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GENERATION Z's New Rage is Sustainable Fashion A thing or two about fashion is that nothing lasts forever. High street fashion has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 and sustainable fashion is the new queen on the block

By Priyadarshini Patwa

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Raw Mango/ Mayu/ Entrepreneur India

A thing or two about fashion is that nothing lasts forever. Every day is about a new design and every season is about a new wardrobe. For all those who are wondering what the new rage among generation Z is - high street fashion has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 and sustainable fashion is the new queen on the block.

"Be Responsible, Buy Less but Better" is the new sacred mantra among the Millenials. The way nature has taken its course, one can conservatively say that it's the end of fast fashion and the beginning of ecological clothing!

Technology is essentially the prime enabler that allows sustainable fashion to thrive and develop for better, Image Credit - Presstigieux

The opinion of youth dominates the fashion industry. Soon we there will be a shift among the consumer with 'divided wardrobe' that will consist of homemade, handloom, organic, and sustainable fabric. This will be the next phase of a new normal fashion!

"Sustainability is not something special, it is a human need, just like love, affection, sex, and hunger," says Sanjay Garg, Founder of Raw Mango. "You can term it as a responsibility - a morality or legal correctness, but it is something that has been important. The conversation is big right now because the people are asking for change."

The New Enlightenment Era

All the fashion buffs it's time to understand that the current cycle of take-make-waste within the fashion industry is not sustainable. "Game-changing technologies can bring real change to the industry. We see large corporations that are committed to becoming more sustainable, have pledged towards circularity. Sustainable fashion is a part of the ecosystem within this shift towards a system that is more restorative and regenerative," says Katrin Ley, Managing Director, Fashion for Good.

The 16-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, expressed her concerns at the United Nations Climate Action Summit in September, saying, "For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are nowhere in sight." It might have been heard but many but some took it seriously and wanted to be the makers of the change.

A cruelty-free, sustainable fashion brand, that makes its product out of fish skin waste. Image Credit- MAYU

The era of Enlightenment 2.0 is here and the big guns in the fashion industry are taking it head-on. Deconstructing the crescendo of the traditional anti-environmental practices we now embrace the sustainable and holistic guanxi of nature and man.

"One can see the stress increasing upon the durability, quality, and ethical production as the world roars about the degrading climate change. Catastrophes are upon us and its high time to exercise one's agency in reclaiming socio-environmental responsibility. A massive utilitarian and sustainable shift towards alternative material usage, production, and disposal mechanisms is starting to arise. Though brands are to do their part, a major industry shift is also better enabled by conscious consumerism," says Mayura Davda Shah founder of MAYU.

Start It Up- Start It Right

While great ideas are welcomes, the execution of a business plan is vital to convert them into reality. After all, no one likes anything half-cooked, be is your meal or couture.

Ley, who is all about innovation fashion and convenor for change points out essential how we can start our sustainable fashion label:

  • The next level of any venture is revenue: Once you have a steady stream, interest from investors who have not ventured into this will surge.
  • Show your timeline: Have your generating revenue, plan, and know your path to commercialisation.
  • Keep your application simple: If your venture is focused on tier 2 or tier 3 manufacturing processes, an investor not intimately familiar with the industry will require time to understand how the innovation fits into the supply chain.
  • Sustainability is your goal, it's not an investor: Whether you are talking to traditional VC or impact investors, always lead with the business opportunity. It is our advice to not start your pitch, as many innovators do, with a generic overview of all environmental problems in the Fashion Industry. The size of the industry is interesting to investors, but the size of its environmental problem is not. Identify and focus on where the highest and most acute demand exists for your solution.

Transformation & Trends

Careful merchants out there, it is time to understand how fashion is transforming and what captures customers' interest. Unless you don't up your game, you are in for a toss.

"Applications like Pinterest is largely responsible for bringing transformation. "Capsule Wardrobe', is a thing now which translates to cutting down of accesses, sticking to essentials, and following a streamlined approach towards fashion. It is interesting to see how international brands are redefining their ways of sourcing fabrics, keeping the environment in mind to reduce their carbon footprints. Industry players are now finding and adapting ways to reduce the use of excess fabric and minimize wasting materials.," says Akshay Jain, Managing Partner, Greenways - A legacy of 77years.

Contemporary Indian handwoven saree crafted using traditional techniques. Image Credit: Raw Mango/ Greenways

In case you don't believe, take a moment, and you will realise how organic clothing has revolutionised the fashion industry in terms of expenditure and sustainability. It's interesting to see how various brands are being transparent about their development and design processes, which is creating a strong position for them.

Fashion Grant

Good news entrepreneurs, you are definitely in luck if you are trying to get your sustainable fashion line funded at this point. The world has been talking about climate change and the urgency to address it has taken center stage globally - be it at the World Economic Forum's recent summit in Davos or even at major global fashion weeks.

"As a thumb rule of Funding in Entrepreneurship, your first go-to place for funding is FFF (friends, family, and fools), followed by Angel Investors, Venture Capital firms, and Private Equity. It is also important that you look at funding beyond the $$$. It is also important to find investors who share your line of thought about sustainability and overall positive change," says Shah.

Looks and Styles Are Changing

Be it street style or high-end, we often forget that design is a deeply layered ongoing process where you need to think of the future - it's never complete, whether that is through technique, material or colour. Diversification is the key to lead and conquer.

"We embody tradition in our designs by constantly questioning the context in which it is spoken of, both tradition and modernity are extremely subjective and it is important to keep evolving and innovating. It's not something that should be made to be "attractive' but should be informed as a reflection of the preservation of craftsmanship and promotion of our crafts & culture," says Grag.

While that was about design and tradition going hand in hand. One needs to acknowledge that sustaining India's craft community with low wages is not something anyone should aspire to. "We need to change this reality, not sustain it. Speak of season-less, trend-less design, and lower consumption. We also do not follow the cycle of the fashion calendar and almost always have only one larger collection per year. This is something that needs to be addressed on a global level if we want to see a larger change - it's an issue that would have radical changes around the world," he adds.

Take one looks closely, you will realise how moving towards this new-age fashion has been a conscious effort to incorporate sustainability as much as one can among the manufacturers and consumers both.

It's our time to be fair and square to the environment before it's too late! Let's create new lines and be the trendsetters.

(This article was first published in the March issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Priyadarshini Patwa

Former Features Editor, Entrepreneur India

Priyadarshini Patwa is the Former Features Editors of Entrepreneur India and hosted an Instagram show every Friday named ‘Lighten Up’, about people from different walks of life and talk about their work and beyond. She handled the lifestyle, features, technology, entertainment segments and was also responsible for the Digital Covers. Previously she has worked with MensXP, a Times of India entity and Deccan Chronicle. 

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