“The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world ... second only to oil," says Eileen Fisher, clothing industry tycoon.
Most school children, particularly in India, are taught the three 'R's of sustainability – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Unfortunately, as we grow, we forget all three. If we do remember some of it, at a much later date, it's usually because someone has reminded us of the importance of recycling. Of separating our plastics and paper.
If it does, go one step further, then it's generally a reminder to reuse. To save our plastic takeaway tubs to store leftovers or to create jewellery from old, disposable plastic bottles.
What is usually forgotten is that reuse and recycle are second stage measures. They cannot and do not reverse the damage done by indiscriminately using natural resources, particularly at a higher speed than they can be replenished. Reuse and recycle definitely prevent further damage and control pollution to a certain extent, however, they do not work even half as well as reduce.
Reduce. It is at this stage of the cycle that the concept of creating sustainable lifestyles comes in, of which sustainable fashion is a vital aspect.
How does Sustainable Fashion make a difference?
The term ‘sustainable fashion’ or 'green fashion' refers to a system of creating textiles and clothing where the use of resources and the human impact on the environment is minimal or, ideally, none.
Under such a system a resource - be it water, power, or any other - is used at a rate at which it can be replenished by the earth (or close to it). With sustainable activities there is no ’real’ pollution, for example, carbon from burning is only released at a rate at which it can be absorbed and recycled by the planet as part of the natural carbon cycle.
While today, we might not be able to achieve a completely perfect sustainable fashion cycle, we can adopt traditional textile preparation methods to start with. These processes were devised keeping the planet in mind and the natural availability of abundant natural resources.
So how does Sustainable Fashion work practically?
Let’s take Kalamkari as an example. A traditional Kalamakri saree takes 45-60 days to make. In addition, the work can be done only in certain seasons. The washing of the saree between each step of the process can only be done in flowing river water. This means the Kalamkari artist is not ‘polluting’ – for want of a better word – a scarce resource during a season when there is a shortage.
The dyes used in Kalamkari are also all natural, plant-based dyes, which means that no ‘real’ pollution occurs during the making process. These are colours that can be absorbed by the soil surrounding the river and become part of the natural cycle again.
The fact that a Kalamkari saree takes 45-60 days to make, and the fact that it’s exposed to natural elements outdoors, means that it’s weathered well, as part of the making process. This makes the textile a lot more durable and long-lasting. The resulting saree can be worn for years, many a time even by multiple generations.
What does Sustainable Fashion mean for the artisan and the consumer?
A garment that takes 45-60 days of artistic and manual effort, is usually priced in a way that reflects the true value of the garment, thus making it a treasured commodity that is not discarded after a few uses. This in turn may result in the customer buying only as many pieces as they truly require, which is a natural weapon against today’s mindset of mindless consumerism.
Finally, each such saree provides an artisan with a month to two months of sustained work. It allows her the chance to put her heart and soul into creating a piece of art that she knows will be treasured and used lovingly by the end consumer.
Jullaaha follows sustainable practices and every saree here is completely handcrafted. Rest assured, these are sarees that your daughters and granddaughters will wear generation after generation, in your memory. These are true heirloom pieces, produced the old-fashioned way.
Get your piece of history here.
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We can’t all become technical experts in every art and craft that we admire and hope to acquire a piece off. So, what do we do?
Through her varied and personal experience with Indian handcrafted textiles, over a decade, Jaya Devi Cholayil, offers you these simple distinguishing factors. A deep knowledge of the artistic techniques and textile crafting processes lies behind the quick litmus tests that she shares here.
As a newlywed, almost 30 years ago, Jaya was introduced to the world of Ayurveda and the Cholayil culture of combining natural, ethically sourced ingredients to create products that started lifestyle trends.
Given her love for art and her compassion for the less fortunate, Jaya Devi decided to take this heritage one step further and thus was born Jullaaha. A brand that is loved and respected as much for its all-natural personal care products and authentic, Indian, handcrafted textiles as it is for its work in bettering the lives of the down-trodden.
Block printing, as we know it today, is thought to have originated in China; though this art form has probably been practiced for close to 2,000 years.
After Vasco Da Gama discovered the shipping route to India in 1498, most of the world came to know of the beautiful textiles of India and this gave a boost to all related industries including that of the traditional block print.
TRADITION FOR TODAY'S MODERN WOMAN. INSPIRATION FOR TOMORROW.
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