The Zero ‘Some’ Game of Fashion in 2022

The Zero ‘Some’ Game of Fashion in 2022

It is fashion’s chance to join forces with allied industries for climate change action. While Indian brands dither over figuring out concrete steps, here’s why we must join the army as consumers. 

“Some of us sit like a boulder on a hill, unmoving. Perhaps we have gathered some lichen over the years. Comfortable, safe, confident with who we are, the last thing we want is to change. Then along comes a fluctuation in the climate. Or maybe a passing troll. Before we know we are cracked, our composure spoiled, well made plans awry. Suddenly we find ourselves rolling down the mountain, to land who knows where and with what emerging from our cracks?”

The passage is from a text called Monkey, written by dynasty hermit Wu Cheng’en during the Ming era. Delightfully, it is quoted in a new book called The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies (Lotus, Roli) by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin with Indrajit Hazra. What is hilarious is that the entry is listed under ‘Resistance to Change’.


Protest as a consumer, be a verbal or legal advocate.
AFP/Miguel Medina

This passage captures the present moment of fashion once an unmoving smug boulder which now finds itself under overwhelming clouds of climate change. The boulder has been cracked, it is rolling down the mountain to land somewhere (destination unknown so far) with stuff emerging from its cracks.

It may be an imaginative exercise for writers to name what’s emerging from these cracks. Whether I call it an opportunity to make the industry relevant beyond its historical place in dress history and contemporary place in endorsements and brand culture, and you call it an orange light that we must turn into green, the point is to stand up. Join the army.

There are many ways to enlist into this army. Protest as a consumer, be a verbal or legal advocate. Do everything from recycling, repurposing, re-wearing, mending, buying less, cutting down on all kinds of consumption as long as long as we continue to push for enormous collective action. Wearing vintage individually or learning patchwork will only help so much.

Most importantly, we must judge and choose between Indian designer companies and brands we love and spend money on. Sixteen large companies including Aditya Birla Fashion Retail Limited (ABFRL) and Shoppers Stop signed a resolution under Project SU.RE launched by Lakme Fashion Week and RISE Worldwide Limited in 2019 in collaboration with the United Nations in India. They  committed to sourcing 25 per cent of raw materials using sustainable processes and materials by 2025. But the story hasn’t moved substantially. These brands are still to publicly put out their progress towards the targets so far. On the other hand, middling and small sized brands are largely capitalising on campaigns and claims as green action. Crafts-based brands describe themselves synonymous with sustainability, which is also a flawed assumption.


Models present creations by Stella McCartney at the end of the Women’s Fall-Winter 2020-2021 Ready-to-Wear collection fashion show in Paris, on March 2, 2020.
AFP/Anne-Christine POUJOULAT

This is unlike the global story of fashion and climate change. Big global brands, luxury or fast fashion—from Inditex to Kering, H&M to Burberry, Nike to Patagonia—have committed to science-based targets towards net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier. Many have even committed to 30 per cent reductions by 2030 following the updated UN Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Action at the COP26 Summit in Glasgow last year. British brand Burberry for instance not only announced the Burberry Regenerative Fund in November 2021 to support regenerative agriculture practices beginning with Australia but also pledged to become the world’s first climate-positive luxury brand by 2040. No such word or pledge has emerged in India so far.

India is among the top 5 global manufacturing hubs for apparel and among the top outsourcing markets to manufacture fast fashion for exports to Europe and US. The domestic demand for fashion, too, is growing exponentially—according to a report by Indian Chamber of Commerce, the per capita expenditure on apparel is expected to be ₹6400 by 2023. It was ₹3900 per capita in 2018.


Environmentalist Tulsi Gowda receiving the Padma Shri from President of India Ramnath Kovind.

A story published last month on quoted the Indian Textile Journal saying that more than 1 million tonnes of textiles are thrown away every year in India with most coming from household sources. “Textiles make up about 3 per cent by weight of a household bin and textile waste is the third largest source of municipal solid waste in India,” it said.

It’s a not so gentle reminder for all of us who sing the recycling tune loudly as it may not be necessarily translating into change.

The Voice of Fashion’s New Year special edition, The Changing Climate of Fashion, however swerves the wheel towards more baseline issues. Towards the consumer. Towards, a friendlier, simpler exchange and deep relationship that most of us have with cloth. It’s perplexing possibilities as a wearable soothing presence, a companion of life, an aesthetic enhancement and how its excess or ours in acquiring too much of it can destroy the planet. Instead of making it like a film you are watching in another language without subtitles, the approach here is emphatically democratic.


India is among the top 5 global manufacturing hubs for apparel and among the top outsourcing markets to manufacture fast fashion for exports to Europe and US.

The stories—a short history of protests against polluting fashion and how they have led to change, the role (or not) of the influencer in saving the planet, another fine argument asking if crafts can change the world, a feature on films on climate change and why they matter form our content. There is also a cheery list on how our homegrown, everyday measures to save can and will eventually help. And an interview with Apurva Kothari, the founder of No Nasties, among India’s first Fairtrade Apparel brands.

I can feel the chill in the fashion air as it matches the old with the new to layer pledges for an eventual restoration of reassuring warmth to the planet.

Happy New Year to you all. May 2022 keep the boulder rolling down the mountain and bring it a place in the sunshine.

Banner: The Voice of Fashion’s New Year special edition, The Changing Climate of Fashion. Cover art by Alpana Mittal.