Madhur's Blog

SustainableFashion

I had initially thought of taking a break from my blog through this month. The intent was to prioritize making some life decisions and grounding myself after my transition out of my day job. But with all that is happening here in India, I kept thinking of these words by Tess Guinery -

“there’s no point in resting if momentum is circling you like a hurricane”
– Tess Guinery

I am going to give in to the hurricane circling within me and speak what is in my heart.

As a voice from India, I felt it important to talk about what is happening here and why so many of us are protesting against it. As someone who’s been in the ethical fashion space, I further felt it important to point out how this impacts garment workers and why the ethical fashion industry and the world at large should be paying closer attention.

Why Are Indian’s Protesting Against The Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens?

The government here recently passed an act called “The Citizenship Amendment Act” (CAA). The act is supposed to protect migrants living and working in India who have fled from neighboring countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, with the sinister exception of Muslims. The act gains relevance with the execution of another law in the state of Assam called NRC (National Register of Citizens), which aims at the deportation of all illegal immigrants who cannot furnish arbitrary documents to qualify as citizens. Since most migrants in Assam and neighboring states are from Bangladesh, their religious background skews towards being Muslim, thereby requiring their deportation instead of protection under the CAA. What makes things worse, is the fact that NRC is now proposed to be applied nation-wide, which means that many Muslims across the country will need to present documents required to qualify a migrant as a citizen under NRC or risk being deported under CAA.

How Does This Impact Garment Workers?

This impacts the entire nation and all those who live here, so it isn’t hard to imagine that it will also end up impacting many garment workers living here. This would discriminate against any garment worker who has moved to India from one of the three countries mentioned earlier (such as Bangladesh) and happens to be Muslim. It would also discriminate against any Muslim garment worker who has lived in India but cannot furnish the documents required to qualify as a citizen.

What Can You Do?

The reality is that only the people of India uniting can stop this. But the ethical fashion industry and the world at large need to keep a close eye on this issue and support Indian voices resisting this law. Please be an ally. Use your voice, so all are aware of what is at stake here in India and why we need better laws and regulations to protect our citizens.

#Thoughtleadership, #SustainableFashion #EthicalFashion

As some of you might already be aware, I spent the entire 2018 on a no-spend pledge. This period enabled me to build a deeper understanding of my wardrobe. I was able to uncover what worked for me and what didn’t. It also proved useful in helping me reconnect with the stories behind the clothes I owned; something I realised fast-fashion encouraged a neglect of.

In 2019, I decided to build upon this momentum by committing to adding no more than 12 new pieces through the entire year. The idea was to prioritise sustainable ways of adding variety to my wardrobe such as borrowing, thrifting, swapping, mending, and making. I aimed to buy only 12 select, high quality, well researched new pieces from sustainable + ethical brands. I wanted to be mindful of my consumption, as I felt there would be nothing sustainable about going on a shopping spree with sustainable + ethical brands.

I remember being told about Doodlage in a conversation with someone I met at a spiritual retreat. This was before I had begun my journey with sustainable + ethical fashion and I was extremely impressed by their aesthetic and for incorporating sustainable practices into their operations. Before I could buy something from them, I ended up committing to a no-spend pledge and although I never intended for it to last a year, it did. This meant I had to wait a long time to buy something from Doodle (1.4 years to be precise).

When I got around exploring their website, I found myself gravitating towards a piece from the women’s section (a tunic that I hoped to wear like a Kurta – a traditional gender neutral Indian garb). Unfortunately, it sold out by the time I could make the purchase. Luckily I stumbled upon a navy pin-striped shacket in the mens section that I adored just as much and was lucky to find an off-the-shelf size that I was fairly confident would fit me without any need for customisation.

