As consumers, our purchasing power is strong. The more money that is spent on clothing that has been sustainably produced, the more the fashion industry will be forced to shift its production practices. The question remains, where can you find these alternatives?
Do U Speak Green is India’s first eco-friendly webstore that crafts clothing from organic bamboo and cotton fabrics, in a certified Fair Trade factory. The company dedicates 10 per cent of its sales to environmental conservation, specifically to the Bombay Natural History Society. Do U Speak Green is concerned about India’s land being doused in pesticides, and supports its farmers to earn stable income – their shipping is also free nationwide.
myGREENkart's focus is not solely organic apparel, they offer a wide variety of wonderful items on their website from organic foods to paraben-free herbal cosmetics to recycled eco-friendly home decor. My Green Cart was interested in making sustainable living an easy choice for customers. All the products on offer are organic, natural or herbal, energy-saving, or created through renewable energies, are handmade, and contribute to a healthier home. These products are created by NGOs or are contributing a stipend to NGOs so that whatever you purchase supports an important cause.
Assisi Garments is more of a humanitarian organisation that sells clothing, than a clothing company that sells a humanitarian ideal. Apart from selling a host of handsome organic cotton clothing options, Assisi also dedicates itself to the rehabilitation of the underprivileged by running schools for the deaf, dumb and blind, homes for the elderly and orphaned across India, and a hospital for those afflicted by leprosy. In addition to this, Assisi supports a cancer hospital and has set up a HIV treatment centre. Through their work they aim to empower women, have already positively affected the lived of over 1500 women.
Green the Gap undoubtedly has one of the most creative approaches to garments. Employing a dozen tailors on a full-time basis, they transform old tyres, tetra packs, waste cloths, waste leather and other materials into new products. The tailors are all from disadvantaged backgrounds, and were looking for better working conditions compared to their previous posts in larger factories in Delhi. Now instead of working long hours, at low pay, with strict production targets; these highly-skilled tailors earn fair remuneration and work in comfortably as part of a friendly and small team.
For something with a feminine flair, you may want to check out Mata Traders. This Fair Trade shop specifies in handmade designs by women cooperatives and artisan groups in India and Nepal. The producers are paid fair wages, work safely, either at home or in small workshops rather than factories, and are offered day care, medical check-ups and are paid over-time. The fabrics used are block printed by hand using eco-friendly vegetable dyes and made through traditional artisan craftsmanship.
Green N Good is another online shop you are going to want to click through. You will find a veritable treasure trove of eco-friendly goods: organic products, natural products, herbal products, ayurvedic products, fair trade products, ethically sourced and ethically made products and eco-friendly products. The site is ridiculously easy to navigate (yet, still, we found ourselves lost among all product choices), there is a plenty on offer and the store home delivers.
You can also buy clothing second hand. Vintage looks fly but is not always easy to come by. There are however many other good-value-used products you can pick up for a fraction of the original price.
Shop N Pick is an online second hand shopping mart, where you can find everything from electronics to furniture.
If you live in Bangalore, you may want to stop by Second to None Bangalore. The founders of the Second to None group focus on recycling and reuse to try and make a difference in the way we consume and dispose, which has a direct impact on our environment. Their flea markets are held at Jaaga, KH road (one of the few to be held in the heart of the city), and is well worth a visit. You can find all kinds of up-cycled, recycled, reclaimed, and second hand goods - nothing new is sold! If you are interested in selling some of your old belongings at the market you can sign up here, the next market will take place at the end of April.
Thankfully there are always ways to ensure that what we wear is sustainably and equitably made, here’s how:
- Keep an eye out for fabrics which are crafted from organic and sustainable fibres, such as hemp or bamboo, as well as cotton.
- Is your clothing labelled Fair Trade? If it is, technically you are guaranteed as a buyer that what you are wearing was produced under safe working conditions, and the people who made it for you were paid a fair wage. However, the Fair Trade movement is not without its strong critics and it is always worth doing research into any company labelling itself as Fair Trade.
- To keep a cruelty-free wardrobe you may want to avoid purchasing leather goods and fur. Does it look good? Perhaps, but it’s also the skin of a dead animal!
- Be careful to not buy into trends that are popular one season, and out the other. Why not invest in clothing that you know is timelessly charming and durable instead? Consumerism and wastefulness wears out our planet, and who looks good when the backdrop is ruined?
- Take care of what you buy! Take it to the tailor when it needs fixing, and clean it with care. Washing with biodegradable detergents and cool water will reduce the pollutants you release into the environment and will require less energy.
- Imported fashion has a much larger environmental footprint, support India’s local fashion industry – it’s fantastic!
To learn more about sustainable consumption in India, the Sustainable Shopping Basket is worth a read.