Sustainability is the new style statement

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on September 20, 2019

Wearing change: Models in wood-based natural fibres from the Tencel brand and Yolo brand from W

Wearing change: Models in wood-based natural fibres from the Tencel brand and Yolo brand from W

Doing it: The Body Shop’s artwork of a female Indian waste-picker using recycled plastic from Bengaluru

Measure for measure ‘one glass water denims’ from Numero Uno

As global action against climate change mounts, more brands step up on eco-consciousness

Today (September 20), young people from around the world are taking part in a massive coordinated action against governments and businesses — raising their voice against inaction on climate change. As the protest of the young, led by teen activists like Greta Thunberg, rises in decibel, companies have no choice but to embrace sustainability. It has become key to business success.

As Rishabh Oswal, Executive Director at apparel brand Monte Carlo, points out, shoppers prefer to spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand. “In keeping with this trend, various retail clothing brands are going sustainable,” he says. According to him, sustainable fabrics like organic cotton, abolishing the use of animal fur, reusing previous collections and sourcing ethically are the trends shaping the new drapes of clothing brands.

Green glam

Indeed, if you look at catwalks of fashion events across the world, green is the new glam. At the Milan fashion show this week, where United Colors of Benetton showcased its Spring/Summer 2020 line with the sea, water and sailing as its theme, Popeye the Sailor Man made an appearance in its collection, serving as its “green” ambassador. Popeye is depicted as putting his fabled strength to protect oceans.

Benetton also dived into the sustainability pool showcasing a trench coat made of paper and recycled fibres and talking about the non-toxic natural dyes it uses.

The green trend is also borne out by measurement company Nielsen which reports that sustainable product sales worldwide have grown 20 per cent since 2014. Products that are eco-friendly and organic are leading the charge. At the same time, conventional product sales have dropped.

For apparel retailers, sustainability has become the new style statement. Take Marks & Spencer, which has been working with Lenzing AG, pioneers in wood-based natural fibres using its Tencel brand for various categories like denims, tops and innerwear. Tencel fibres are naturally wrinkle-resistant and biodegradable, says Avinash Mane, Commercial Head-South Asia, at Lenzing Group, and its distinguishable features include “being softer than silk, more absorbent than cotton and cooler than linen.”

According to Mane, the source of the wood here are sustainably managed forests, hence ensuring no damage to nature. Lenzing also has EcoVero — a sustainable viscose fibre brand that is certified with an EU Ecolabel.

Clothing labels like W, the women’s apparel brand, are upping their green quotient too. W launched its spring summer collection in association with Livaeco, the fashion fabric brand of the Aditya Birla group, which embodies sustainability.

Anant Daga, Managing Director, TCNS Clothing Co Ltd (which owns the W brand), says, “Brands today have a great role to play in contributing towards a sustainable future and our association with Livaeco is one such step, where we have tried to convert goals to sustainable results.” W has tailored the ‘Yolo Dress’ in partnership with Livaeco which, it says, uses fibres that reduce carbon footprint.

Another brand that has adopted a sustainable fashion approach is Numero Uno, an indigenously manufactured denim label.

The brand recently launched ‘one glass water denims’. Traditionally a pair of jeans requires 70 litres of water to complete the washing and finishing process, but Numero Uno’s new sustainable process has ensured reduction in water and chemical consumption to just one glass of water.




Says Narinder Singh, CMD, Numero Uno, “We believe we can create attractive looking denims and protect our natural resources at the same time. This collection is an initiative towards revolutionising the harmful impact on the environment with the industrial wash processes of making jeans.”

Don’t throw away

A white paper from market research company Euromonitor International states that one-fifth of the global consumer population now prefer to repair damaged items, with consumers saying no to the throwaway culture. This shift in consumer behaviour is leading brands to respond accordingly. For instance, Marks & Spencer has a yearly clothes exchange programme urging customers to bring back their old apparel. For every drop-off, customers get a ₹600 voucher that can be used for their next purchase.

British cosmetics company, The Body Shop, recently launched its first Community Trade (CT) recycled plastic from Bengaluru. Aiming to do more than merely fight plastic pollution, the company is looking to drive social change.

To mark the launch, the company unveiled a giant artwork of a female Indian waste-picker in London’s Borough Market, which was made using recycled plastic collected by waste-pickers in Bengaluru.

Community Trade is The Body Shop’s bespoke and independently-verified fair trade programme. The Body Shop has also started using CT recycled plastic in its 250 ml haircare bottles. The company said this year it will purchase 250 tonnes of CT recycled plastic to use in nearly three million 250 ml haircare bottles. The bottles will contain 100 per cent recycled plastic (excluding the bottle caps). While 15 per cent of that will be CT recycled plastic, the remainder will be recycled plastic from European sources.

Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop India, said over the course of the next three years, The Body Shop Plastic for Change Initiative aims to support 2,500 waste-pickers by selling recycled plastic at a fair price on the global market. “The Body Shop is incorporating 100 per cent post-consumer recycled (PCR) material into some of our 60 ml, 250 ml and 750 ml bottles. This accounts for approximately 580 tonnes of new plastic saved every year.”

In India, The Body Shop has launched its in-store recycling programme: BBOB (Bring Back Our Bottles), encouraging customers to return empty plastic packaging in stores for recycling. It is currently operational across 40 stores and will soon go pan-India.

Rewards and incentives

Increasingly, brands are also rewarding consumers for sustainable behaviour. Take MAC Cosmetics, which has been accepting returns of its primary packaging through its ‘Back to MAC’ programme.

Consumers who return six MAC primary packaging containers to a MAC counter stand to receive a free MAC lipstick as a token of appreciation. Similarly, Liva, from the house of Aditya Birla, has a plantable green tag. An initiative to be in the forefront of sustainable business practice and instil awareness amongst consumers about sustainable fashion, the tag is created using seed paper made from recycled biodegradable fibres. Post soaking in water for 5-6 hours, it can be sowed in soil.

South Korean cosmetics brand Innisfree has an eco-handkerchief, with the brand saying the simple act of using a handkerchief instead of tissue will help save trees, protect forests and reduce global warming. Cosmetics retailer Kielh’s has a ‘recycle and get rewarded’ programme. A full-size product receives a stamp and once 10 stamps are collected, the customer is given a reward. Green marketing is meeting green consumerism all the way.

Published on September 20, 2019

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