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Winning the fashion race

Posted October 1st, 2018, 10:33 AM IST

Winning the fashion race

Actress Emma Watson recently shared a shocking statistic when she posted on Instagram about a study conducted by a UK-based clothing charity called Triad. She revealed that 23% of the clothes in London, which amounts to 123 million items, were unworn, and she encouraged her followers to give away or swap clothing that they didn’t think they’d wear anymore.

The UN ambassador, who has been championing the cause of sustainable fashion for over a decade now, wrote, “Passing on our clothes means supporting UN SDG (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) 12: Responsible Consumption and production.” We find out if this trend can ever present a real match to the dreaded fast-fashion that plagues the fashion industry and the environment.

According to designer Uma Prajapti, even though exchanging clothes is a great idea, it’s a difficult one to sell to the Indian consumer. “Culturally, we do not wear hand-me-downs, unless they’re heirlooms handed down to us by our mothers and grandmothers. Though swapping clothes makes sense in theory. Fashion-wise, I do not know if it will work out. We’ll have to wait and watch,” she says.

Alia Bhatt has been a poster girl for wardrobe-sharing for a while now. Earlier this year, she auctioned off items from her wardrobe that she hadn’t worn more than once or that did not fit her anymore, donating the proceeds to a charity. She spoke about how she was an impulsive buyer, but not a hoarder, and said that she didn’t have to think twice before parting with clothing items.

But is swapping really a viable option, given the various different sizes and shapes that Indian women come in? “Why not? Yes, it may take a bit of effort and styling. If you are swapping clothes, you just need to find a good tailor who can make alternations in them. Or else, you can always mix-and-match the clothes and style them to look good on you. Don’t wear ill-fitted clothes, just play around with the shapes and silhouettes,” says city-based designer Ganesh Nallari

Meanwhile, designer Nida Mahmood says that clothes-swapping has been in practice for ages. “Best friends have been exchanging clothes forever. I feel this trend will contribute only in a minuscule way to the sustainable fashion movement. A couple of celebrities will come on board, sell or swap clothes, and that’s about it. Instead, if you want to counter fast-fashion, you can take on some do-it-yourself projects or donate your old clothes to an NGO,” she says.

Ganesh agrees that do-it-yourself projects and upcycling are the way to go. “Don’t throw away that old t-shirt,” he urges, “Make a bag out of it, or a cushion cover! DIY projects are one of the best ways to cope with cheap fast, ever-evolving fashion.” Another strategy aimed at reducing wastage in the fashion industry is the use of scrap fabric to produce items of value. “At Upasana’s Tsunamica a tsunami-relief project aimed at providing fisherwomen with an alternate source of livelihood, we do not believe in scraps. We have not thrown out any scraps in the past 15 years. We use leftover cloth to make dolls and give them away as part of our ‘gift economy’. We have made 15 million dolls to date,” explains Uma.

But it’s important to understand that sustainable fashion does come at a cost, and it can’t compare with fast fashion in terms of prices. Getting a tailor to alter swapped clothes may cost you a bit, but think of it as an alternative to investing in new clothes that you may not end up wearing too often.