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Fashion forward: These startups are converting waste into bags and clothes

Business Insider India logo Business Insider India 23-09-2022 Soniya Tiwari
Fashion forward: These startups are converting waste into bags and clothes © Ecokaari and Doodlage Fashion forward: These startups are converting waste into bags and clothes

  • People generally throw away 60% of their clothes within a year.
  • The garment industry consumes around 93 billion cubic metres of water – enough to meet the needs of 5 million people.
  • Business Insider India spoke to startups such as Doodlage and EcoKaari to dig deep into sustainable fashion in India.

Trends like fast fashion that’s in these days has a darker side – more wastage. Apart from the fact that people who buy more also dispose more, in general, people throw away 60% of their clothes within a year.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if this trend continues, over 150 million tonnes of clothing waste will clog landfills by 2050.

Delhi-based designer Kriti Tula, who was shocked by the ‘fashion waste’, co-founded a company called Doodlage that upcycles old clothes and calls it remanufacturing of clothes.

“Doodlage processes post-cutting waste, defective pieces and end-of-line fabric, dead stock and recycled material. Re-manufacturing saves the resources that would go into making virgin fabrics. Considering the enormous environmental costs of (mainly fast) fashion - from water-guzzling cotton crops to unsustainable levels of cloth production - it can make a great difference,” Tula told Business Insider India.

The garment industry consumes around 93 billion cubic metres of water – enough to meet the needs of 5 million people.

Recycling however is only half the problem solved, as fast fashion is at the root of it. Tula has an answer for that too.

“There are many ways to work with sustainable fashion. From traditional upcycling of used consumer waste to working with artisans to create slow fashion, you can choose your raw material and the right supply chain according to the market you are catering to,” said Tula.

In the first quarter of this year, Doodlage saved and reused 15,000 metres of fabric waste.

Waste to bags

Another fashion startup is also looking to utilise waste itself. Pune-based EcoKaari makes waste its raw material and has many unique products like bags made out of Lays’ chips packets.

“EcoKaari is a social enterprise that has two aims – to conserve the environment by upcycling plastic waste and to provide livelihood to artisans, mainly women and youth from less privileged backgrounds,” Nandan Bhat, founder of EcoKaari, told Business Insider India.

The startup brings in sustainability with the material and the process involved in creating its handwoven products too.

© Ecokaari

“From colour-wise segregation of plastics to sanitisation, our process is green as we use no heat, electricity or chemicals during the upcycling process with traditional charkha and handloom. This can thus be set up in any remote village, enabling craft-based opportunities for less privileged people,” says Bhat.

In FY22, EcoKaari upcycled almost 17 lakh waste plastic bags and wrappers, thus preventing them from going into the landfills and ocean. For the current fiscal, it is targeting 47.5 lakh.

Easy to source

Sourcing these products is not very tough according to these entrepreneurs. Ecokaari has tied up with waste-picking organisations such as Poornam Ecovision and Sahas Zero Waste. They also receive plastic in the form of donations and also buy them from waste pickers. They collect gift wrappers, chips and cookie packets too.

“As a production-based country, we have no dearth of fabric waste created in printing units, fabric manufacturing units and garment production units. We also source from traders who clear fabric waste from many factories in an area,” said Tula.

Training and investments

This year, EcoKaari has set a goal to generate revenue of ₹2.25 crore. “We are trying to increase our productivity by using modern clean equipment, providing training and skilling artisans, and expanding,” said Bhat.

Organisations like the Tata group and Dell have tied up with EcoKaari for sourcing products for corporate gifting, Bhat said. The company is also exporting to countries like Europe, Japan and the US, he added.

Tula also banks on increasing corporate interest in sustainability to grow her enterprise. She says that a lot of them have shown interest in conscious production for their internal projects. Her company has worked with organisations like PayU, Tata Cliq, Facebook, Apple Inc and more.

“We also provide packaging solutions, create merchandise, do fashion shows – all to reach more people with the idea of looking at alternatives and making them aspirational,” Tula said.

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