The idea of Green is the New Black was born while watching the documentary “The True Cost” by Andrew Morgan, that portrays the fahion industry and its flaws. Indeed, today, the production of the clothes we wear has a high environmental cost, but also a social one. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world after the oil industry. Jeans can travel up to 65,000 km, one and a half times around the globe, before being put on sales in our stores. Today, 20% of water pollution is caused by dyes and textile processing. On top of this environmental impact, there is a significant social cost. We remember sadly the drama of the Rana Plaza in 2013, which left more than 1,100 workers dead. Working conditions are often bad and wages very low.
However, in Europe as in Asia, awareness is growing and behaviors are changing. Presently, we are witnessing the emergence of companies all over the world who participate in improving the situation by offering textiles at a competitive price and an acceptable social and environmental cost. Convinced that another way to dress is possible, we decided to go to meet the proponents of ethical and sustainable fashion in Asia.
Green is the New Black is a project that aims to promote an ethical and sustainable fashion. In order to do so, we left in January 2018 to meet the advocates of this sustainable fashion cause in order to identify the best initiatives and understand what makes them strong and competitive.
We met +50 entrepreneurs in 6 countries in Southeast Asia (India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Hong Kong) who are participating in the growth of “Slow Fashion”: buy less but buy better. This movement is therefore in contradiction to Fast Fashion, which pushes an ultra-fast consumption mode, a multiplication of collections which cause waste, pollution, pressure on outsourced labor, and a decline in product quality. On average, each woman buys 30 kg of clothing per year and 30% of it will never be worn. The actors we are going to meet have chosen an economic path that is more respectful of the environment and society. Their business model is based on the three principles of Corporate Social Responsibility: economically viable, environmentally friendly and socially-based solutions. They focus on:
- Production methods: Less energy and water intensive and more earth-friendly, production on the principle of circular economy. In Cambodia, Dorsu is a brand that produces its garments from recovery of textile remains from factories (end of rolls, textile waste, etc.). This method of recycling and reuse bears a name: upcycling. It is a practice that has become fashionable and a criterion of purchase in certain countries, such as Singapore or China, where creators like Zhang Na, a Chinese designer, have made their business model from this sustainable trend.
- Materials used: organic cotton, non-use of chemicals, organic dyes, etc. In Bangalore, India, we discovered Sreeranga, the founder of Dibella, a textile factory that uses organic or recycled cotton, recycled synthetic fibers and whose production generates almost no waste.
- Respect for employed men and women: working conditions, wage levels. Safia Minney, recognized today as a pioneer of ethical fashion, created People Tree 25 years ago. By partnering with fair trade producers, fashion designers, artisans and farmers in its community, People Tree strives to produce ethical and ecological collections while creating opportunities for people in developing countries. People Tree places fair trade at the heart of its business and as a supporter of Slow Fashion. The company also helps defend workers against exploitation or family separation in countries where it employs its own workers- Nepal, India and Bangladesh according to their expertise and know-how.
The purpose of the project is to show that the companies that integrate these methods are more durable, resilient, viable and efficient. Find out more about the changemakers in our case studies!
(English subtitles available)