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Sustainable fashion: “We need laws that make commitments more binding” | Rethinking sustainability

 Sustainable fashion:

It seems like it has never been cheaper to get a new wardrobe, but our love of fashion is combined with a great environmental price tag like according to the World Bankthe industry produces 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions each year.

To try to solve the problem, c UN Climate Charter Charterwhich was launched in 2018 and was rebuilt in 2021 at Cop26, has set a goal of net zero emissions by 2050. But when Dr. Why Kuppuswami, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Hertfordshire, read it, she noticed what was missing.

Dr. Why Kuppus

“There is not a single South Asian fashion house that has signed the charter. The sari industry is worth billions of dollars. So, if we want to look at reducing emissions, it is very important to consider the textiles and fabrics of South Asia. “

Brands that are signed The Charter seeks to support the implementation of its principles in its organizations.

International Lawyer for Education, a Kuppus study for the University Center for Climate Change Research, explores the intersection of law, climate change, sustainability and the environment.

At the national level, South Asian fashion is also being ignored, says Kuppuswami, who is interested in textile waste. For the purpose of India’s emissions by 2030, for example, fashion is not mentioned. “There’s a blind spot,” she says. “If the fashion charter does not cover Indian fashion, this part of the emissions will not be regulated.”

One of the branches of the clothing industry that particularly interested her is related to costumes and performance. She therefore embarked on an eight-month project, funded by the Arts Council of England, to develop a Fashion Charter for South Asian Arts.

Focusing on British artists, performers and retailers working in a global network, and drawing on her own experience as a South Asian classical dance performer, she explored consumption and design habits. For example, how often to wear suits, what materials they are made of and so on.

Kuppuswami notes that fashion is largely unregulated when it comes to textile use and sustainability – the existing fashion law in both the UK and India is business-oriented and focuses on areas such as copyright and design.

In India, she says, one law has indirectly helped reduce textile waste. “In 2014, a law was passed to protect street vendors from recycling, which also indirectly protected the sale of recycled clothing. It ensures the safety of clothing for many people, but also contributes to the durability of the fabric. ”

Sewing machines and sewing tools at a textile factory
The fashion industry is largely unregulated when it comes to textile use and sustainability. Photo: triloks / Getty Images

She argues that governments need to strengthen laws on the use of sustainable materials as well as carbon emissions in the textile industry. “We need government policies and laws that make fashion commitments more binding,” she says. “If we want to achieve our goals, we need a framework of accountability that we can use in the courts. Voluntary commitments are simply not enough. “

As part of her work on the South Asian Fashion Charter, she has developed ideas that are also applicable to those working in the wider fashion industry. “The suit is a niche area, but the base material is used much more widely,” she says. “More sustainability discussions in this area will have a duct effect on conventional fashion.”

Here are her three main findings and recommendations:

Design flexible clothing to reduce excessive shopping
Kuppus spoke with several artists and performers who noticed a tendency to increase the number of outfits for each performance. “Previously, two costumes were used for each performance; now it’s four or five. One dancer mentioned that five years ago her peers switched between two or three costumes – now, partly because of Instagram, they feel the need to have new things every week.

To reduce this growing overconsumption – something with obvious parallels in other parts of the fashion industry – costume designers need to develop flexible clothing. “Think about and suggest options that allow you to mix and match more,” she says. “Make choices that allow for better use for five years, such as changing body shapes. To do this, designers need to spend time with the customer – to talk about their aspirations for the suit.

Increase knowledge sharing
Elite designers in cities like New Delhi are doing some “fantastic work” on sustainability, but it has yet to penetrate dance schools and regional design tailors. “So now we have expensive cutting edge, and separately, designer tailors. There should be more cooperation between them, ”Kuppusvi said. She hopes to expand cooperation and share knowledge through the Charter of Fashion for the Arts of South Asia.

Use more variety of materials
Kuppuswami says that costume designers need to be more willing to work with different materials. Many, for example, refuse to work with ethically made silk because they cannot guarantee that the desired effect will be achieved with ready-made clothes.

At the same time, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to make cheaper synthetic materials such as polyester. She adds that at the moment it is important not to forget about ethical standards and fair trade, saying that too few designers take this into account.

Learn more about a game that changes multidisciplinary research in Herts as they deepen understanding of climate change and help combat environmental emergencies.

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