From rags to riches: Indian designer finds sustainable way to high fashion

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Kriti Tula, a fashion designer, poses for a picture as she stands next to the clothes made from discarded fabric waste, at her factory in New Delhi, India, November 3, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – An Indian designer is using discarded pieces of cloth to piece together fashionwear for men and women as a sustainable alternative to high-end garments.

New Delhi-based Kriti Tula’s fashion label Doodlage collects fabric waste from factories discarded for minor defects and pieces them together to create flowing dresses and sarees, selling them for about $100 a piece.

Tula said the label, which includes a men’s line featuring patchwork shirts with denim strips, emerged out of her concern for global warming and the fashion industry’s impact on the environment.

Having worked at major textile export houses, the designer said she had seen the environmental cost of high fashion first-hand: waste of cloth and water, and toxins emitted in the production process.

“Everything that we wear eventually impacts everything that we eat and consume and we breathe,” Tula told Reuters at her workshop in the capital.

A man sorts discarded fabric waste at a market in New Delhi, India, November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

The roughly $2.4 trillion global fashion industry accounts for 8-10% of the world’s carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, the United Nations Environment Programme said in 2019.

The industry is also the second-biggest consumer of water, generating about 20% of the world’s wastewater, it added.

Tula said sourcing the scraps initially proved complex and the product prices had to be higher than what many buyers may have felt was worth paying for recycled wear.

Gradually though, her business has found like-minded vendors and partners, she said.

Besides clothes, her label also makes soft toys, bags, purses and paper out of leftover fabric.

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