Eco-friendly fabrics offer a way out for pollution in textile production

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Author – Mariyam Shaukat

The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. With fast fashion becoming the latest trend across the globe, more and more factories are being set up with increasing use of chemical leaches and dyes, compounding the problem of waste generation, and pollution. The stats are so startling that we may have to rethink what kind of clothes we buy!

India, being one of the largest exporters of cotton fabric, generates enormous amounts of textile waste. Every production unit is estimated to produce around 16-20% textile waste during its manufacturing process. That means a large-scale unit produce around 150,000 meters per day would generate 25,000 meters of fabric wastage daily. All of this wastage ultimately ends up in landfills, impacting the environment in the worst ways.

Fortunately, some entrepreneurs in India have realized the gravity of the situation and have revamped their textile production to produce eco-friendly fabrics that do not harm the environment.

Dhuri – Eco-friendly fabrics made from corn, soya, eucalyptus, lotus, milk!

Madhurima Singh established Dhuri, a sustainable fashion label in Delhi to manufacture unconventional eco-friendly fabrics from natural material such as milk, soya, banana, lotus and eucalyptus. Dhuri means the ‘Axil’, the point from where a new leaf stalk grows on a stem. These natural fabrics are not only eco-friendly, but also possess unique traits such as increased moisture absorption, anti-bacterial properties, etc.

The milk fabric has the same PH level as that of human skin, which makes it very soft and gentle on the skin, thereby making it suitable for people with sensitive skin. Similarly, the eucalyptus fabric is temperature regulated which means it stays breezy in summers and warm in winters. The fabric derived from corn husk has amazing properties such as anti-bacterial, anti-ultraviolet rays and also keeps sweat odour away. The banana fiber fabric is the lightest but strongest fabric of all, which is perfect for summer and lasts longer than most fabrics due to its durability.

At Dhuri, even the dyes used to color the fabrics are extracted from vegetable waste collected from the market and flower waste collected from temples. Madhurima ensures that every step done in the process of production is done from scratch and that it doesn’t harm the environment in any way. So, the end product that reaches the consumers is a completely natural and cruelty-free.

Revival of Batik printing prevents chemical dye pollution

Gujarat is a region characterized by its rich textile and handicraft heritage, housing some of the most popular textile crafts of the late 1960s called the Batik print. This unique printing technique was traditionally done with seed oil derived from the fruit of the Pilu tree. Natural dyes like indigo, turmeric and iron rust are used to make different colours for batik printing. But during the 1960s, the demand for batik and other handicraft textiles soared and the artisans switched to chemical dyes.

However in recent years, consumers are consciously shifting to organic and chemical-free products that neither harm them or the environment. This major shift in consumer preferences has led encouraged some artisans to revive lost traditions of their ancestors. Shakeel Ahmad from the Khatri community is among the fifth generation in his family specializing in the wax Batik printing tradition. He is one of the few artisans who are keen to revive the traditional batik printing in order to restore it as an eco-friendly fabric production method.

Paresh Magalia, deputy director of an NGO, Khamir, working closely with local artisans in areas of product development, conducted a study that analyzed the water consumption in the textile industry and found that chemical-intensive techniques rely heavily on water and contaminates it, making it unusable. Whereas, traditional methods are not only eco-friendly in the aspect that it is chemical-free but also requires less water for its production.

Although the Batik craft has been relegated to a thing of the past and is struggling to survive modern competitive markets that use more efficient techniques, Paresh Magalia and Shakeel hope that this shift in consumer preferences will help in its revival. Organizations like Khamir and artisans like Shakeel are striving to save this handicraft as well as the environment, which is essentially the need of the hour!

Doodlage – Trendy outfits made from fabric waste

A Delhi-based fashion studio, Doodlage, is doing its bit to save the environment by using katra (fabric waste) to make trendy outfits. The idea behind Doodlage is that we don’t need more new clothes, which is a philosophy that challenges the current trend of fast fashion. Kriti Tula, co-founder of Doodlage, says that the problem in the fashion industry is that it is based on a linear model, meaning it manufactures more and more fabrics, make garments out of it, sell those to consumers and ultimately is disposed off in landfills. So Doodlage was established as an eco-fashion brand rooted in consciously creating apparel out of wasted textile, also called ‘upcycling’.

The first step is to design pieces that would be made out of the acquired fabric wastage. Embroideries and paneling are done wherever necessary and the resultant fabric goes for the first round of production. In the next step, the wastage from the first round is paneled and more yardages are made out of it. Textures are made out of the remaining waste and shreds, which further go into the production of bags and home collection. Finally, the remaining fabric waste is processed into paper that is used for the company’s stationery. This way, Doodlage ensures there is zero waste even in their production process, fully sticking to the brand purpose.

Ahimsa Silk – Non-violent way of producing silk

The silk fabric has always been the embodiment of sheen splendor and luster. Whether religious festivals or wedding ceremonies, silk bestows an aura of sacredness to the occasion. Indians take immense pride in the grace of silken threads, but not many of us know the ugly truth of this beautiful yarn. Around 50,000 silkworms are killed to produce one silk saree. Everyday millions of such creatures are subjected to violent deaths in order to produce silk.

Kusuma Rajaiah from Andhra Pradesh came up with a fine solution that would enable producing silk without killing them. Conventionally, after breeding the silkworms for 6 weeks, the pupae inside the cocoon are boiled in hot water before they hatch. The silk is then unbound from the cocoon delicately. This is the preferred method because when the cocoons open naturally to release the moth, the fiber continuity is lost. But maybe not, thought Kusuma.

He purchases yellow coloured bivoltine silk cocoons from mulberry farms in Chittoor district and rears them large cane baskets at his residence in Hyderabad. The moths emerge after 8-10 days, piercing the cocoon at one end. The pierced cocoons are collected to be spun into yarn, which is then woven into fabrics. Weavers of Nalgonda and Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh produce dhotis while fabrics, including saris are woven by the weavers of Karimnagar district. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he calls his production as Ahimsa Silk. While Ahimsa Silk may lack the shine of regular silk, it is extremely comfortable to wear. It’s also wrinkle-free and has a better fall.

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