Clothes made from trash are increasingly making an appearance on Indian catwalks and in wardrobes as designers get innovative with sustainable alternatives. The trend towards slow fashion is the result of growing awareness about how synthetic clothing is contributing to pollution. Globally, more than 60% of clothes are made with synthetic fabrics such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon, which shed thousands of microscopic fibers with each wash, leaching these into the water supply and the oceans, where they are ingested by marine life. Doodlage was a contender for India’s first Circular Design challenge at the recent Lakme Fashion Week, which focused on brands working with materials upcycled from diverse sources of waste.
The shortlisted contestants presented men’s shirts made from recycled plastic collected from Goa’s beaches; handbags and wallets made from recycled polyethylene bags, accessories from old saris, and clothes from discarded fabric waste. This week, ITC Wills Lifestyle announced it would make garments made from materials that are natural and fully biodegradable, becoming the first mainstream Indian apparel brand to go completely natural. A growing number of international brands are now using recycled plastic. Adidas has partnered with environmental NGO Parley for the Oceans to create a line of sneakers from plastics collected from clean-ups in the Indian Ocean. In 2018, it sold five million pairs and plans to manufacture 11 million in 2019. Swimwear company Speedo, and smaller Indian brands such as The Summer House are producing swimsuits from Econyl, a fabric made from fishing nets and gear abandoned in oceans.
Even fast-fashion brands like H&M are highlighting innovative sustainable fabrics such as Econyl in its annual ‘Conscious exclusive’ collections. Today, 57% of the materials that the H&M group uses to make clothes are organic, recycled or other sustainable materials. Our goal is to increase the share of sustainable materials every year. Meanwhile, homegrown performance brand Alcis Sports sells over 20,000 T-shirts made from recycled polyester every month. Each T-shirt is made of eight PET plastic bottles and uses 70% less energy and 90% less water. The bottles are sourced from ragpickers in Mumbai and plastic waste in the Himalayas, processed and converted to ‘RPET’ fabric. Today, nearly 50% of Alcis products, including apparel such as track pants and shorts, are made from recycled polyester.