Sustainability is a buzzword in Indian fashion these days and, if you ask fashion consultant Aradhana Baruah, the demand from buyers is forcing designers towards more sustainable processes and production.
“The consumer is very conscious nowadays,” says the former Vogue India stylist, adding that sustainability itself is a balancing act: “It focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs too.”
With the advent of mass-produced ‘fast fashion’ in Indian cities, however, consumers often find themselves having to choose between trendiness and sustainability. “Fast fashion costs the buyer less, but damages the environment more,” Aradhana informs.
She would know: having worked in the Indian fashion media for over a decade, she has seen and researched its darker side too: sweat shops, child labour and horror stories like the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 that left thousands dead in a garment factory in Dhaka.
“Living a sustainable life is a holistic exercise,” she says. “It’s a journey dotted with incremental improvements. It requires us to consider all aspects of how we choose to live – from our habits at home to the kinds of products we buy and businesses we choose to support.”
Her advice to fashion shoppers? “Don’t be a fast-fashion victim. Only buy clothes that you really like or need. Revisit your mother’s and grandmother’s closets. Having a big budget isn’t necessary for being fashionable; you need creativity, fearlessness and style for that. Re-style and reuse your garments.”
Predicting that traditional arts and handmade garments will be the ‘next big thing’, Aradhana appreciates designers like Sabyasachi Mukherjee for using age-old Indian crafts in modern ways.
“Sabyasachi’s recent show in Mumbai ‘Kashgaar Bazaar’ in collaboration with Christian Louboutin is a brilliant example of Indian techniques used in mainstream fashion,” she opines.
She adds to her list of favourite designers: Nimish Shah, Dhruv Kapoor, THREE, Kallol Dutta, The Summer House, Huemn and Bodice.
As a celebrity stylist, Aradhana is also privy to the quirks and compulsions of the glamour industry. “Indian celebrities prefer to play it safe,” she rues, comparing them to international movie stars who are more experimental.
“I wish they would support homegrown brands both in India and on international platforms. They shouldn’t be afraid to take risks with clothes, and even hair and makeup.” For what is style if not a statement?
First published in eShe’s June 2019 issue