It felt great to have chosen a piece from Doodle to end my no-spend pledge. The brand has been a pioneer (at-least here in India) when it comes to the use of sustainable practices such as upcyling and zero-waste production. All of their garments are made out of cotton waste collected from various suppliers around the city. The garments are sampled in their unit and are produced at a larger level with ethical production units, NGOs, and for profit social businesses. I was also impressed to learn about mindful ways in which they deal with waste. Post cutting waste is repurposed to make smaller accessories; while post stitching waste is recycled to make paper (used in their stationary). This commitment extends to packaging that incorporates plastic free packaging. The first (inner) layer is made out of starch to keep the pieces dry. The outer layer is a fabric bag up-cycled out of waste fabric. They also ensure healthy working conditions and pay their employees fair wage and are aiming to transition into paying living wage in the future.

All in all, my goal of ensuring that my first purchase after the no-spend pledge was special and meaningful, has been met. There is an elevated satisfaction of buying from a brand that shares my commitment towards protecting the environment and the very people making our clothes.

#sustainablefashion #outfits

Introduction

Last year, I announced a shift to a sustainable + ethical wardrobe on my blog. Even during the very earliest stages of this journey, I distinctly remember being clear on the fact that there would be nothing sustainable about abandoning my fast fashion clothes for sustainable + ethical options. I realized that the only true way to offset the damage of a piece of clothing I owned that wasn’t manufactured in a sustainable + ethical manner, was to consume it like that.

With this realization, I decided to not go on a shopping spree with ethical + sustainable brands. Instead, I decided to commit to a no-spend pledge for the first six months of 2018. The intent was to go through all the items in my wardrobe in the hope of building a better and deeper understanding of what I enjoyed wearing and what I didn’t.

Minimizing my Wardrobe

When I began the process, I remember feeling absolutely overwhelmed with the number of pieces in my wardrobe. I remember looking at my wardrobe and feeling completely uninspired. I had heaps of clothes. Quite a few of these I had owned for several years but many were new additions. Old or new, I was surprised to find so many pieces that I simply hadn't been wearing frequently enough. I distinctly remember opening my wardrobe and feeling what I eventually heard people online describe as “decision fatigue.”

Gradually, I was able to overcome this state by simply dividing my clothes into frequently worn vs non-frequently worn items. This was a great starting point because it helped me clearly identify the problem areas. Once this division was made, I decided to give the clothes I hadn’t been wearing frequently a fair chance. I decided to wear them a few more times to see if I had a valid reason for not wearing these items frequently enough.

When I did this, especially with some of the old clothes, I was so surprised to find that I totally enjoyed wearing these items and there was no logical reason behind why I wasn’t wearing them. Most of them still fit me. Most of them were still intact. I realized that how they looked mattered very little to me. I realized that what mattered more was the story behind them (in terms of the memories I had created while wearing them.) As I’ve said several times before, the clothes that we wear all have a story behind them. This story can be about how they were made or how they were worn. Fast-fashion encourages neglect of both. It systematically creates a disconnect between the people who made our clothes and us. This disconnect is further intensified because of the sheer number of clothes we own. Personally, when I got in touch with the story behind most of my clothes, I felt inspired to wear them, making new and creative pairings. That said, there were some clothes that simply didn’t fit me or even after giving a fair chance, I didn’t feel compelled to wear. Most of these were all let go in mindful and responsible ways (more on that in a future post.)

Six Months

As you might remember from the start of this post, I only intended to commit to a six month no-spend pledge. That said, when I completed six months, I felt a strong motivation to continue through the remainder of the year. This was mainly influenced by a strong urge to keep building on this deeper understanding of what I owned. I felt like I had only begun on this path and enjoyed the whole process of gradually getting in touch with pieces I my wardrobe and getting creative with them.

As much progress as I had made, there were still many pieces in my wardrobe that I hadn't worn in novel and creative ways. There were also many pieces in my wardrobe, that I hadn't invested time into, to go through the stories behind how they were made and the memories I had created while wearing them. Both these processes had felt cathartic and transformative and I felt a strong yearning to keep going.

