25 ways to become fashion-able in 2016

MINT

25 ways to become fashion-able in 2016

Last month, climate change talks between representatives of 195 countries in Paris resulted in a landmark agreement. The deal at this 2015 UN conference (COP21), which will come into effect from 2020, is for nations to work towards low-carbon economies.

Fashion and beauty may not have been top of the agenda there but these sectors, as well as consumers, need to join the battle. Ethical fashion that doesn’t use animal furs or skins, and fair trade practices that emphasize recycled fashion as well as safe work spaces and appropriate wages for garment industry workers, have been in the news over the last few years. They are more relevant than ever before, for they offer a direction to minimize wastage, reduce energy consumption and limit environmental hazards.

Large companies will need to pay renewed attention to manufacturing and supply issues, reduce the huge amounts of electricity and water required for raw materials like cotton and cashmere, and produce rayon and viscose without leading to the deforestation they are linked with, among other things.

 

Most importantly, consumers will need to pay more than lip service to become truly fashion-able at a time when the world is riddled with humanitarian and environmental crises.

 

There are other reasons to rethink style in 2016. The economic slowdown of the luxury market, urgent appeals from animal rights bodies to avoid using exotic skins for fashion goods, dangerous levels of pollution, whether it is New Delhi or Beijing, the need to acknowledge small artisans, fair-mining for sourcing gold and gemstones—there is a clear shift.

Here are 25 ideas to contribute to change.

The minimalist attitude

Developing a minimalist attitude towards shopping, hoarding and trends is about discretion, restraint, commitment to ethical fashion and purchase of fewer, finer, long-lasting things. Minimalist style is about a pared-down, non-fussy look. You can acquire both attitude and style but the first is a sure-shot way to recalibrate fashion-ability. Only true minimalists—who don’t hoard or shop too much or go crazy with all things new—will be relevant in the new age.

Stand down

After a couple of years of intense texting, sexting, WhatsApp-ing, BBM-ing, Viber-ing, App hunting, Start-up-ing, taking selfies and velfies, it’s time to calm down. It will bring down the need to change clothes and looks for profile pictures, trumpet purchases, holidays, cars, deals, smartphones. It’s all part of the minimalist attitude.

Ring-fencing style

To ease wardrobe clutter, try style phases. For instance, only wear Indian ensembles or only wear jeans with T-shirts for three months; only wear glass bangles (and no other accessories) for a while, or only carry fabric bags. Or choose one signature accessory for an entire season to save time and shop less.

Running mates

Last year, Parley for the Oceans—a space where creators, thinkers and leaders collaborate to end the destruction of oceans—teamed up with sports brand adidas for ocean plastic sneakers. Made from reclaimed ocean waste, like discarded plastic and banned gill nets, they have 3D midsoles and could be your running mates this year.

Smart shopping

Invest in some high-performance, durable clothing that requires fewer washes, no bleaches, fabric softeners or repeated ironing. Like SmartWool socks. Made from technologically enhanced, fine Merino wool, they are breathable, resist itching, shrinking, regulate temperature and wick moisture away from the body, enabling prolonged wear. What you don’t have to repeatedly wash, dry clean and iron is environmentally futuristic.

Gender-fluid style

Pantone Inc., the leading authority on colour systems, has chosen two hues rather than one as the colour(s) of 2016. Pink, called Rose Quartz, and blue, called Serenity, symbolize a gender-fluid world. Good reason to refrain from colour-coding clothes according to gender.

Filter copy

Accused of plagiarism, French brand Chanel apologized to Scottish designer Mati Ventrillon last month for using her knitwear designs in one of its shows. The apology made a pertinent point about the respect big brands owe to small artisans. Take-home lesson: Never plagiarize; apologize swiftly and generously if you do, however powerful as a brand. As a buyer, say no to plagiarized fashion.

Crisis of care?

“Approximately 25% of the energy footprint (from fast fashion) is coming from the customer, after we’ve sold them the product,” H&M’s Pierre Börjesson said to fashion news website Business Of Fashion in December, citing tumble dryers and dry cleaning as key culprits. Rethinking methods for garment care, minimizing energy usage, is now imperative. For instance, hand wash is preferred over the long tumble and dry machines used at home that not only consume a lot of soap and electricity but reduce the life of a garment.

Reason, not season

Trans-seasonal once meant clothes to wear between summer and winter. The smarter, new definition is fashion with round-the-year suitability. Like light silks, loose knits, Khadi and cotton Ikats, or garments where Merino wool or wool jersey or heat set high-grade polyester jersey is woven along with Indian textiles, as in designer Rahul Mishra’s work. Great excuse to buy less, wear more across seasons.

Reconsider your bias

If you are passionate about handlooms, be aware that powerlooms are not a synonym for a substandard or an aesthetically inferior production system. Your handloom artisan by day may well be a powerloom worker by night. India, especially, must sustain weavers and workers in both sectors as they are co-dependant. For instance, hand-spun yarn is sometimes woven on a powerloom machine.

Know before you buy

A report last year by the UN Human Rights Council said that at the ends of complex supply chains of fast fashion are instances of “debt bondage, forced labour or the worst forms of child labour”. The report named the clothing industry, particularly “home-based or small workshops in the informal economy”, as vulnerable. WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), an organization that also does advocacy for informal workers, said in an article on digital magazine Quartz that in India, of an estimated 12.5 million people who work from their homes for the garment industry, more than 3.5 million are likely to be part of supply chains for fashion brands.

