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Sustainable textiles for fashion from India

A recent Centre for Sustainable Fashion project aimed to promote sustainable textiles from India for use within the fashion industry, looking at improving the sustainability of textile production in India and how the lessons learnt could be applied around the world.

sustainable fabrics

The Shared Talent India project was funded by Defra and is part of a wider body of work taking place under Defra’s Sustainable Clothing Roadmap and the UK-India Sustainable Development Dialogue. The project was jointly delivered by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion and Pearl Academy of Fashion in Delhi.

Textiles’ contribution to national industry in India

The project was commissioned in light of research detailing the massive contribution of textiles in India to national industry and the environmental and social challenges this presents. With textiles accounting for 14% of industrial production and 17% of the country’s export earnings, the industry is an important vehicle for the promotion of sustainable development.

The Sustainable Clothing Roadmap has identified the global relevance of the clothing industry to sustainable development:

“while an economic success story (globally worth over £500 billion), the industry has a significant environmental and social footprint across its supply chain.”

Assessing the impact of textiles

The environmental and social impacts of a range of fibres and textiles used within the industry formed an important part of the project. Using detailed information on greenhouse gas emissions, waste water production and chemical pollution associated with the production of all fibres, a more complete environmental impact assessment was achieved.

Indian cotton, in particular, was given special consideration as it accounts for 16% of world production, while providing a livelihood for between 40 and 50 million people. It is also associated with particular problems of high water and chemicals usage.

Collaboration between manufacturers and designers

Fashion design is synonymous with exclusivity; designers are continuously striving to create a product that is more original and superior than their competitors. However, a recurring theme of the project was the importance of collaboration between suppliers and indeed designers to determine effective solutions to the challenges of sustainability in fashion.

Shared Talent India provided a forum for collaboration: design workshops and online and face-to-face dialogue enabled designers and suppliers to discuss each other’s perspectives, and work with a skilled group of cutters and tailors in New Delhi. A dialogue on sustainability was initiated through a series of discussions that led to the designers questioning ecological, social and economic criteria as a basis for their work.

Online sourcing toolkit

In addition to various visual outputs, the Centre for Sustainable Fashion developed an online sourcing toolkit and textile catalogue that allows purchasers to source textiles that are guaranteed sustainably sourced. It is hoped that tools such as this will continue to promote sustainable materials within fashion.

Continuing collaboration for long-term sustainability

Collaboration is of key importance for achieving long-term sustainability in the materials utilised in the textile and fashion industries. Additionally, transparency is essential within the fashion material and product supply chains.

By cultivating a culture of trust, cooperation and transparency, the future of the textile and fashion industry within India can continue to achieve high growth and provide continuing employment and success in a sustainable manner.

Further reading

  • Shared Talent India (Centre for Sustainable Fashion)
    Further project details, picture gallery and film.

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