Why is Sustainable Fashion So Expensive?!

Most of my life, I’ve been a fan of natural fabrics. Cotton, linen, silks. Except for the few years when I realised that my dry cleaning bills could easily surpass my earnings, and I discovered the lure (courtesy a friend) of synthetics and cheap clothing.

I went through a phase of buying t-shirts for 100 bucks, and that lasted till I realised I never really stopped shopping. The t-shirts lasted one wash cycle, and I had to be back at the store to find new ones. Having grown up with the ethic of good fabrics, and a dislike of shopping, I soon returned to the branded stores to find that my choice fabrics were replaced to rayons and georgettes. They looked pretty, and unless you burned a hole in one, they’d look great and last forever. Except, they made my skin itch. But since the only other choice was skimpy banian material t-shirts, I succumbed.

Finally, as an adult on the other side of 30, I figured it is time to put my foot down and go back to natural fabrics. This time around, I did find natural fabrics, but the term ‘organic’ had also caught on, making these the new ‘cool’ waves. All your cool designers were espousing the virtues of natural, clean fabrics and driving up the price.

Pure, good cotton is hard to find today. The stuff we do get is so thin that I’ve to wear multiple layers of clothing inside to fulfil the purpose of clothing.

I’ve yet another purpose today in moving to natural fabrics that will last.

The pile of clothing that we discard ends up being in landfills. They do not serve other purposes. Nobody wants my discarded trendy crop top or sexy slit skirt. Nobody even wants my old jeans. There’s been considerable amount of news about the environmental impact of fast fashion. One such interesting (and really impactful video): watch here. Or if you’re not a video person, a fantastic piece by Bloomberg.

‘Fast Fashion’ has been the trend for a while now. Brands need to sell clothes, and if your clothes last you for a couple of years, how are they supposed to make money? Zara, H&M and several other top brands retail ‘fast fashion’ – trends that change every quarter, and clothes that do not last beyond the same period.

Setting aside the hassle of losing your favourite black top that made you look perfect and having to look for something like that again in 3 months, these clothes are piling up.

I want clothes that last.  I want good fabrics. And I want clothes that cause minimal harm to the environment.

Except, when I try to put all these three in the same box, the price tag is pretty hefty. And I’m left wondering why.


The Shopaholic Returns

There has been a fair bit of shop talk the past few days. And I literally do mean shopping. Mall-shopping, store-hopping and of course, it is the sale season. My current book is “Shopaholic in Manhattan” among the other Shopaholic books and my inbox is flooded with offers from online retail sites I signed up for a while ago.

And in the midst of this hoopla, I came across an article in Conde Nast Traveller, which states “how we shop, where we shop and how far we are willing to travel to shop is redefining our economic stature, as it is re-imagining our cultural identity.”

Most of the statement is nothing new. How, where and how far obviously define your economic stature. Cultural identity – now that is a different thing.

I was one of Bangalore’s recent malls. The mall is not yet fully functional but there were enough mall rats on a Sunday. What I found surprising was the fact that the most crowded store is actually a mini-mall by itself. People head to these stores but their comfort zone has already been defined by these stores that have ingratiated into our cultural sense by being the first ones. As Indians, we are strongly resistant to anything new… but once we get used to it, we are fierce loyalists too. Photocopy machines is still Xerox, a cold drink is often still a Frooti and a chocolate is still Cadburys in many parts of the society.

The retail outlets like Zaras, Steve Madden and more are often places to browse through rather than buy. During the sale season, I surprisingly did not find much a price difference, give the style quotient between the so-called Elite stores like Zara and the ‘commoner’ Central.

We aspire to be stylish… a little bit of a fall out from reading too much Shopaholic is all the brand names float in your brain, taunting you.

But I’m not a brand person. I’d happily pick up a jacket regardless of the brand if it looks good on me and fits me. But brands and season trends are defined so bizzarely, in my mind. Winter Collections should be bright and colourful and Summer should be soothing and pastels. Or whatever catches your eye.

A simple search for a short jacket turns into a debate of  “That is no longer fashionable, madam. Can I offer you this shapeless shrug instead?”

How can a shapeless shrug ever and I really do mean ever replace a smart, short jacket? And yet people buy into this mass hysteria, going by what they read, what they see someone else wearing and end up like clones.

Is our cultural identity really being re-imagined here? Sure, we have the opportunity to, with curtains from Dubai and shoes from Milan and jackets from… wherever. Bringing a little bit of the Middle Eastern, Italian, Australian and other cultural thought frames into you. And i’m sure it helps when you are visiting these other places and absorbing a little bit of the culture there.

But when all these cultures come to your doorstep, removed from context and you blindly ape someone, are you really re-imagining yourself or destroying yourself?

Baby, I’m fat!

Most mornings, the newspaper these days carries at least one article about dressing Aishwarya Rai for Cannes.

The major issue here is the baby weight that she apparently still hasn’t lost, months after she gave birth to a girl. So everyone is out to hide that extra weight or make her wear things that would have her appearing thin and sexy.

Generally, I wouldn’t really give a damn about her… She’s been a fashion disaster on the Cannes red carpet from day 1 anyway. But suddenly, today, I got sick of reading all those bloody fashionistas going on about how she hasn’t lost weight yet, so she needs to wear a sari to drape it away, or a loose gown etc.

And contradicting those ‘fashionista’ statements were photographs from a favorite photographer of mine who gave birth to a boy recently. She is celebrating her curves, is in no hurry to lose weight and is just enjoying spending time with her baby and partner. She also photographs a lot of pregnant women, in the peak of their pregnancy, full tummy and all.

I’m not going all gaga about the power of womanhood and all that stuff here. But isn’t it your basic right to have some space to breathe after giving birth to a new creature? Why should you rush off to lose that weight and look ‘glam’ instead of enjoying your space, the baby and the family?

So what is Aishwarya Rai has puddles of fat around her waist and is a little more chubby? Why should she shed all that weight or wear tummy tucks simply because the society defines ‘sexy’ as thin?

Ironically, there were a ton of pregnant women on the red carpets in the past couple of years. I don’t hear all this fuss about them.

And all this, when there is an ongoing debate about how young girls are already dieting to death because they are supposed to be thin to look good.