All photos from Yale E360
Clothing is a daily necessity (a vanguard nudist might disagree with that statement). Every day after getting out of bed we change into a a set of clothes before stepping out of our homes because it is a daily habit that we have adopted even before we had the ability of dressing ourselves when we were babies. This practice we have developed, when you add up clothing that gets worn out and must be replaced, is very costly to the environment considering people in the U.S. dispose of about 12.8 million tons of textiles annually, which amounts to about 80 pounds per person.
Growing cotton, the most-used fabric in fashion, requires water and agricultural chemicals. (Organic cotton is an exception.) While cotton is grown on just 2.4 percent of the world’s cropland, it accounts for 24 percent and 11 percent of global sales of insecticides and pesticides, respectively, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition — an alliance of retailers, brands, and nonprofits — has been working for about five years to measure and reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.
Recycling has become a rallying cry in the apparel industry, with H&M as its most vocal evangelist. The Swedish firm launched a 1-million euro contest to seek out ideas for turning old clothes into new, invested in Worn Again, a company that is developing textile recycling technology, and enlisted hip-hop artist M.I.A. to produce a music video called Rewear It that aims to “highlight the importance of garment collecting and recycling.” With Nike, H&M is a global partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose mission is to drive a transition to a circular economy — that is, an industrial system in which everything at the end of its life is made into something new, in contrast to today’s economy, where most consumer goods are produced, used, and then thrown away.
Kusuma Rajaiah displaying a sari made from ‘Ahimsa Silk’. Photo: Balachander Goud
Do you know how many silkworms are normally killed to make a five yard silk sari? Kusuma Rajaiah, a 55-year old government officer from India’s Andhra Pradesh state, does: “Around 50,000.” Rajaiah estimates that around 15 silkworms are normally sacrificed to produce a gram of silk yarn. For years, he’s been battling against what he describes as the “cruel killing of millions of innocent worms.” And has come up with an alternative. He realized the lure of silk was too strong to persuade people to give it up altogether so he came up with a technique that spares the life of the silkworm.
Ahimsa silk derives its idea and the brand name from Mahatma Gandhi, who was also critical of the conventional method of silk production. In fact, he had written to the Silk Board of India to explore ways of producing silk without hurting any living being. For Rajaiah, it’s a matter of pride to have fulfilled that wish; a pride shared by those who use the fabric.
An understated tourist destination, Chanderi and its looms are often missed on the route to nearby Orchha and Khajuraho. PHOTO: Gaatha
You must have heard of India’s ubiquitous piece of clothing that is the sari. Graceful, flattering, stately – several are the adjectives used to describe this six yards of fabric. But have you heard its story? From the threads and to the loom, to the people striving to uphold the dignity of working by hand and keeping the powerloom lobbies at bay? Then, the story of the Chanderi sari is for you to read, courtesy the Outlook:
The softly shimmering legacy of many hands lingers in its weave, the gorgeous rustle of cotton and silk hails its arrival: the handloom sari, timeless showcase of India’s heritage textile, gathered from all over the country to drape the Indian woman. From Delhi living room conversation piece to subtle South Indian wedding showstopper, the handloom sari has always kept standards high. Parrot green, frighteningly pink, marvellously magenta, from Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu to Sambalpuri in Orissa, it wends its way into trousseaus, staple sari collections and 100 Sari Pacts (the most recent trend in sari preservation has women vowing to wear a hundred saris and commemorate the traditional garment). Its weavers are craftsmen, their outlines blurred by the sheer number of people involved in the creation of one long, winding stretch of cloth.
One of Hortense Mitchell Acton’s Callot Soeurs gowns in the Camera Verde of Villa La Pietra. The gold and silver lace at the neck, the apron skirt, and the five metallic rosettes across the chest recall the forms of a Gothic cathedral. The sleeves are made of metallic lace, now oxidized. PHOTOGRAPHS BY PARI DUKOVIC
It is likely that the New Yorker is the publication we link to the most, between its magazine and its website. If so, there is a reason. They care about stories we care about, enough to put their best writers and photographers on the task:
BY JESSAMYN HATCHER AND PARI DUKOVIC
A number of years ago, a young painting conservator entered a forgotten storeroom in a fifteenth-century Florentine villa and stumbled on a pile of Louis Vuitton steamer trunks. She opened them and discovered a collection of exquisite dresses, the kind usually seen only in movies, or inside protective vitrines in museums. Closer inspection revealed silk labels, hand-woven with the name “Callot Soeurs.” Continue reading