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Our December blog series is dedicated to exploring the trends and shifts on the fashion landscape that may be mere blips today, but have the potential to be a full-blown revolution very soon. Our first blog in the series discusses sustainable textile options.

In a TED talk that has since been watch close to a million times, UPS’s Aparna Mehta makes a strong case for buying less and returning even less of clothing. As it turns out, one man’s fashion is another man’s trash. This doesn’t, however, apply on the retail end of things alone. Some studies show that thousands of gallons of water go into making one denim outfit, quantities that we as a planet just cannot afford anymore.

Stella McCartney has come out and taken a stand against fast fashion. Other influencers are following suit. In this scenario, it is worth thinking about sustainable garments from two perspectives. One, sustainable clothing is better for the planet. Two, sustainable clothing really is the future for every fashion business, and the sooner you get started, the better it is for you.

Luckily for us, there are several alternatives to the textiles we now use, and most of them perform at par, if not better than, their traditional counterparts.

  • Alternatives to Silk: Perhaps fashion’s guiltiest pleasure, and one that doesn’t get as much of a bad rep as using animal hide is the making of silk. Apart from the process itself, Human rights Watch reports that over 3,50,000 children are employed in the industry.  Luckily, some alternatives have been found, and they are soon gaining prominence. Jute silk and silk derived from other plant fibers are finding acceptance. Ahimsa silk is an Indian innovation of waiting for the silkworm to evacuate its silken residence before using the cocoons for their yarn. IndiaBride and The Ethical Silk Company are just a few brands that are pioneering the use of sustainable silk.
  • Alternatives to Cotton: Cotton is one of the most resource-heavycrops to grow. The pesticides and insect repellants used for cotton production often stay in the environment and the soil for many decades to come. One way to reduce the impact of cotton growing is to use organic cotton. Fornow, it is fairly expensive. However, as with all organic product, a rise indemand can quickly increase the supply capabilities and reduce prices.California based Synergy clothing uses organic cotton, as well as cottonblended with help and bamboo to design their clothing. What’s more, they usenatural dyes and follow a fair-trade policy that keeps everyone in the supplychain happy.      
  • Alternatives to Synthetic Textiles: Nylon, polyester,and acrylic are some of the biggest pollutants ever produced. Some reportssuggest that even washing these clothes can leech microplastics into our oceansand permanently change the quality of water. It is rather inconvenient, then,that synthetic textiles are also cheap and easy to mass-produce.  Making a switch away from synthetic clothing needs to be a conscious choiceacross the supply chain. Isolated efforts have begun to use bamboo, jute, andhemp as alternatives. Fabric made from these materials is often much morebreathable as well. The key, of course, is in generating enough demand.
  • Alternatives To Commercial Wool: As a textile,wool has many benefits. It generates warmth, wicks away moisture and ishypoallergenic as well. However, commercial practice has driven wool-farmingtowards crowded shelters and animals with very little immunity. Ethical wool is obtained from animals that have been raised on a natural farmin humane conditions, which naturally increases the animals’ immunity andlongevity, as well as the quality of wool itself. Organic wool is often alsodyed with natural dyes, making it that much more suitable for people who areallergic to chemical dyes.

Which of these materials would you want to experiment with in your next collection? What would be your biggest hindrance to doing so?

Supriya Ghurye is the founder and owner of Fuel4Fashion. She is a Freelance Fashion Designer and Brand Consultant helping fashion brands to create great products from idea to launch. Fuel4Fashion social links:  TwitterPinterestInstagram