'Conscious' Ways of Life

By Mirha Grewal

Once found on the fringes of mainstream fashion media, ‘conscious’ fashion has assumed relevance and taken centre stage. But, how does this fit into our lifestyle and the choices we make?

It’s hard to imagine the fashion world the way it was only a few years ago – devoid of conversations around sustainability, conscious consumption or mindful and ethical production practices. Once found on the fringes of mainstream media, challenges pertaining to sustainability has now assumed considerable relevance among all industries, especially the fashion industry that’s believed to be one of the most polluting industries of the world, directly impacting biodiversity and climate.

In the wake of the pandemic, as countries witnessed never-seen-before lockdowns (multiple times) and the closure of international borders, it’s interesting to note the impact of this on fashion particularly. Of the many changes that this pandemic set the landscape for, cancelled orders and disrupted supply chains were somewhat an eye-opener, navigating conversations towards the pressing need for collective responsibility for both – planet and people. But, how does this fit into our lifestyle and the choices we make?

Principally, a ‘conscious’ way of life is interconnected with how we evaluate our choices with our needs. Today, instead of ‘globalisation’, there is a hybrid between ‘local’ and ‘global’ that’s being fostered. It’s this “Globalization” that’s paving a “new normal” foraying integral conversations on inclusivity, diversity, indigenous identities and local economies within fashion’s tapestry. Some international brands which have been vanguards in this respect are Stella McCartney’s and Gabriela Hearst’s eponymous labels.

Global fast-fashion and luxury brands have begun to adopt green technology by replacing raw materials like textiles, leather and fur with biodegradable, recycled or recyclable alternatives. Considering such alternatives are relatively new and expensive, it is responsible leadership that is driving change and often only organisations driven by a deep-set passion to offer consumers an alternative to making more judicious and environmentally friendly choices that are being the flag bearers of change. On the other hand, demand by Gen-Z and millennials have encouraged fast-fashion brands to also take a considered approach towards their practices by launching collections made out of recycled and repurposed waste, using dyeing and processing methods that reduce water consumption, innovative fabrics that have a longer and slower production cycle such as Vegea (made from grape waste), Textloop (cotton waste) and Econyl (recycled nylon) and evaluate their practices. Transparency in supply chains are also necessary along with product materials and production methods to consider before companies are given the ‘conscious’ label.

An unbiased difference should be observed and called out between ‘greenwashing’ and performative sustainability, as brands sometimes jump on the ‘green’ bandwagon to fit into the popular narrative without employing the necessary practices. Keeping brands accountable will be the responsibility of consumers as they need to ensure this is a change that’s here to stay.

The message that is rightly gaining traction is that as consumers hold the power with every choice they make and this impacts our environment, health, social practices and our lifestyle. Therefore, a ‘conscious’ way of living demands we educate ourselves on the subject, practice buying less, buying better and recycling more to ensure that sustainability is not a mere trend but a way of life.