The fashion industry today is a significant contributor to climate change and the degradation of the environment. It has been following a traditional linear “take, make, waste” model for decades, creating insurmountable pressure on exhaustible resources. The raw material in this system is collected, transformed into new products and is used until discarded as waste. Value is created in this system by producing and selling as many products as possible.
Fashion brands are now producing up to 52 new collections every year, to give consumers something new to buy each time they visit the website or walk into a store. To make people buy more clothes than they need, creating the concept of ‘planned obsolescence’. This means designing garments to become unfashionable, wear out, loose shape or develop holes easily to force consumers to keep buying new clothes.
We have made consumers believe that these products are extremely disposable by decades of trend-based advertising and influencer marketing, creating a glamorous facade for the fashion industry that disconnects consumers with what goes into making fashion. We are using these products much lesser and discarding them far quicker than ever before.
This disastrous linear model together with a growing population is expected to increase the global garment production by 63% in 2030. We are already producing close to 80-100 billion garments each year, sending close to 57% of our consumption to landfills and unapologetically depleting natural resources at an alarming rate.
Does this mean buying only essentials is the solution?
Fashion may not seem to be an essential industry beyond basics, but it is extremely important for a healthy economy. It is still one of the top five employers in the world today. Livelihood of billions of people around the globe depend on sales in the apparel and lifestyle industry.
It is imperative to make a change towards conscious consumerism as well as production, steering away from the linear to a circular fashion economy.
A circular economy is a system of closed loops in which raw materials, components and products lose as little value as possible. Renewable energy sources are used to create products in this ecosystem. At the core of this economy is a holistic approach to analyse the impact of each component of the organisation in the long run.
What We Do At Doodlage
The scale of the problem is overwhelming for any small brand to build something completely circular ground up with limited funds. We created our first collection for Doodlage with our personal savings in 2014 and have spent a lot of time understanding various layers of the problem, finding solutions and identifying various stakeholders to help us build a solid foundation.
What we have been able to achieve so far
Problem 1: Every fast-paced garment production unit discards anything between 16-20% of solid fabric from their total consumption.
Solution: We create well finished premium clothes out of this refuse; cutting waste, defected fabrics and surplus fabric. We add value to this fabric by carefully paneling, patching or embroidering over defects to hide and fix these flaws, allowing us to save large quantities of fabric from ending up in landfills or down-cycling.
Problem 2: Post-consumer waste - At least 57% of used garment waste ends up in landfills and sits there to add carbon emissions, while 100% of garments can be recycled. Using recycled fabrics can reduce the pressure on our environment to grow virgin resource intensive fabrics like cotton in such high quantities.
Solution: We use these fabrics to create our recycled collections. Garments unfit to be resold or upcycled are shredded to create fibre. This fibre based on the quality of raw material is used for various purposes. We source the yarns made from this fibre that is fit to make clothes to create fresh recycled fabric which is then used to create our collections.
Another source of our recycled fabric is post cutting scrap from factories. Fabric scrap that is too small to be converted into a product is shredded back to fibre stage to weave fresh yarns. This is also used to make fabrics for our garments.
Short recycled fibre mostly needs to be blended with another fibre; we use organic cotton or recycled polyester to add strength to the fabric.
Zero waste - Taking care of industrial refuse is only a part of our solution, Separating our own fabric waste is step three. We shred this waste and create textured panels. These textures are finally converted into our zero waste accessories and home collections.
The remaining waste is then recycled into '100% Recycled' paper for our accessories; 'Made From Fabric Waste' notebooks, notepads and sketchbooks.
That’s not all:
Our packaging - Offline or online, fashion packaging with limited alternatives available adds a lot of single use plastic waste. We struggle with our shipments too. To keep our parcels safe we use a combination of starch bags, recycled corrugated cardboard, butter paper and reusable drawstring bags to avoid plastics.
B2B services - To scale our impact we collaborated with large scale organisations for corporate orders. We have worked with several brands in the last 5 years including FabIndia, Penguin India, Deutsche Welles, Say It with a pin and Kompanero. We work with anything from packaging event merchandise and corporate gifts to up-cycled and recycled co-created collections.
Units we work with - It is also important to ensure that the garments created are made in units where artisans are treated with dignity, paid a fair wage and have a clean workspace.
We are now working to raise funds to scale what we have achieved so far and hope to expand into swap events, create repair workshops and resale of garments to invest in alternate fashion economies.
Attend our upcoming webinar to hear more from Paras: