (mainly buyers) to improve sustainability practices and compliance. We are now starting to see the leading players particularly becoming pioneers in sustainable practices in both the social and environmental arena.
Q: All three players are very different--Hemp, Dying and Carbon Emissions runs us through each one?
A: Chlorohemp Agrotech, the company specialises in making fabric from hemp that acts as an ideal substitute for cotton. As a raw material, hemp requires less water and grows faster -- has strong and breathable fibres with antibacterial properties and is suitable for both summers and winters. It grows like weed which means that it statistically produces 200 to 250 per cent more fibre than cotton when cultivated within the same stretch of land.
Deven Supercriticals is a company that is dedicated to supercritical CO2 based processing, offering an efficient single-step dyeing and finishing technology for man-made, natural and blended textiles which allows the use of traditional dyes, improved dye utilisation, easy scale-up and less than half the batch time needed in current supercritical CO2 dyeing processes.
Last but not least, Graviky Labs is a startup that turns end-of-life carbon emissions into industrial grade materials, helping manufacturers produce more sustainably and creating a positive impact on climate. The carbon emissions are recycled into products such as screen-print and inkjet inks, dyestuff and transfer inks that could be used in apparel and packaging applications.
Q: Where do you feel there really is a need for change in India?
A: Considering India is among the largest suppliers of cotton, a drastic change in cotton farming would be an area to improve. Cotton as a material deals with multiple challenges like water consumption, excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers, soil depletion and more. Then there is factory waste and post-consumer waste; finding solutions to minimise waste and energy use.
The writer Sujata Assomull is an IANSlife columnist. Assomull is the author ''100 Iconic Bollywood Costumes'' and was the Founding Editor In Chief of Harper's Bazaar, India.