Back to Basics: Sustainable Trend in Design Industry

The term ‘Design’ has been defined intensely, the word in itself is not naïve, and even then if we have to define design in simple words, we believe, ‘Design is finding the gap and following logical steps to fill up that gap’. Certainly, it can be elaborated and discussed further specifically for different sub field in design, but if we have to focus on gaps, the most important recent issue is our environment. Air pollution, Water pollution, Global warming, Plastic waste, etc. are the major problems, where Indian designers are concentrating and developing creative and innovative products to overcome the above environmental issues. Though many more such efforts are still to be required in this domain. The paradigm is now shifting from human centric design to life centric design. Now design is more inclusive, which does consider life as a whole and not just fulfilling human needs.

‘Fashion’ is ‘lifestyle’ and yet ever changing, the term ‘sustainable’ appears in contrast with fashion. The fashion industry has become the second largest polluting industry in the world. From adding to landfills both post and pre-consumer waste, polluting rivers with waste and sometimes toxic dyes, adding harmful pesticides to groundwater that feeds our crop to produce fibers which are manipulated in to woven fabric. Keeping these facts in mind, various Indian design schools and designers are constantly working to develop the concept of ‘Sustainable Fashion’.

Many Indian designers are using traditional materials, techniques, and folk art to design sustainable products. For example ‘Mitti Cool’ ecofriendly earthenware products of Mr. Mansukhbhai Prajapati  brings out the best of clay before the design fraternity, highlighting benefits of using clay products and creating buzz in the design industry. Mitti Cool abides by and supports various government schemes and campaigns like Clean India, Make in India, Rural Employment Scheme etc. while some designers are taking inspiration from Indian folk art and creating products which develop sustainable, economic, social system for the local rural communities.  For instance, Nina Sabnani, Professor at IDC, IIT Mumbai has received national award for the film ‘Hum Chitra Banate Hai’. The movie is based on the tradition of painting among the Bheel Tribes of Madhya Pradesh. The art form is known by the name of ‘Pithora’ and is a form of wall painting. This film not only makes the audience aware about such art form but also able to communicate about the communities’ beliefs and social practices. Promotion of this art form is helping these communities in strengthening their social identities.

Kriti Jain, young fashion designer, introduced the brand ‘Doodlage’, which up cycle the industrial or pre/post customer fabric waste by creating new wearable products and tries to promote slow fashion against fast fashion. Doodlage is also using biodegradable fabric made from corn and banana fibers for their upcoming collections. Though ‘The First Things First manifesto’ was written by Ken Garland, British designers well known for his graphic work, was initially published in 1964, which have created the notion of social responsibility among designers.  This is regarded as one of the most imperative pieces of writing in design, signs and supported by many western designers including Brian Grimbly, Ken Briggs and Gerry Cinamon and the manifesto was also published in its entirety in the Guardian. Again In 2000 the manifesto was updated by Adbusters magazine, and signed by 33 designers including Jonathan Barnbrook, Irma Boom and Milton Glaser. This led to movements like  ‘Buy Nothing Day’ observed on 23rd of November concurrent by ‘Black Friday’ promoted by Ad busters magazine based in Canada against consumerism.

Now after all this Cole Peters, a Canadian-born designer based in the UK, has again updated the manifesto for 2014, aiming to reflect the influence of the Internet on communications and design. This might have also impacted the Indian design industry in at some level. Though for Indian designers going back to basic was rather convenient. The crafts such as ‘Kantha’, (famous crafts of Bengal) were initially used to recycle the used, worn fabric. Now many Indian designer brands are using the same technique but in altered forms.

Design Institutes such as Industrial Design Centre, NIFT, NID, Ambedakar Design, faculty of Design at Manipal University Jaipur etc. are focusing their curriculum on sensitizing the design community to several relevant issues.

Designer Anita Dongre also believes that, “Today, fashion is no longer limited to just trends and innovative designs. It is also a means to encourage conversations on sustainable choices.” It is time to accept and respond that we “Humans are builders and creators—but how can we build thoughtfully, without disturbing our environment”.

About the Author

Prof. Pratibha Mishra

Head, Department of Fashion Design, MUJ

Having a design academician for past the 19 years, Dr Pratibha Sharma is currently working as the Professor and Head, Department of Fashion Design at Manipal University Jaipur. Her key responsibilities are restructuring of the department, strategizing admission plans, curriculum design and delivery, corporate relationship management and social outreach.

She has a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE) from Nottingham Trent University U.K., MSc. Garment Production and Export Management from Rajasthan University, Diploma in Textile Design from Board of Technical Education, Jodhpur. Over the years she has developed an expertise in teaching courses on Creative Textiles, Craft Study, Fundamental of Design, Sustainable Fashion, Fiber science, Textile Finishing, Dyeing and Printing.

Dr Pratibha has shouldered various leadership positions in reputed institutions and universities in the past. She has vast experience in setting up new departments and restructuring departments and streamlining operations for strategic growth.

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