Exceptions

Post the six-month mark, I did make two exceptions. The first one was a second-hand Levi’s 501 that I stumbled across for less than $5 while traveling. I have a thing for vintage Levi’s and since there aren’t many second-hand stores in India that I am aware of, I decided to indulge myself.

The second exception was in the form of the clothes that I purchased for one of my closest friend’s wedding. This was unavoidable mainly because at that time none of my existing wedding wear fit me and since this was a once in a lifetime event, I felt I could make the exception.

The Road Ahead

With the new year around the corner, I have given a considerable amount of thought on how I want to progress having completed a whole year of no-spend. One of the things I realized, is that I grew to enjoy not buying anything new. Having gotten a chance to both thrift and swap, I find myself primarily inclining towards these two methods of acquiring clothes in 2019.

The challenge remains that both these methods aren't as mainstream as I'd wish them to be. Additionally, both the methods do not guarantee that I will find exactly what I might be looking for. So, although I will resume buying new clothes again in 2019, there’s going to be a slight twist. I have decided to put a limit or cap on the number of new clothes I can buy, so that the whole activity does not go overboard. I have settled on a number and in 2019 I will only be buying 12 new pieces. You read that right, 12 pieces for the entire year. One for each month (though I will allow myself to buy more than one in a single month, so long as I am on track for 12 for the entire year.)

As I look at 2019, I want “buying new” clothes to be my last resort. I will first attempt to get creative with what I already own. If that doesn’t work I will wait till I have an opportunity to visit a second-hand store. If I don’t get that opportunity, I will wait till there’s a swap happening. If I am failed by all of these, I will make a note of what I desire, the specific colour, the fit, everything. And then do a thorough research and buy from a brand that meets these needs and is also ethical + sustainable. I am hoping that this approach enables me to consume fashion in the most strategic and mindful manner in 2019.

#sustainablefashion #minimalism #outfits

Back in July, just a couple of months into rebranding my blog, I stopped blogging. It seemed like a sudden and spontaneous decision to many, but in reality it was a deliberately thought over hiatus with the aim of finding harmony within some of the contradictions that had emerged between the style section of my blog and the other sections like “mindful living” and “lifestyle + culture.“ Whereas the latter sections were consistent with my values and beliefs, the posts in the style section, weren't, on multiple counts. 

I've tried to adopt the “less is more” philosophy with my belongings, with the people around me, and with the things I involve myself in. While I have even been advocating the “less is more” ideal on other sections of my blog, everything about the style section was about more. More posts, more outfits, more brands, more everything. 

Where minimalism attempts to help people distinguish between needs and wants, the fashion/style industry thrives on blurring the line between want and need. Somehow the industry has us believing that we need new clothes every season (it doesn’t help that there are now 52 micro seasons.) Minimalism isn't just about having less though, it is also about using what you do have to the fullest, with the goal of deriving the maximum value out of each one of your belongings, and not discarding them until you absolutely have to, which makes the whole ecosystem of producing these more sustainable. Again, the fashion industry is built on the opposite model, where what you buy is only good until the next fashion show. If all of this wasn't bad enough, the clothes you keep cycling through are made in some of the most unfavorable working conditions, so that you get the product at a price point you can't refuse. 

I’ve spent the past few weeks introspecting and soul searching, hoping to find a way out of these contradictions. The more time I spent the clearer it became that I’d have to make a conscious shift towards sustainable and ethical style. It’s not going to be easy, but I want all my outfit posts to eventually be sustainable and ethically manufactured. Since access to ethically manufactured clothes in India is really limited, I will be taking a phased approach to this shift. I would have loved for it to be a radical shift where everything I’m wearing in my posts is ethically manufactured and sustainable, but this would result in another contradiction (buying a bunch of new ethically manufactured clothes wouldn’t be so sustainable now would it?)

Needless to say, since the “Garb” section within style is focused on other people, the focus of those posts will be on the distinctiveness and individuality of their outfit (but sustainable and ethically manufactured outfits get brownie points!)

#sustainablefashion #minimalism