Sustainability - Slow Fashion

Slow Fashion--
Environment - People - Design

As a manufacturer, Mehera Shaw is committed to our fair trade principles and to becoming as sustainable as possible.  What we have realized over the years, is that sustainably has multiple, interwoven areas and to ignore any one area is to overlook the deeper meaning of sustainability, namely how sustainability and slow fashion go hand in hand.

To sustain something means to support it in a way that is ongoing.  To continually renew, regenerate and breathe life into something.  We use the term to refer to life-supporting and interconnected relationships between:

  • human beings
  • the environment
  • design — which itself refers to an interconnection between design/economics/politics/scale/conscious consumerism. 

 

Sustainability is far more than removing pollutants from the garment supply chain. 

It is about giving renewed life to the supply chain.  Sustainability requires understanding the supply chain as a living circle which includes farmers, workers, artisans, buyers and consumers, our human and natural environment, and is a shared support network of trade, knowledge, helpful relationships and solution sharing.

 

The 'People' part

of sustainability is to work toward transparent, supportive networks within our supply chain which show cultural respect, understanding and non-discrimination.  It means making decisions which help people first and taking into consideration everyone’s life situations when making company decisions. 

We are a fair trade manufacturer; this is our labour standard is and is the only way to work. 

We work with artisans as we uphold Gandhi’s principles of decentralized production and self-reliance being in the hands of the people—what we make is made with our hands. Together.

 

The 'Planet' part

of sustainability relates to the environment and involves removing pollutants, reducing energy and resource usage, minimizing waste and finding systems which renew the land, water and natural environment. 

 

To reduce pollutants

we use

  • GOTS certified organic cotton in 95% of our manufacturing.
  • fibre reactive, low-impact dyes which are AZO free and heavy metal free. 
  • hydrogen peroxide for whitening rather than chlorine bleach. 
  • hand loom fabrics, source almost all of our fabrics from India and work directly with local block printers as much as possible to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • low-impact dyes and waste water removal practices. 

 

The ‘Design’ part

of sustainability is about the quality of workmanship, quality of design, the wearability/longevity of a garment, the scale of production and the resulting economics and politics of production and of scale.  It is that complex web of interconnections having to do with how we conceive of a product and how we use it.  It is not enough to say that we are avoiding pollutants or that we follow fair trade practices. 

 

Ultimately, sustainability is about keeping the whole system in balance so that we all have — enough.

 

The Significance of ‘Good Design’

We believe good design is about the lasting power of a garment, is about the scale of production, the cost of goods and affordability of ‘sustainable’ garments and about making sure that everyone in the supply chain sees themselves as part of the circle and finds means to support it. 

  • It means reducing pressure on developing countries to produce at below cost. 
  • It means finds environmental solutions together, using less, wearing things longer and mending things or recycling them. 
  • Ultimately, it means everyone is part of the process of renewal, not just the process of reducing pollution.

 

Slow Fashion – The Significance of ‘Good Design’

We believe good design is about the lasting power of a garment.  It means moving away from trends and thinking of fashion as a commodity, items to be replaced at lightening speed.  It is about moving away from the social pressure to be ‘in’ and moving toward a human connectedness and desire to ensure that everyone has –enough.  Moving toward an aesthetic which embraces creativity and personal expression while recognizing that moderation in consumption is both a value and an aesthetic.

It is about seeing clothing not as a means toward securing popularity, but as a means of telling the human story of the many hands who made it, the human story that brings all of us together.  It is about valuing the longevity in every garment, learning to mend, to share, to recycle and upcycle.  It is also about good design.  Good design is not trendy; it is practical, effortless, wearable and becomes more beautiful the longer its story is told.  So called ‘sustainable’ fashion, which appears as one time evening gowns is not sustainable.  It is the well-loved and well worn dress that I wore through multiple seasons, mended and finally passed on to my daughter, then added bright colored patches to, that has stood the test of time and is part of the deeper human story; it is part of the SLOW FASHION world.  A world where we are human beings first and realize that we can’t couple words like organic and fair trade and artisan with sustainability until we rethink what type of fashion we’re producing, what type of designs, at what speed, with what longevity –and what marketing message.

For any of this to be sustainable, all of us need to rethink what type of clothes we are making and what our responsibility is to make things that will last, stand the test of time, be a part of a person’s wardrobe for years to come and be part of the greater message to humanity. Design which allows those who made it to live decently and those who wear it to be an active part of that human story is the only ‘fashionable’ thing to do.  Making the best use of what we have so that others will have enough is the only road to sustainability.

In essence SLOW FASHION is an intrinsic part of the road to sustainability and to the core principles underlying ethical fashion.  It is a different understanding of art, design, process, durability, longevity and the human story encoded in the garment.

We'd like to share an article by Camilla Wellton on Slow Fashion which addresses the core values of this movement and further addresses how we must work together toward sustainable solutions.

http://camillawellton.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-is-slow-fashion.html

 

Working with Like-Minded People

  • We look to work with people who share this vision, to create transparency in our relationships and develop solutions with everyone in our supply chain. 
  • We seek customers who develop long-lasting, wearable designs (slow fashion) and who will also develop transparent, informative relationships with their end customers. 
  • We consult with customers to find the best choice of fabrics and design so that the end product has more wearability. 
  • We minimize fabric use in all pattern layouts. 
  • We work with our customers to develop upcycled fashion accessories from post-production scrap fabric.

