An international dissemination event about “Research on Sustainable Fashion”, the findings and experiences of a three-year British Council funded Development Partnership in Higher Education (DelPHE) project was presented at the British Council Auditorium on Tuesday, 22nd May. The aim of the event was to foster interest and knowledge transfer in global fashion business and educational links between London College of Fashion (LCF) and BGMEA Institute of Fashion and Technology (BIFT) in the area of sustainable fashion. BIFT has been transformed into BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology (BUFT) by this time. Project DelPHE reveals that sustainability thinking has increasing visibility in the fashion sector in UK as well as in Bangladesh.
The LCF, University of the Arts London, BUFT in Dhaka and the UNIDO have been cooperating on a Developing Partnership in Higher Education project on green fashion. John T. Smith , Technical Adviser for textiles and Standard (BEST) programme, said, ‘The project has been run with the long-term notion to become each other’s partner choice in education’. The project and the presentations highlighted few cases that are successfully running their business and enterprises taking enough initiatives on sustainability note.
Fashion Sustainability – Diverse Perspectives; UK to Bangladesh
The seminar also focused the latest focus of sustainability. Mentioning sustainability is a multi-faceted concept that has different meanings to different people. In today’s competitive global fashion industry it is not only the environmental issues that have to be addressed but also the ethical and social justice challenges such as fair trade and economic fairness that helps to build an environment that allows everyone to flourish.
UK’s experience on sustainable fashion has got highlight through the project and the ideas and messages have been transferred here in Bangladesh through education. The UK is one of the most important markets for Bangladesh and 80% of imports from the South-Asian country are garments. Project revealed that Bangladesh textile and readymade garment companies are working hard to move from a low cost source of supply to an industry that can offer higher added value products with reduced lead times. The industry bodies are investing in education and training to improve skill levels and the ability to provide better quality and service. One of the key challenges for the industry is the need to improve labour and safety standards as low wages and poor working conditions are widely reported in Bangladeshi factories. More progress also needs to be made with environmental concerns such as water use and pollution caused by textile processing.
Some cases of sustainable practices in fashion and production that has been placed in Higher Education Institutes (HEI) within the DELPHI project at the aim of making those HEI’s capable to act as catalysts for poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Viyellatex focusing cleaner & greener production:
Mr. David Hasanat, Chairman, VIYELLATEX presented some scenario on the study of green fashion. The presentation pointed out the pressure on the retailer to ensure ethical and environmental standards from the world market and how Bangladeshi RMG manufacturers can respond to the increased demand to become environmental friendly.
Mr. David Hasanat is presenting Viyellatex model of sustainability.
VIYELLATEX positions itself as a leader in environmental responsibility in the textile sector, stating in its mission that it is ‘committed for cleaner and greener environment.’ The company has taken several steps towards minimizing energy, water and waste in production including:
• Converting a conventional fabric dryer to heat recovery saving 25%of energy
• Recycling fabric waste
• Converting cotton dust and waste from 8000 workers’ lunches to compost – more than 150 tonnes of compost was collected last year
• Treating textile production effluent water in the workers’ toilets saving more than 80 million litres of underground water per year
• Collecting 60million litres of rainwater for use in dyeing and other processes
The company also has plans for the future to build a carbon neutral factory by 2011, designed to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rules devised by the US Green Building Practices.
New Look and Echotex: Addressing long hours, low pay and buying practices
Acknowledging, like other leading fashion brands in the UK, that there is room for improvement of working conditions in their supply chain, New Look is running projects to find ways to address the root causes of workers’ rights infringements in its supply chain. New Look developed a new working plan with one of it’s suppliers Echotex, which has received national awards for it’s environmental work. Echotex is based in Bangladesh, a country where industry wages are amongst the very lowest in the world. The New Look-Echotex project aims to reduce excessive overtime, whilst increasing pay for the people involved in manufacturing their product. The strategy includes New Look itself addressing its own buying practices to ensure the benefits of the project are felt into the future. By working towards a greater understanding of the parameters and pressures on their businesses and through closer dialogue, the two companies can work towards a mutually beneficial position.
Award winning Echotex ETP
In common with other leading companies in ethical trade, New Look publicly accepts that working conditions in their supply chain may not always meet the standards they require, and that infringements of workers’ rights are sometimes found in factories supplying them.
Aranya Crafts: Pioneers in natural dyes
Aranya has pioneered a revival in natural dyes in Bangladesh for handmade textiles and clothing. The company is headed up by Ruby Ghuznavi who has over thirty years experience in researching natural dyestuffs and their application to textiles. Aranya supports over two thousand artisans in Bangladesh and is a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation.
People Tree: Designing differently
People Tree, the British-Japanese fair trade fashion company, have a design process which sets them apart from other fashion brands. Their trend conscious designs are built around traditional skills and utilise hand-weaving, hand skills and organic cotton to maximise employment. They commit to increasing orders from their network of producers year on year to build continuity and community and start their design process with these producers’ skills in mind. It works closely with fifty fair trade groups in marginalised communities across fifteen countries including Bangladesh, working along the supply chain from growing cotton to weaving and embroidery to stitching. People Tree producers are also involved in community development and training for workers. In Bangladesh, they work with the community projects Swallows, Artisan Hut, Folk Bangladesh, Kumundini and Action Bag.
Among others Bangladeshi entrepreneurs, Aarong, Bibi Productions, jatra, Juste, Kumudini Handicrafts and Prabartana was included in the knowledge sharing activities under the project DelPHE.