Craftmark

Established in India in 2006, the Craftmark initiative helps identify genuine Indian handicraft products, develops minimum standards for the sector and lays down norms. Look for the Craftmark logo for informed purchases. Read more at www.craftmark.org

Cosmetic changes

A large part of the beauty industry is dependent on unethical animal testing, toxic chemicals, nanoparticles and plastic pollution besides using some ingredients that are hazardous for human health. Choose cosmetics free of petroleum jelly and propylene glycol, exfoliators without microbeads (the beads are plastic), coal tar and palm oil, which threatens the natural habitats of many animals, such as orangutans, tigers and elephants. Check ingredients before buying.

Buy from Behno

New York-based women’s wear fashion label Behno (which means sisters) creates fashion alongside a social experiment. In partnership with Indian non-profit Muni Seva Ashram (MSA), at the MSA Ethos factory located in Gujarat’s Goraj village, Behno enables workers to earn two-and-a-half times the minimum wage in the area (read more on Behno.com). They get healthcare, disability insurance, a lunch stipend and transportation reimbursement. Behno designs are stylish and represent the global cool.

Passion for ‘pashmina’

One way to participate in the Kashmiri crafts legacy, which is highly artisanal yet uniquely threatened by political and geographical challenges, is to buy an authentic pashmina shawl. Invest in one in natural colour after ascertaining its authenticity. The Kashmir Pashmina label (that’s like Craftmark or Khadi Mark) developed by the Crafts Development Institute of Kashmir (CDI) is one such authentication label.

Redefine Khadi in your wardrobe

Most Khadi is only partially handwoven as it comes off Ambar Charkhas. When the yarn is entirely hand-spun and handwoven, as in some weaving clusters like Ponduru in Andhra Pradesh, Khadi is the only sustainable textile of its kind in the world. Include it in your wardrobe in newer ways, like Khadi brogues, Khadi denim (by 11.11 by CellDSGN and Rajesh Pratap Singh) or Khadi handbags.

Leather rites

One of the most curious fashion stories of 2015 was animal rights organization Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) buying a tiny share in French luxury brand Hermès. Seen as a tack to put pressure on Hermès to avoid the use of exotic animal skins like crocodile and alligator for its legendary Birkin and Kelly bags, this is one instance of attempting change from within by joining a brand instead of opposing it from outside.

Grey is the new green

Colour is uplifting but have you ever tried innovatively mixing Grey, Beige, Black, White, or three out of the elemental four, in one look? Try a colour escape: a black sweater with a beige muffler and grey trousers. Or a white shirt with black trousers and grey shoes. It won’t bring better wages to sweatshop workers but will help establish “less” is more.

Used fashion

The entire ecosystem benefits if you buy fair trade clothing, find multiple uses for everything, recycle goods, give away to organizations that convert discards into utility goods for the underprivileged and buy and sell used fashion through groups now becoming popular in cities. Fast fashion brands do it too. H&M puts out boxes in its stores for customers to drop off old clothes from any brand; these are then recycled to create fashion wear. While for some of its collections, Topshop collaborates with “Reclaim to Wear” an eco-fashion concept started in 1997 by Orsola de Castro and Filippo Ricci, to design clothes made from discarded materials and remnants, such as stock, designer surplus and production off-cuts.

Vintage festivals

Crafts and trade fairs, handloom bazaars and fashion weeks must create spaces for kiosks that sell and buy vintage clothes, used fashion and accessories at affordable prices. Sponsors keen on making a sustainability point could promote these initiatives, setting a much needed example.

Catwalk redo

It’s time for Indian designers to create catwalk themes as storytelling platforms around issues of ethical fashion, eco-sensitivity and sustainable approaches in glamour. Bollywood as showstopper is passé, why not look for more urgent subjects to communicate with increasingly aware customers?

Designer fatigue

Behind the two much talked about exits last year of famed couturiers Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz from fashion houses Dior and Lanvin, respectively, is a wake-up call for the Indian fashion industry. Simons and Elbaz reportedly suffered from creative fatigue. Designers get exhausted creating multiple collections every year, managing press and publicity and non-stop deadlines. Indian designers even hunt for sponsors and online collaborations to survive. All in an environment of falling sales. Resetting work priorities to include practices, materials and processes that are environmentally sensitive and sustain the designer’s creative core might keep fashion and design more relevant.

Update yourself

Ethical fashion is an umbrella term with mini and major movements that include design, production, retail and purchasing. It includes fair wages and working conditions, fair trade, environmentally nourishing and sensitive goods, animal welfare and green economy concerns in fashion, beauty and more. Read more on www.ethicalfashionforum.com

Organic politics

To be organic, a product must meet a series of prescribed standards, from farm production to manufacture and packaging. Just as manufacturers need to become authentic about the term organic instead of using it as a marketing gimmick, consumers must invest in awareness about legally certified organic labels instead of getting carried away by new age clichés.

Sold on sales?

Recalibrate your frenzied response to the word “sale”. Yes, there are some great deals going but there is a lot of mediocre and trashy stuff too. It may be comforting to ward off temptation and buy nothing for at least one season.

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