We Profiled 4 Young Indians Who Have Given Up Fast Fashion - Homegrown

We Profiled 4 Young Indians Who Have Given Up Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends.

The collections are often based on designs presented at Fashion Week events. Fast fashion allows mainstream consumers to purchase trendy clothing at an affordable price. as defined by this website.

With a new H&M opening up around every other corner, and seemingly magnanimous sales announced by Forever 21 every other week, fast fashion has climbed right into bed with us and is here to stay. From two main seasons, Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, we now have 52 “micro seasons” per year with new trends flooding stores every week too. All this so that consumers have reason to come back every week, and buy something new to wear—a pattern that’s more affordable than ever before too. This industry is wholly an embodiment of the nature of most of our choices these days - cheap, quick and easy access. Have you ever stopped to wonder why your clothes, from fashion houses from Sweden and Spain, are priced as low as they are?

As irresistible as 800-rupee distressed jeans that look like they’re straight off the ramp are, the truth of the matter is that someone is paying for these clothes - just not you. Low wages, intensive labour and mass production are factors that drive low-cost fashion, and oftentimes the effects of these are further reaching than we can imagine. This industry is devastating the environment in ways we can’t even fathom. According to Greenpeace, a typical pair of jeans takes 7,000 litres of water to produce. For a t-shirt, it takes 2,700 litres of water to make just one – that’s the amount of water an average person drinks over the course of 900 days! Fancy that, coming from a country whose biggest war will be waged against water scarcity. They also go on to say that each year, over 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced worldwide, and after its short lifespan, three out of four garments will end up in landfills or be incinerated. Only a quarter will be recycled. We wonder, is this fashion still as cheap as you once thought it to be?

While this situation is most definitely a cause for concern, more and more people seem to be aware of its perils too. In fact, we manage to track down more than a few people who are taking steps in the right direction in an effort to eliminate fast fashion from their own lives. There are many assumptions and myths when it comes to giving up on fast fashion - while some think it’s too expensive, others are under the impression that you need to be a fashion expert in order to successfully turn your wardrobe around. Many are even put-off by the thought of having to tailor your own clothes, instead of just going to a mall and picking stuff up. But none of that is true! Today, the slow fashion industry has its own leaders who have set up fashion labels that cater to those who actively wish to be conscious of what they wear. To give up fast fashion and save the world, you no longer need to make weekly trips to your neighbourhood tailor (although you can if you want to). Our conversations with a few such people will show you how (view our previous edition in this series here.)

Picture of Mahima wearing her own brand's clothes
Mahima Gujral Wadhwa

I. Mahima Gujral Wadhwa, Founder of SUI

28-year-old Mahima Gujral Wadhwa is the founder of SUI, a green label based out of New Delhi. She is also the brand head for Sue Mue, a 50-year-old fashion label started by her grandfather. Her tryst with slow fashion started around October 2016, when she was studying in Milan. “The streets buzzed with fast fashion, while the Italian fabric giants and smaller brands worked on green strategies, responsible production and quality,” she says. After her return to India, that fire within her continued to burn. “Brands were producing irresponsibly, using terrible quality fabrics which in turn hurt our world. So I decided to give it all up and searched for alternatives.”

On Giving Up Fast Fashion

“I’ve got to say, best decision of my life, lighter on the pocket and the soul. I now wear a lot of my own label Sui – we work with hemp fabrics and organic cotton so all these clothes are tailored and made to order at our workshop in New Delhi. Second-hand clothing is another great option, I picked up a really cool denim jacket from a thrift store in the states and I don’t think I would’ve been able to find something like that anywhere else. I’ve also adopted conscious shopping – I really do think before I get something now, I’m working towards a wardrobe that is functional and classic. And yes, mixing and matching clothes, repeating outfits all these are a part of life now!”

On Affordability Of Slow Fashion

“I wouldn’t say affordability is the key issue, but yes it does matter. Sustainable fashion is not cheap, that is why it is not fast fashion. Because it cares for quality and for people and it pays fair wages. We hope more and more customers understand that the money is going into the welfare of people, into quality they should be able to buy. It is hard to make slow fashion extremely affordable, but there are brands in India who are selling at a really good price point. The fact is, if you buy these pieces – their lifetime is much longer than a fast fashion piece, hence the value.”

On The Potential Of Sustainability And Slow Fashion In India

“There is definitely awareness amongst people, especially because we come from a culture where we do get our Indian clothes tailored. I think there is also general awareness about what we need to do towards a greener tomorrow. There is an ongoing conversation about preserving our crafts, sustaining livelihoods and wearing clothes which are produced ethically at home.”

Picture of Saloni Sinha
Saloni Sinha

II. Saloni Sinha, Entrepreneur

Based in New Delhi, Saloni Sinha is an entrepreneur curating artisanal products from different parts of the country for her website. She is currently pursuing Creative and Cultural Studies from IIM Ahmedabad. However, it was in London that she became more aware of the realities of the fashion supply chain. The Rana Plaza collapse, that took place in Bangladesh, was an eye-opener as it made her realise the devastating side of fashion we rarely get to see. Thereon, she educated herself further and decided to not support the fast fashion industry in any way – “Buy less and do more” is her motto.

