Sunday, 15 August 2010



Organic cotton trousers, jute bags, vegetable dyed dresses, fairly traded – these words might not sound as sexy but fashion brands and designers are now making high fashion and couture lines keeping the environment in mind.
Designers and brands world over are now creating eco-friendly products to make our closets prettier and safer. The world’s consumption rate today is undeniably something to worry about. Products are discarded before they are entirely consumed. In times of rapid consumption and the deteriorating environmental conditions what is the most important thing we need? The obvious answer is eco-friendly products. The use of eco-friendly or ‘going green’ products is an important step in protecting the environment. And these eco-friendly products not only help the environment but also protect the consumer. The use of garments made by organic fabrics not only helps protect the environment from pollution, it also reduces the skin related health issues due to various dyes used in clothes and their reaction to the fibres in various climates,” says Vikash Kumar, Senior Merchandiser, Men’s Department, Gokuldas Images.

The fashion industry is now doing its part in promoting eco-friendly products and many brands are now producing lines using fabrics that are organically grown and using socially responsible manufacturing processes. One of the companies leading the green revolution is Van Heusen. Janet Arole, Media Relations Executive at Van Heusen spoke on the subject of eco-fashion and their recently launched eco-friendly clothing line. “Limited resources and increasing productivity has put the natural environment around us under tremendous pressure. Mother Nature is straining to stay alive. Reason enough for Van Heusen to get serious about the eco friendly path,” says J. Arole.  They have launched a line of formal, semi-formal and casual shirts for both men and women in various styles and colours.


The question to ask is can eco-friendly fashion be regarded as trendy? There is not much experimentation with looks due to the simple nature of fabrics used to produce these lines and not many people like wearing clothes made by organic cotton or hemp for example. Eco-fashion is not a compromise; the reality is that everyone is learning to work around its constraints,” says J. Arole. According to her, eco-fashion is an extremely misunderstood concept and as long as you are giving the consumer what they want it’s alright to use these techniques. “Consumers are more than happy to choose the eco option as long as there is no compromise on the look and feel of the garment,” she added.

But what is eco-friendly fashion really and how is it different from other produced garments? It is a kind of fashion that has addressed the needs of the environment as well as socially responsible working conditions. Garments that are produced or made with organic fabrics such as cotton, jute or hemp are considered eco-fashion. The style of such clothing can often range from activewear, outerwear and even haute couture. The fabrics that are grown for these garments are free of any pesticides. There has been growing evidence that chemicals often remain in fibres while growing the fabric. Thus non usage of these not only protects the environment but also the wearer. “Another element of eco fashion has to do with the way the clothing is manufactured and sold. If the employees making the clothing are not paid a livable wage, or if the working conditions are substandard and hazardous, the clothing fails the free trade practices test,”

The labour which is involved in making these garments have to be given their due share. “A final test of true eco fashion is whether the company is giving back to the community. Are they setting aside a certain portion of their profits for charities or environmental action? Are they working to improve the lives of so-called Third World employees making the garments? Are they planting trees for catalogs or supporting local (or remote) schools? One of the tenants of the eco lifestyle is recognizing the interconnectedness of the earth and its people, and sharing the bounty with those in need,”
How is Van Heusen doing their bit to keep up with the eco-friendly laws of manufacturing and production? Van Heusen uses organic cotton to make the shirts for their eco line. “The shirts are made from 100% organic cotton, which is grown in the most natural conditions. Every care has been taken to ensure that no artificial or chemical substances are used. This ensures that soil cycles are protected, not just helping ecologically but also helping humanity at large,” says Janet. The company’s policy of production also includes taking extra care of the manufacturing process of the fabric. “Something as small as weed removal also has been done physically without reliance on chemical killers. Balancing the population of insects by using trap crops to lure pests away is just another example of how committed Van Heusen is to its eco line of shirts. And what better way to reap the benefits of these efforts than to follow natural cycles and harvest the cotton when it’s fully ready,” she added. The company is also doing their bit by donating 1% of every item sold in their eco-friendly range to charity.
Along with popular fashion brands both internationally and in our country fashion designers have also given this issue a lot of importance. Internationally designers such as Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Narciso Rodriguez, and Versace have taken to the path of organic lines. In 2008 at New York Fashion Week “ instead of using traditional fabrics like silk and cashmere, designers sent out clothing cut from sasawashi (a Japanese fabric made from paper and herbs), peace silk (a process that lets silkworms live out their full life cycle) and hemp. In a dramatic visual representation of recycling, Belgian designer Martin Margiela draped three vintage wedding dresses over a bustier to make a stunning ball gown,” said Anna Kuchment on Whilst the term eco-friendly fashion might have been a well known and tried concept in the West our Indian designers have not been far behind in a mission to support the environment. The term was made popular when fashion designer Anita Dongre launched her collection ‘Grassroot’ at Wills India Fashion Week. Since then on other fashion designers such as Narendra Kumar, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rocky S and Naina Shah have also jumped on the environmental bandwagon.


Van Heusen had also launched the first ever mens fashion week in India in 2009, called Van Heusen India Mens Week. “It was overwhelming to see the kind of response we received in the first year of Van Heusen India Mens Week. Van Heusen India Mens Week in its 2nd year is bigger in terms of more shows, more designers, and a larger platform for fresh talent. Our endeavour each year is to make VHIMW a coveted Fashion/Lifestyle event,” says Janet. She also said upon being asked about which designers would be showcasing their collections this year in the show that it was too early to say. So would we be expecting an ‘eco-fashion’ theme in this year’s edition of the fashion week? Only time will tell.
With an already successful line of eco-friendly shirts would they be extending their eco techniques into other lines of clothing as well? “At this point, we’re still on the learning curve, and may be premature to say that we will extend to all other lines immediately. However, the long term vision is to try and extend the eco promise to a much wider level,” says Janet. The company also realises that eco-fashion being very newly commercial in the market will take a little time before it reaches its true potential. “While Eco fashion has trickled down mainstream fashion, it still represents a very small percentage of the market,” she added.
(Model walking at Van Heusen India Mens Week)

Images Courtesy: Van Heusen, Google.


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