Overview: Connecting to Our Current Challenges
In a time when we are acutely aware of what we eat, what is in the products that we use on ourselves and what we wear, not just from the point of latest fashion but now we are thinking of how our clothes are made and more importantly what happens to the clothes when we are “done” with them? Well, the reality of clothing industry is not pretty because the facts are:
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Americans generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year, equaling just over six percent of total Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
On average, 700,000 tons of used clothing gets exported overseas and 2.5 million tons of clothing are recycled. While 3 million tons of these are incinerated, a staggering 10 million tons get sent to landfills.
The typical cost of disposing one ton of textile is $45 however because of the sheer load disposed the cost equaling hundreds of millions of dollars per year adds very quickly to a huge economic loss. Burning textile waste or landfilling used clothing, these processes release 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions released each year.
Clothing manufacturing creates over half a million tons of microfiber pollution that ends in the ocean. Half a million tons of microfiber are the equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles, each year. This plastic waste in turn is a global problem that does not impact just the environment and ocean life, but our health and economy.
At the rate of truck worth of textiles piled into a landfill per second, a staggering 18.6 million tons of clothing is estimated to end up in a landfill in 2020. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation reports that if this trend continues, over 150 million tons of clothing waste will clog landfills by 2050.
To understand this overwhelming environmental and economic problem we must take an objective look at some of the reasons that has gotten us to this point.
The biggest trends in fashion industry include vastly increased clothing production and declining use, resulting in massive levels of waste and more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and flights combined.
In the last 15 years the industry has doubled production with average consumer buying 60% more clothes in 2014 than in 2000 while the time clothing is worn before it is thrown away has fallen by around 40%. It has been estimated that on average, consumers throw away 60% on their clothes in the first year.
When it is thrown away, 73% of these clothes are burned or buried in landfill. Only 12% of this gets collected for recycling ending up being shredded and used to stuff mattresses or made into insulation or cleaning cloths. Less than 1% of what is collected is used to make new clothing.
Multiple reasons including social influencer marketing and social media has dramatically changed fashion consumption. People wanting to keep up with celebrities and their looks and styles has created and reinforced the fast fashion business model, leaving the industry in a serious battle of supply and demand.
The price of quenching one’s stylistic thirst is coming at a huge cost and impacting the manufacturing process behind fast fashion. For example, textile dyeing alone is the second highest contributor to water pollution, after agriculture. Furthermore, fast fashion creates, annually, over $500 bn worth of waste. The waste comes from discarded materials, underutilized clothing, and lack of recycling processes in place.
It has become clear that for the fashion industry to thrive in the future it needs a fundamental redesign. These trends are not only damaging the environment, they are limiting the opportunities for the fashion industry to succeed in long-term. Neglecting the fashion industry’s environmental and social impact will have detrimental effects on business growth and profits. To grow and succeed the industry must move towards a growth model. An answer to the challenges our industry currently faces lies in adopting sustainability, a great design based on a deep understanding that all things are interconnected in this world. Sustainability provides the ability to design and produce indefinitely. This requires that the design, development, production and use of fashion products meets today’s needs, without preventing them from being met by future generations. So, what does a more sustainable apparel industry look like, and how do we get there?
While we’re starting to see some early signs of an industry in transition, at LIVALYA, our commitment to instilling a heightened sense of community, empowerment and purpose by enacting principles to change design through inspiration, innovation and imagination, has always been at the core of our business model. Here is how we have been practicing sustainability.
We at LIVALYA, believe that fashion is too inventive to be trapped in the linear model for us the circular economy is an opportunity to harness the passion and creativity for which the industry is famed in a way that goes beyond securing its future and allows it to thrive.
We at LIVALYA, are not part of the take-make-waste model instead practice circular economy by designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Such an approach, which is included in our business model, involves increasing the use of clothes and make our clothes from safe and renewable materials.
At LIVALYA, we use manufacturing practices that utilize manufacturing methods that have perfected sustainability that has been innovation passed on for generations by restoring, utilizing and practicing methods that have for centuries worked towards reducing waste, toxicity, and environmental impact involved in manufacturing process.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Our business model is based on longevity, part of an industry that supports reuse, instead of rapid and irresponsible consumption. One way we achieve this goal is by customizing a garment; making our garments safe and renewable materials and maximizing the useful life of our clothes through recurring long-term use.
If fast fashion of timelines and usage, we at LIVALYA, would be at opposite end of fast-fashion consumption spectrum. We believe that fashion could do with a serious slowing down. While the idea of having and wear new styles every week may sound great, we do not believe the temporary ‘good feeling’ outweighs the negative impact of fast fashion on the environment. At LIVALYA, we are committed to being the slow fashion.
At LIVALYA, we advocate for slow fashion through return to seasonal styles. This means moving away from impulse buys of the week, to instead indulging in wardrobe additions that are in tune with the seasonal cycle of a year.
This means a call to return to limited product lines . So instead of dressing in cookie cutter fashion trends of the day, we provide our customers opportunities to invest in one of kind piece of woven, stitched, knotted piece of luxurious richness.
In a scenario where to be considered sustainable it requires 100% bio-based and biodegradable garments to be worn across a spectrum of 1440 minutes (24h) to 50 years, we are elevating the sustainability to the next level. We expect 100% of our garments to last for at least 50 years.
For us fashion starts and ends with the consumers, so we at LIVALYA work to put the power to change back into our customers hands. On way to achieve this is by ensuring recycling of our products, does not mean putting them on track to end-up in landfills, but turn them into legacy pieces that can be cycled to the next generation. We design products that not only have multi-style and multi-occasion usage by the primary owner but could be passed on as legacy well beyond one generation.
In creating our products, we show respect to our environment is by ensuring we do not mix microfibers and other plastic based material into our clothing. We maintain the line of purity and biodegradability of our products by keeping our silks as silk, and our wools as wool, so that when it is time, they can be biodegraded back into nature .
In creating our products, we show utmost respect for the artisans who create them, add value to the traditions that have made those arts possible and survive the test of time through sustainable practices. Since many of our artisans are women, we are not only wrapping you in the cozy comfort of the luxurious products of their handiworks, we are empowering women artisans through employment and financial independence. Ensuring the sustainability succession of our business model is maintained from production to consumption.
Shifting the textile, clothing and fashion industry towards long-term sustainability calls for drastic consumer behavior-led transformations in small incremental steps. We believe, LIVALYA plays an essential part in this trend of helping customers make those behavioral changes without compromising on style, quality, and fashion.
With our new normal of 2021 and beyond looking so different from how life was up until recently, instead of being wistful for not having any or enough occasions to adorn the beautiful LIVALYA updates to our wardrobe, we are reimagining what we consider fashionable for now and moving forward. At these difficult times, we wish to make what you wear to be more about what your clothes make your feel while making you look fabulous in them. Through the art of our apparel, through the cozy warmth of its fabric and through the soft silkiness provide you the comfort of a hug, from a friend needing one or a stranger being comforted by one. We wish to bring your clothing to bring a sense of balance by helping keep our environment in a state of sustainable balance, a practice we hope to continue and a legacy we wish to pass down our future generations…….
Preethi Samuel, PhD is biomedical scientist based in Texas. The information presented in this article about the clothing industry is referenced. The information in this article about LIVALYA is authentic and verifiable. The article was written in collaboration with Vaishali Vig, the founder and CEO of LIVALYA. There is no business affiliation or monetary disclosures on the part of Dr. Samuel with LIVALYA. The authors have been friends with for past three decades and have deep appreciation and commitment to sustainability.