Sustainability in Fashion: Challenging Waste Culture
The fashion industry is one of the most sought after and influential industries today - and the fastest-growing community as well. However, at the same time, it is also known to be one of the biggest contributors to environmental contamination, air and water pollution as well as a culprit for major carbon emissions.
Over the course of the last few years, there has been a quiet but prominent change within the fashion industry, to make the cycle more slow, sustainable and eco-friendly. More than 70% of the industry have “announced sustainability”, taking a significant turn towards making their brands more planet conscious.
Sustainable fashion as a movement has been adopted in various different capacities to foster a change in the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity.
In a modest attempt to change the ways of the 3rd most polluting industry in need of a desperate shake-up, there has been a compelling rise of local start-ups and individual label ventures that have surfaced over the last few years that preach sustainability.
But more recently these brands as individual vehicles have been generating alot of buzz and have boldly come forward to “challenge the waste culture,” to raise questions and voice opinions about the unlikely ways of production and discarding.
These labels were initiated with a core ethos of re-using, re-purposing and re-cycling and ultimately reducing the unhealthy and detrimental waste production. Solely making use of pre-loved, dead stock and waste fabrics to create new pieces, offering a second chance to these discarded and neglected material.
These in-house brands have changed the game for fashion, proving to be almost 100% sustainable while creating a whole new whirlwind trend for authentic one-of-a-kind fashion.
RUA CARLOTA, founded by Charlotte Rose Kirkham, translates to ‘Charlotte Street’ and is a London based sustainable, conscious, and fashion-forward brand that truly offers the opportunity to own something entirely one-of-a-kind. What started off as a series of creative experiments, has now turned into a one-for-one curated label that is known to sell out in 3.5 minutes! Challenging the waste culture, Charlotte uses only discarded dead stock, often termed as the “forgotten ones” and low grade fabric for her designs, making her brand 100% sustainable.
Kirkham identifies more as an artist than a designer, and fascinated by geometry, she intertwines the two disciplines in each of her pieces. Entirely self-taught, she treats the fabric as an empty canvas and stitching is her paintbrush. Heavily inspired by the pioneer of the lettuce hem, Stephen Burrows, she incorporates unfinished raw hems in all of her designs.
Named as the “NEW KNITWEAR BRAND TO OBSESS OVER” by Vogue, the brand believes that there is potential in everything. It deconstructs and reconstructs and patches together something useless into wearable art. RUA CARLOTA is as much an exploration of shape and pattern as it is texture and construction. Her way of producing not only scores points for being extremely conscious, but also exclusivity as it is literally impossible to make the same design twice.
JJVINTAGE is a Brooklyn based “thrifty” label founded by designer Jasmine James in 2019. The brand peaks at exercising the 3 R’s — Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose. Born out of desire to recreate clothes in an effort to reduce waste in the environment, while still being fashionable, the label entails a hybrid-sportswear design vibe. One of the first pieces that caught massive widespread attention and blew up James' brand was a patchwork power tank top repurposed from old Nike t-shirts.
The designer experiments with colours, textures and her signature style of fabrication — patchwork. She mainly uses scraps of old sportswear clothing like Nike, Adidas, Champion etc. and plays with different texture combinations. The result of all her experiments is a one-of-a-kind creation. Other than being eco-minded and conscious by using discarded or forgotten clothes, the handmade pieces are comfortable and 100% authentic.
The demand for her designs skyrocketed during the lockdown after which Jasmine decided to pursue designing full-time.
THE TAILORED JOURNAL
THE TAILORED JOURNAL is a homegrown Indian label founded by Samantha Ferreira. This project, according to her, is a modest attempt in combining her interest in fashion and expertise in garment construction, in the most sustainable and conscious manner.
THE TAILORED JOURNAL as a brand is challenging waste culture and gives meaning to the definition of ‘up-cycling.’ Ferreira delivers trendy and fashion-forward clothing from concept to product solely by up-cycling old garments, waste fabrics and discarded materials. She cuts, deconstructs, repurposes and patches together pieces of fabric to create wealth from waste.
Harbouring over 1.8k followers on THE TAILORED JOURNAL Instagram handle and 13.9k on her personal account, Ferreira's audience loves the transparency of her projects. She documents the entire design process from the cutting and sewing to styling the outfits.
The talented designer can turn an old jumpsuit into a stylish trendy romper, three cute tops from an old and discarded dress and can put together a 2 piece coordinate set from an unwanted pair of joggers!
SAINT N HILLY
Also challenging the waste culture and jumping on the ‘up-cycling’ bandwagon is another local homegrown brand, SAINT N HILLY. The brand up-cycles, reworks and repurposes old and neglected garments, vintage pieces, hand-me-downs and turns them into fun, original and trendy new designs.
She uses pre-loved clothing and leftover scrap fabric to create garments and give them a second chance by cutting, deconstructing, patching and sewing. The brand has developed a USP by embellishing and accessorising each piece to make them completely authentic.
Patchwork has always been a huge trend in fashion and runways and recently it has been coined as the ‘ultimate lockdown look.’
MATA COMPLEX by Ellie Reeves is one brand that is paving the way for the patchwork trend. Apart from being a full time student at Sheffield Hallam University, UK, the 22-year-old hand makes unique and edgy pieces out of scrap jersey and mesh fabric. Ellie’s way of creating pieces together fabrics that one would never think to and joins them together by raw, jagged and unfinished hemming, tied together with criss-cross lacing. According to Vogue, "her designs are like looking into a nuclear, candied kaleidoscope of double-tap bait."
She works with colour and texture more so than technicality. Graced by the appreciation of many celebrities, Reeves’ trippy version of patchwork has become so popular, that her designs are known to sell out in less than 15 minutes!
The extremely creative and talented Ellie has opened doors to different capacities of patchwork and the intricate one-of-one designs gained most momentum during the lockdown.
With the clock ticking, it is crucial that the fashion industry coherently makes conscious effort to make the entire system more eco-minded. Currently on the right path, it is these homegrown brands and individual label ventures that are paving the way for a more reliable future, and we can't wait to see what they come up with next.