On Giving Up Fast Fashion

“It has been almost a year. The change hasn’t really affected my personal style or me much. I do not own as many clothes as I used to. The idea is to invest in more good quality staples, putting more emphasis on the fit of the garment and then accessorise it and style it differently. It’s a creative process to mix and match, and make new styles from the same wardrobe. I love culture and everything handcrafted and often pick up textiles from different states and countries while travelling and get them tailored, organic Kala Cotton being my current favourite fabric.”

On Affordability Of Slow Fashion

“Switching from fast fashion to slow fashion requires a change of mindset. It’s a choice of quality over quantity. Affordability is definitely an issue but people need to understand that while fast fashion is so much cheaper - it will not pay off in the long run. Quality and durability are always compromised. Most importantly, they need to know and understand that someone, somewhere is paying for these cheap clothes and the human value chain is adversely affected.”

On The Potential Of Sustainability And Slow Fashion In India

“The harsh reality is that not many people in India are aware of fast fashion. There needs to be more talk and action against it. People need to be aware that fast fashion comes at a great cost to our economy, to the welfare of workers and our wallets. Also, it’s scary because we’re one of the producers of fast fashion and our resources and rivers are fast depleting or dying as a result. But with the growing millennial population and awareness about ethical fashion, slow fashion surely has great potential.”

Picture of Shiksha Bhansali
Shiksha Bhansali

III. Shiksha Bhansali, Clinical Psychologist and Fashion Designer

It was in 2016, when Shiksha had recently started her label, that she found herself face-to-face with the amount of waste that is a regular byproduct of the fast fashion industry. “We were left with a huge amount of fabric scraps and even extra fabrics which as a brand you would not be willing put in the next collection,” she says. She began educating herself on the ill effects of fast fashion and decided to do what not many fashion labels would - upcycle scraps! Shiksha’s label now has an entire section of upcycled clothes, something that is reflected in her fashion sense as well.

On Giving Up Fast Fashion

“It never felt like a real task. As I believe, if it clicks your mind; it sticks to your heart. You can’t just stop entering the big stores with beautiful visual displays but you can stop and stare before you put something in the cart. Initially, I stopped buying just for the sake of shopping and gradually I came down to looking for ‘organically made’ or ‘100% cotton’ tags before picking anything for even trying on. I wear my samples from Shiksha Bhansali collection and I purchase from other sustainable brands. I also love the concept of upcycling because we can effectively put to use what we have!”

On Affordability Of Slow Fashion

“I personally believe, if we can spend so much on every trend that hits the stands we can definitely save up and buy something which has a meaning and lasts longer. So the switch may feel difficult but it’s just an unseen road for many.”

On Affordability Of Slow Fashion

“I personally believe, if we can spend so much on every trend that hits the stands we can definitely save up and buy something which has a meaning and lasts longer. So the switch may feel difficult but it’s just an unseen road for many.”

On The Potential Of Sustainability And Slow Fashion In India

“There’s a section of people who are aware but haven’t explored the possibilities of slow fashion. So presently, even if someone thinks of sustainability or making the switch it seems like a far-reaching task to them. I remember someone asking me ‘what about leather’? And I explained how future fashion explorers are preparing leather with the help of pineapple waste! Sounds crazy, right? So if we put our available resources right only then can we protect them enough.

Also, with an increasing number of shopping portals and hustle free shopping fast fashion is being given a boost. But it’s really about how we want to live through life - by damaging our surroundings or saving them.”

Sahar Mansoor holds a blanket sewed out of different cloth materials
Sahar Mansoor

IV. Sahar Mansoor, Environmental Entrepreneur, Founder at Bare Necessities

A University of Cambridge alumna who currently lives a zero-waste lifestyle in Bangalore, Sahar’s interest in both environmental science and fashion paved the way for her transition. However, it wasn’t until she learned about the Ranka Plaza Tragedy, the vast human rights violations and the environmental issues associated with the fashion industry that she decided to actively address her consumption. “I had called myself an environmentalist for about six years at the time. I studied environmental policy and I had worked at the World Health Organisation, but I decided I needed to live a life fully congruent to my environmental and social justice values. I needed to walk the talk and I knew I had to start living a low impact lifestyle which entailed giving up fast fashion,“ she says.

On Giving Up Fast Fashion

“It has also been an incremental process, I still wear some of the fast fashion clothes I have, but I no longer buy new ones. Slowly over the years I have donated, swapped with friends, up-cycled old clothes at home. My current style attempts to celebrate the beauty and richness of India! It is exciting to incorporate indigenous, locally woven, handcrafted fabrics to tailor-make something that I love.”

On Affordability Of Slow Fashion

“If you look at rural India, that’s what they all do. Have a few articles of clothing, get them locally tailored or stitch themselves and take good care of your clothes. I think it is definitely doable.”

On The Potential Of Sustainability And Slow Fashion In India

“I think there is immense potential. Consumers are becoming more mindful asking manufactures the right questions like ‘who made my clothes?’ and ‘how much did they make in the process?’ Additionally, India is home to such amazing textiles, amazing slow fashion designers, and an emerging conscious millennial population who want to align themselves to certain causes by their consumption choices; the potential is enormous!”

If you enjoyed this article, we suggest you read:

4 Indians Who Have Given Up Fast Fashion

A Zero-Waste Indian Clothing Brand Is Putting An End To Fast Fashion

IKKIVI – A Slow Fashion Platform For Independent Designers In India

Related Articles