Can the fashion industry walk on a path of zero-waste? This clothing brand proves that it can.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. How our clothes are currently produced does not account how much waste it generates and how to manage that waste. As a result, landfills are piling with textile waste from production, defected or unsold pieces as well as discarded clothing by consumers.
This vicious cycle of production and waste generation is endless. However, some are daring to stand out of this circle and fix it. The most popular one is probably Zero Waste Daniel. He is a textile designer and zero-waste lifestyle pioneer based in New York. Daniel uses pre-consumer waste from the clothing industry to create his line of genderless clothing and accessories that don’t send anything to landfills.
Closer to home, we have many brands and organisations working to manage textile waste through several creative ventures. Covid-19 has proved to give a push in this direction. Many clothing brands are seen reusing scrap fabric to make a pandemic-essential item: face masks.
But what does it mean to design with waste? Is it even safe? Do clothes made from wast look beautiful? We found one such brand making a difference and reusing discarded yarns to produce a refreshing line of clothing and home furnishing.
We sat down with the founder Ashwajeet Singh of Bekar (meaning waste in Hindi), an Indian clothing brand. We discussed zero-waste fashion and how Bekar is turning waste into wonder.
Q. Why the name ‘Bekar’?
When I started this brand, I was so excited about the whole process of transforming waste into meaningful fashion and home furnishing. I wasn’t all too bothered about the name. When I discussed this idea with my family and friends, they did not understand why I wanted to waste my time on something like this. They often said, “It is a bekar (waste) venture to even invest a thought on.”
I continued on the venture. I visited the fashion and textile factories to source leftover textile threads as raw materials. In those workshops, to my surprise, even they were referring to the leftover threads as bekar. That is when I realised that I had to call the brand BEKAR.
Q. How did the brand come into being?
I’ve always been interested in a minimalist style of living and exploring sustainable ways. After learning about the fashion industry and the waste it produces, I was intrigued to do something about it.
We all know the impact of fast fashion and are quick to discard it as well.
However, at Bekar, we try to create sustainable fashion from the waste of other fashion and textile industries.
Q. How big is the textile waste problem in India? How does the brand try to solve the same?
I won’t give you a significant number as my response and instead share my own insights. I have observed that for every order, almost every day, textile factories are left with so much waste that they can’t even reuse it. The waste either ends up in landfill or maybe reused but not in a sustainable way which creates more problems.
The way the waste is being dealt with matters. We can not keep designing and leaving the waste unaccounted for. An easy way is to understand and fix the composition of clothes. Natural raw materials like cotton decompose quichly compared to acrylic ones that stay in the environment longer. Thus, designing with natural fibres as raw materials ensures that even if a proper waste management system is not in place (even though one should be), the clothes will eventually decompose by themselves.
That is one part of the problem. Every stage of production generates it’s own share and kind of waste. Smart and sustainable planning is essential to solving this.
We, at Bekar, work on one aspect of the process. We source leftover threads from multiple factories. These threads are then used as raw materials for our products which is handwoven on a traditional loom. We also make sure to keep the process as environment-friendly as possible by not adding any artificial fabric softeners that often contain bleach. Thus by the end, consumers are buying an organic piece of clothing that is handmade.
Q. What are peoples’ perception when they hear clothes being made from ‘waste or discarded textile yarns’?
The times are changing. People now understand that just because something is made from waste, it is not less in terms of value. Clothing made from waste can be of high quality and aesthetic.
Of course, in the beginning, we got a mixed response to our clothes. People sometimes think that our products are not durable or even toxic as it is made from leftover threads. I have had to tell them that this isn’t true. There is a stigma attached to the word ‘waste’. We are trying to break it by curating aesthetically pleasing and functional pieces.
Q. How has the customer feedback been so far for the brand and its products?
If I don’t tell anyone that everything they are looking at is made from waste, they won’t know. When the revelation is made, they almost can’t believe it. Like I said, our perception about what waste is often associated with words like ‘dirty’ or ‘discarded’.
Customers almost every time leave by saying how they never thought waste could look this beautiful. We also hear of ‘how soft and luxurious to feel’ our products are. Hearing this is a win-win situation for us
Q. Finally, what tips would you give to an individual or brand who is thinking of becoming more sustainable?
We are a young brand, so I am not sure if we can give any tips per se. However, I am happy to see a sustainable shift in the fashion industry. A lot more people are now aware of the impact of fashion on our planet. They want to know what goes behind before they make a purchase.
The only thought I would like to leave people with is that just because someone is using the word sustainable, it may not mean it is sustainable. The term is often used casually or as a marketing tactic.
Sustainability is more than just raw materials. It is also about garment worker rights, eco-friendly production and transportation. Most importantly, it is about creating less waste and having a proper system in place to manage the waste. Be aware and informed of what it is and what it is not.
Bekar is available to shop online here. They currently have a line of scarves and sofa throws. The brand is planning to do a lot more. Their upcoming collection has a line of gender-neutral handwoven shirts. We are excited to see what more this zero-waste fashion brand has in store for us.
Feature image created using images from Bekar.Clothing
Sanjoli is currently working as a Content Strategist and has a Master’s degree in Fashion Journalism. She has contributed to publications like MensXP, Mindless Mag and Sustain: The Mag in the past. Conscious Charcha is her way of learning more about sustainability and spreading the word about a sustainable lifestyle.