Arty dig on fashion pollution

If there’s one thing that millennials and Gen Z agree on whole-heartedly, it is the love for the environment and all-things-woke. On the road to sustainability, a common problem is uncontrolled fast fashion that pollutes the air, water, and land in unthinkable ways. While the fashion industry is still trying to find viable alternatives for fashion pollutants, an artistic intervention has brought together seven artists to raise awareness around the pressing issue of wastewater in the fashion industry and an urgent climate-action to curb the damage.

The ReFashion Hub collective recently collaborated with talented Indian artists and graphic designers like Priyanka Paul, Aditi Mali, Manasi Deshpande, Mehek Malhotra, Vinu Joseph, Param Sahib, and Sonali Bhasin to create a series of commissioned artworks and comic strips that take a dig at fashion business. The sarcastic take on the absurdity of the fashion industry urges modern-day consumers to shop responsibly and think about the environment before buying mass-produced cheap clothes. Divya Thomas from The ReFashion Hub informs, “The artworks intend to popularise the narrative on the different ways that fashion impacts our lives and the environment around us. By 2050, fashion will become the second-largest water polluter.”

“It’s imperative for us as consumers, to come together to talk about the consequences of fashion on climate, as well as what each of us can do to make fair fashion choices,” says Divya.

Hard-hitting facts

Did you know that around 2,700 litres of water is used to produce one cotton T-shirt and 7,500 litres of water is used to produce denim garments? When facts like these are presented to a consumer, they think multiple times before supporting the fast fashion industry which is responsible for water wastage and pollution. Fast fashion is cheap, but it comes at a cost. We check labels and ingredients before purchasing every food item. Would we reconsider that Little Black Dress if the label also mentioned its environmental cost?

Artist Manasi Deshpande, who did a little survey among her friends, was surprised to know that not a lot of them were aware that it takes such huge quantities of water to produce apparel. She shares the story behind the artwork, “I realised the problem is that we need to create awareness about water-crisis, especially about fast fashion’s impact on the environment. A lot of people aren’t aware of the environmental crisis and keep hoarding inventory because it is cheap. Fast fashion hurts not only the environment but also the garment workers who are paid meager wages to work in horrible conditions. The illustration also considers this perspective and mentions the insatiable thirst of the fashion industry which hurts the environment through pollution and waste. I have tried to encapsulate the irony behind the production of “Save Water” cotton t-shirts and the environmental price. To tackle the problem of excess in the fashion industry, we need to buy less and explore options like renting or borrowing clothes from peer-to-peer. Thrifting or buying pre-loved fashion is also a great option to reduce the wastage, and has recently started gaining popularity in India.”

Not-so-funny anymore

Globally, fast fashion consumption is predicted to rise by 63% by the year 2030 and this would put stress on the world’s water resources too. In a comical series by designer Param Sahib, the art mocks the trap of the fast fashion industry on the mindset of people and how consumers have become part of a billion-dollar industry with zero conscience towards the environment. He explains, “The artwork is a minimal style comic series depicting the water wastage issues in a light-hearted funny illustrated series. The colour palette is a classic blue, black, white, and grey to keep the message clear. I don’t think of fashion as just a momentary gig, but also as a designer, the responsibility lies harder to create a life and a self-sustaining ecosystem. The need of the hour is to look out for alternatives for the damage-causing materials. We might not see it now, but in a few years the effect is going to be more visible and more evident to us and by then, it would be too late to replenish the resources.”

Stop buying, start recycling

Swapping clothes with friends, donating clothes, getting your clothes stitched, reusing, revamping, painting on your clothes and more are some ways to stop fast-fashion consumerism. Artist Aditi Mali points out that all the fun t-shirts with basic quotes are so redundant, and through her artwork, she hopes to see a change in excessive shopping habits among buyers. She says, “The t-shirt in the comic has “t-shirt quote” written on it with a smiley face. It may not look harmful to you but it’s got its ways to add more bad to the planet. The colours of the comic are fun and pastel because I wanted it to have a contrast to the content.”

Similarly, artist Mehek Malhotra’s artwork aims to start the conversation around the alarming ground reality of the fast fashion cycle. “I use a language that speaks to consumers of fast fashion. We can afford a Rs 300 t-shirt, but we can’t afford to repair the damage it does to the environment,” remarks Mehek, and sums up her art story.


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