India is among the world's largest producers of textiles and clothing. The textile industry in India is the only industry (after agriculture) that has generated huge employment for both skilled and unskilled labour. It offers direct employment to over 35 million people in the country. Yet despite the economic prosperity this industry has generated, the industry carries large environmental and social costs. This is largely tied to the growth of fast fashion and textile products, a demand that has turned the industry into one of the most destructive industries in the world.
Textile waste is a huge environmental problem with more than 1 million tonnes of textiles thrown away every year. This textile waste is often environmentally harmful as it releases chemicals into the soil when dumped or into the atmosphere when burnt. Furthermore, the production of raw materials, spinning them into fibres, weaving fabrics, and dyeing require enormous amounts of energy, water, and chemicals, including pesticides for growing raw materials such as cotton. Additionally, workers are often exploited, working far away from their families and homes earning very low salaries, often in environments that risk their health and well-being.
The reason this is hugely ignored, even though the products that are generated from these industry norms can be found in most western wardrobes, is likely tied to the very low transparency in the textile industry. Tracing a textile product down to its raw materials is often next to impossible.
Even with the dire state of this industry, we all need textiles in our lives. So how can we align textile products with the sustainable development goals? We believe the change has to start with transparency, that is heavily linked to quality and durability of products, and that new exciting materials and production setups can result in large social and environmental impacts, solving several issues at the same time.
Our textile project aims for a certain level of transparency of raw materials and complete production transparency. We are continuously investigating new materials and while using waste-materials is our main focus we also use natural materials that we proudly stand by. We focus on creating long-lasting textile products with appealing designs, in a slow process manner with attention to detail.
Recycled cotton scraps
A huge amount of cotton scraps are discarded every year. Instead of discarding this, they can be sorted based on colour, shredded into a dust like fibre before it is spun into a new thread and then woven into fabric. Before making it a yarn, it can also be mixed with other fibres, for instance, hemp fibre to create a uniquely sustainable and soft fabric mix.
Banana plants produce fruit only once before being cut back for new crops to grow. This leaves abundant waste in the form of leaves and tree trunks behind. Upcycling this by-product fibre into products instead of letting it rot and release carbon helps prevent carbon emissions and agricultural pollution. Banana fabric, in particular, is a sustainable alternative to cotton or silk. It is similar to that of linen and rough silk, yet stronger and more durable. It is a process that does not require chemicals and can even be done by hand in rural areas.
Linen is a great eco-conscious alternative, that is durable, and has several unique qualities. Compared to cotton it uses less water to cultivate (about 4 times less), can grow more safely without pesticides, and provides a large yield as the whole plant can be used for creating the fabric. During production no chemicals are needed in the process of creating the fabric. The fabric is not as soft as cotton, but similarly to hemp, it softens over time.
Native to India and harvested from the wild cotton trees in the south of India (Bombax Malabarica), making it a locally sourced fibre, Kapok is a great material for stuffing. For example the insides of a pillow uses Kapok, but it can also be used to create a fleece-like material (without the plastic). It is fluffy, soft, has fire-resistant, and moisture-resistant properties as well as being naturally hypoallergenic and anti-microbial.
Hemp can be grown in a wide variety of climates. The plant can grow over 6 meters tall with very little input and practically no care. It is resistant to pests, animals or natural climate events and therefore most often grown organically with next to no additional inputs. It even uses very little water compared to cotton. Textiles made from Hemp last for years, being a symbol of a fashion choice that helps the environment.
Viscose are fabrics made through chemical processes. Often made from wood pulp, bamboo or other hard materials. Through the chemical process, these materials are turned into a soft fabric. This is most often done through processes using harsh chemicals which are harmful to the environment, and usually, these chemicals have been discarded into nature, representing a huge problem tied to the textile industry. However, new developments are now making it possible to create viscose in closed-off loops where the chemicals are not spilt into nature or by using bacterial floras rather than synthetic chemicals. We are keeping an eye on these technologies and might open up for working with selected viscose fabrics in the future.
Upcycled Materials | Durable | Reusable | Handmade | Zero-Waste | Anti-bacterial properties
In our textile project, we strive for a new way of thinking around textile production where the tailoring units are taken to rural areas where the workers can stay close to their homes and families rather than migrate. This way the workers and their families' welfare benefits and the setups contribute to rural development and healthy livelihoods in rural areas.
Tailoring of the products is done mainly by women and at small units in rural areas of India. This way the women can stay close to their families and homes while getting livelihoods in good working conditions. Farmers also benefit by selling off, for instance, banana stems that would otherwise be discarded. This way they make an additional income. We also wish to create demand for the recycling sector so more cotton waste can be recycled instead of discarded.
Using natural materials and waste materials such as hemp, cotton scraps, and banana stem waste helps the environment by drastically reducing the use of water and chemical spills into the environment. In addition, it prevents dumping and burning of waste materials, this way mitigating both carbon emissions and other greenhouse gasses.
UN Sustainable Development goal
By creating hand-made products and using upcycled fabrics such as recycled cotton this project has contributed to target 12.2; "achieve the sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources"
The local population is trained and employed in tailoring units. In doing so, rural areas are empowered and uplifted to create products whilst also receiving fair payment for their work as well as having the comfort of working close to homes instead of moving to the city. Women are especially empowered and farmers are also able to make additional income.
UN Sustainable Development Goal
By contributing to providing livelihoods to the local population and increasing their job prospects, this project contributes to target 8.5; "achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value"