“Your purchasing power is your vote for the kind of fashion you want.”

In conversation with Summerhouse

We spoke to Shivangini Padhiyar of Summerhouse and Rekha Datla, who is the co-founder, about their thoughts on the current scene about sustainability in the country, what brands are doing, what consumers can do and more.

Q. How long has Summerhouse been around for? And how do you perceive the industry to have changed since you first started?

A. We started in February, 2016, so we’ve been around for six years. The industry has changed considerably since we started because when we got into it I don’t think there were many people aware of sustainable fashion or even slow fashion. It was very limited to designer wear but not much for everyday living. Now there are many options and hopefully there will be more. So definitely a huge shift.

Q. What are the main problems you see in the fashion sector today vis-a-vis sustainability?

A. The biggest problem for sustainability is awareness. The awareness is very low. While more and more people are getting to know about it, we have to understand that it’s still less than 1% of the fashion business in India. It is limited to urban crowds, to the younger lot who are aware of the world problems. The slightly older people in their 30s or 40s are willing to make that shift and still very stuck to trends.

So the biggest problem we face is awareness of sustainable fashion and the ‘why’ it’s important to spend that little extra money to get a good well made garment that has a lower carbon footprint and does good for the society as well

Q. Given that many brands are now being accused of greenwashing, how are the more conscious brands like yours implementing change within the sector?

A. It’s true that many brands have been accused of greenwashing but that simply goes on to say that brands want to be seen as eco-friendly and sustainable because the demand is there. This gives us hope to be honest.

We’re doing it by being true to sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint, which is basically to source materials that are more local, the dyeing processes are earth friendly with waste water management, azo free, use handwoven & handmade fabrics, make really good quality garments that last many years to come. So I think there are a lot of ways. Sadly at the moment there is no easy way to measure sustainability or carbon footprint as such but I’d like to believe that most of the conscious brands don’t green wash the smaller ones and we all put in our best effort and do the right thing

Q. How do you inspire your customers to continue to invest in sustainable wear?

A. We inspire our customers to continue to invest in sustainable wear just by making great looking clothes because the fact is it is a vanity project and people buy clothes that made them look good and feel good. So while we are using sustainable processes, we make sure that our clothes focus on this part.

Q. Which brands would you recommend in India to imbibe the truest form of sustainability?

A. We recommend ourselves 🙂

We also recommend No Nasties, which is also one of the earliest brands to get into sustainable fashion. Then there is Shuffling Suitcases which is a great marketplace to find sustainable brands. For kids, there’s Love the World Today; they do really good kidswear.

Q. How can we as consumers drive more pressure for sustainability in fashion?

A. We can drive more pressure for sustainability in fashion simply by buying sustainable fashion over fast fashion. Don’t go for quick discounted deals. Save that money and buy one good piece of clothing. Your purchasing power is your vote for the kind of fashion you want.

Q. And lastly, how do you envision the sector evolving? Are you hopeful?

A. Yes, we are hopeful. But we’re also very aware of the fact that it’s a slow process. If we live in a cocoon and think oh my god everyone’s talking about it, we’re not going to do enough. Everyone’s talking about it but nobody is really committed to it. The committed segment is really small. In terms of how we envision this sector to grow; it is growing at a great rate but I think it’ll take another 10-15 years for sustainable fashion to become mainstream fashion.

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