This Tamil Nadu startups’ Vegan Wool, natural dyes, and fertiliser derived from plants are beneficial for the environment and local communities.
“As consumers, we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.”-Emma Watson
The Fashion Monster
With the prolific growth of mass-produced goods, the Internet, and technology, fashion isn’t only for the elite; it is for everyone. This has given rise to an increased demand for clothes. However, the fashion and clothing industry is one of the biggest contributors to pollution as it is responsible for about 10% of human carbon emissions. It dries up and pollutes the water sources near the production units. It produces millions of tonnes of waste every year and synthetic clothes increase the microplastics in the oceans.
It takes approx 2,700 litres of water to make one T-shirt, which is enough water for one person to drink for about 3 years.– WWF
Of late, recycling has become an option to mitigate the effects of pollution. But it has limited impact due to logistic and economic limitations. To put that in perspective, approx 17 million tonnes of textile waste was generated in the USA in 2018. About 15% i.e. only 2.5 million tonnes of this was recycled, with the rest being sent to landfills or burnt. (Source)
This practice is convenient for different stakeholders but highly toxic to the environment.
Spinning a Sustainable Yarn
With increasing awareness among producers and consumers, fashion brands are focusing more on sustainability as environment conservation has become a serious concern. One of the ways in which they do this is by using eco-friendly fabric to produce clothes.
Mr Gowri Shankar had been in the business of weaving and textile creation for 15 years. He realised how the entire fashion industry is damaging the environment and needed to be more in-sync with nature. He founded Faborg in 2015 with a mission to create an enterprise that is 100% natural, sustainable, and empowers the farmers.
Faborg’s flagship product Weganool is a plant-based alternative for wool fabrics. Weganool is made by blending fibers from a plant named Calotropis with 70% organic, rain-fed cotton. The fibre is such that the garment prepared out of it is lightweight and can regulate body temperature. The team also exports Weganool to Europe.
“Production of 1 kg WEGANOOL with regenerative rain-fed cotton yarn saves 27,000 litres of clean drinking water compared to 100% cotton yarn.”
Faborg’s commitment to holistic sustainability is imbibed in all its processes: from the manner in which they produce and process their products to how it disposes of the by-products. Calotropis plants grow naturally in arid regions, which helps in reviving the biodiversity of that area. This plant does not require water, pesticides, or human attention, and yields twice a year. Since Weganool is derived from plants, it is animal-friendly. Moreover, its production is entirely manual, thus empowering rural women by giving them work and improving the rural economy.
The residue obtained from the extraction of this fibre works as a natural insect repellent and fertiliser: Arka. It is used in the field as an organic, efficient, and cheaper alternative to chemical-based pest repellents and fertilisers. Arka also improves the quality and drought-resistance capacity of the soil along with the yield and immunity of the plants. Benefits of Arka has reached more than 4,000 acres of farmland across India.
Additionally, the wool is coloured using natural dyes derived from marigold, pomegranate, indigo, etc. plants which leave behind compostable residue.
“Arka is sold at highly subsidised prices to the farmers (Rs. 60/litre) which is around 8 to 9 times lesser than the price of the commonly used fertiliser.”
Challenges Faced by Faborg
Although the idea behind Faborg’s environment-friendly work has been successful, it did not come easy. In the initial stages, Faborg team had to research extensively, which was a time- and effort-consuming process. They studied different types of plants before finally selecting the Calotropis plant. Envisioning and implementing a holistically sustainable ecosystem is a challenge in itself as there are multiple stakeholders involved and you have to ensure the economic and ecological viability.
The team had to halt its work for almost 4 months during the Corona lockdown and support from the government wasn’t truly effective. That’s one area which Faborg believes can make the difference for emergent startups in India. With adequate support from the government, academia, and industry, Indian entrepreneurs will innovate to realise sustainable change at scale across the country, thus solving numerous problems that we face.
Creating a Better Future
The team’s stellar efforts are gaining traction among the fashion community, with Faborg winning the PETA India Vegan Fashion Award 2020 for Weganool.
The startup aims to curb the migration of farmers in search of jobs and make them financially self-sustaining. It is also working towards saving water, using existing resources to their fullest potential, and making nature-friendly practices the norm of the industry. Thus, it is moving forward to realise the UN Sustainable Development Goals and aspires to replace chemical-based products with practically sustainable alternatives.
Faborg’s transformative vision and efforts are truly commendable and should be scaled up rapidly. This requires us to drop the business as usual approach and put nature at the centre of human activities. Mr Shankar believes that it’s when each one of us is aware of holistic sustainability which is beneficial for all, and especially the environment, and earnestly spread the message, that we can realise a better world. Once that is in place, the collective will and actions will ensure a bright future for the planet.
Check out other Indian Sustainable and Ethical fashion brands.
Article by Samriddhi Singh, Team ulaunch.