 

Practical Steps Toward Sustainability

 Below we have outlined the benefits of our use of organic cotton, low-impact dyes, hand loom textiles, block prints and fair trade manufacturing, ethical production.  The benefits of all three facets - people, planet, design - together help create a more sustainable world.

 

 

Benefits of Organic Cotton

 

  • It’s better for the environment
  • Growing techniques use less water, maintain soil fertility and build biologically diverse agriculture
  • There is no use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and genetically modified organisms which are toxic and harmful to both farmers and consumers and the wildlife eco system.
  •  Biological means are used to control pests.
  •  Crop rotation is used to replenish the soil.
  •  It’s a positive step toward sustainability: improves the eco system and supply chain
  •  Manual and organic farming practices lower the carbon footprint and allow the renewal of the entire eco system in a sustainable way.
  •  It’s better for farmers in India: improved working conditions and health
  •  India is the worlds largest organic cotton producer.  In an effort to support India’s farmers, we source all of our organic cotton is from India.
  • Both improved social conditions in organic farming in India and avoiding the use of expensive pesticides helps farmers out of the cycle of debt and poverty.
  • Manufacturers of certified organic cotton are required to meet international labour standards regarding minimum wage, child labour, discrimination, working hours (http://www.global-standard.org/the-standard.html)
  •  It avoids GMOs (genetically modified organisms) which pose a potential risk to human health worldwide and increase expenses associated with farming.
  • The end garments are free from pesticides and other toxic residues used in  conventional cotton production.

  

For more information on organic cotton standards, please see the links below:

 

http://www.global-standard.org/the-standard/general-description.html

http://www.global-standard.org/the-standard.html

http://www.ifoam.com/

http://www.soilassociation.org/

http://www.cottonedon.org/

 

  

 

Benefits of Low Impact Dyes

 

  • less harmful to the environment
  • less harmful to human health: both for garment workers and consumers
  • reduces water consumption, particularly in water scare areas such as Jaipur, India

 

http://gots-positivelist.imo.ch/?ip=About

  

Benefits of Handloom (Khadi) Textiles

 

  • supports India’s artisans 
  • shortens the supply chain
  • reduces carbon footprint through hand production
  • promoted skills training for India’s artisan
  • supports Gandhi’s concept of decentralized, small-scale production for India’s rural artisans
  • protects heritage crafts  through Government of India financial assistance for skills training, looms, infrastructure for artisans
  • promots of cooperative societies to improve social and financial situation of India’s artisans
  • supports for women artisans in skills up gradation and increased livelihood generation
  • promotes handloom weavers’ health insurance and welfare schemes available through Government of India programs (http://wcd.nic.in/ww/Bcconppt4.pdf)
  • provides government supported access to markets, financial assistance

 

 

 

Please see the link below for more information on the Government of India, Ministry of Textiles report on hand loom textiles and benefits for Indian artisans:

 

Textile Ministry of India Annual Report

http://texmin.nic.in/annualrep/ar_13_14_english.pdf

  

Benefits of Hand Block Printing

 

  • promotes small-scale, decentralized production
  • maintains cultural identity
  • preserves a national heritage craft of India
  • supports artisan work and skills upgradation
  • promotes artisans’ access to markets
  • promotes cross-cultural understanding
  • reduces the carbon footprint in textile printing
  • reduces energy consumption
  • shortens the supply chain and promotes supportive supply chain relationships

 

Benefits of Upcycling

  • skills upgradation for women artisans
  • women's empowerment
  • reduction of post-production scrap fabric waste into upcycled, valued product
  • supportive message about supply chain cycle

 

Benefits of Fair Trade

  • minimizes environmental footprint
  • supports artisans
  • supports cultural identity
  • supports heritage crafts and artisan traditions
  • minimizes the supply chain length by removing middle men, allowing artisans to speak for themselves
  • provides long-term income security which enables long-term family sustainability

 

 

http://www.fairtrade.net/benefits-of-fairtrade.html

http://www.wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade

 

Our Long-Term Goals Include

  • our own water filtration for our dyeing and printing unit
  • using solar energy for all CMT manufacturing and dyeing work
  • rain water harvesting and  permaculture gardening to minimize water usage and invest in soil renewal
  • more employee benefits: creche, further skills up gradation
  • formation of cooperative artisan groups for block printers, women artisans
  • growing our business and spreading the message of ethical manufacturing
  • more transparency through every portion of the supply chain
  • hosting workshops so that customers can experience and engage in the big picture

 

Achieving Our Goals

We are part of the way toward our goals; we are working toward GOTS certification for our wet processing which is the portion of our own supply chain which involves dyeing and printing of our fabric. 

We are in the process of developing a water filtration system for waste water treatment which will mean we are not dependent on government provided facilities and have more control over removal of dyestuff sludge and the ability to reuse grey water for washing.  We hope to see this project completed by the end of 2015.

As we grow our business, we will gradually add each of these and elements to our ‘big picture’.  We expect that as we move along, our vision will also evolve.