A recent video of an interview with ex-Vogue Editor Bandana Tewari has been doing the rounds on social media, where she talks about a very pertinent and an urgent issue. Tewari discloses that the world manufactures a whopping excess of 500 billion T-shirts per year. According to the World Wildlife Fund, it takes 2,700 litres of water – from farm to production-of one cotton T-shirt. You can do the math and calculate the enormous stress an excess of 500 billion T-shirts puts on the environment. At a time, when the world is in water-stress, the issue of sustainable fashion, conscious buying, morality and integrity of clothing choices has to take centre stage. Does it ring a bell, when experts point out that we only wear 20 percent of our stuff in the closet, 80 percent of the time?
There are many ways how we can mitigate our carbon footprint as far our fashion is concerned and increase our sustainability quotient and two Bangalore-based social-entrepreneurs, namely Devyani Trivedi, 42, and Anandi Sridharan, 41 tell us how to.
Trivedi runs a thrift store called ‘Re-Store’ in Whitefield in sub-urban Bangalore and Sridharan, is the founder of ‘Cayal’ an online technology platform which allows renting and borrowing.
Re-Store: I met Devyani Trivedi, an ex-IT professional, at the local government school where she volunteers her time as a teacher and we chatted on how the concept of ‘Re-Store’ came about. She recollects how at a donation drive conducted by the local citizen group; they largely collected a lot of clothes most of which were in very good condition. There were other occasions during the year too when people wanted to give away clothes. This made Trivedi and the other volunteers, rethink of a better model of using ‘preloved’ clothes.
This led to the creation of ‘Re-Store’ in 2017 – a store dedicated to preloved and ‘gently used’ clothes. Accessories and household items were also added later to the store. Trivedi’s previous stint with Oxfam in the United Kingdom that had introduced her to thrift stores proved to be very helpful. It was also where she learnt that buying second-hand could be an option with no stigma attached. She learnt that this controlled the ‘garbage’ considerably that was created by a ‘throwaway’ society.
Re-Store is located close to a village community and has become very popular with them. The rental for the shop was initially supported by the citizen group ‘Whitefield Rising’, till it became self-sustaining. Trivedi does not accept any item of clothing that is too expensive or which requires a lot of maintenance. This helps in pricing of items in the range from Rs.5/- to Rs.300/-, making it accessible for customers from all walks of life.
When I went to visit the store, Venkatesh, the storekeeper took me through it. In addition to clothes, shoes, crockery, children’s games, bags are also stocked. Re-Store also encourages parents to give away pre-loved clothes, toys or books on their child’s birthday, as an alternative to the trend of giving ‘return gifts’. While Re-Store may have popularised concepts of sustainability like Reuse, Rent, and Repair, there is yet another silver lining. The proceeds earned from the store is financing education of a deserving girl child, who is already bringing laurels to the village.
Cayal: While Re-Store is a physical store, ‘Cayal’ founded by Anandi Sridharan is a tech-platform that facilitates renting and sharing. It is a peer-peer online platform that is tech enabled for users to list the items they would like to rent out. Sridharan, an erstwhile full-time product development professional, explained about how this community-based platform was developed where people could rent and share things with one another, and can become a true alternative to buying.
Cayal piloted the lending platform with fashion and clothes. “Typically, in many households, there are some clothes that are not used very often. It could be a jacket or perhaps a Kanjivaram saree. These are also pieces that you do not want to part with. If one is willing to share, then the item can be put to better use”, explains Sridharan. Hence, a model that incentivised the ‘lender’ was developed. For the ‘borrower’ it meant that he or she did not have to buy something that was needed only for a one-time use. The central mission, hence, was to create communities that changed its consumption pattern from buying to renting and thereby breaking the cycle of excessive consumption and wastage.
In addition to clothes, Cayal has now expanded the products to books, musical instruments, travel gear, games, toys, home needs and even aids for senior citizens. “We have a monthly growth in membership of 10-15% and we have 1500 members who have signed up at the moment”, says Sridharan optimistically.
How the platform works: The owner of a product registers oneself on the website and then lists the products with descriptions. When there is a request, Cayal verifies it and the owner hands over the product via a pickup or personally. After use, the product is returned to the owner who confirms it to Cayal and a rental fee is paid to the owner. A borrower in turn registers on the platform, browses for a product. On finding the product, the borrower reserves it and makes a payment. The product is picked up, used and then returned in good condition. For more on this do visit this link https://cayal.in/how-it-work. A rental etiquette delineated for members makes sure that the entire experience for members is a positive one.
Both Devyani Trivedi and Anandhi Sridharan, have realistic expectations and don’t expect people to go on an extreme fashion diet, but they recommend that a garment should be purchased only when there is value attached to it. This conscious buying prevents the buyer from trashing it at the earliest and an item is cherished and used for a long time
So next time we go to buy clothes or accessories, in a world that is stretched in resources we should be asking the following questions.
- Firstly, do we really need the product?
- Are the fabrics made from natural fibres or are they chemically synthesised? What is the impact on the environment?
- Do the clothes that we buy generate livelihoods or are they machine-made?
- How many times will we actually wear the clothes that we buy? Are we swayed by fashion trends too often that most of the clothes go unused?
- Do we hoard for a special occasion that never comes?
- What is the carbon footprint of the clothes? Do we buy local or do we import it?
Food for thought indeed.
This article was first published here: https://www.womensweb.in/2019/10/this-festive-season-pre-loved-recycled-clothes-from-re-store-and-cayal-oct19wk1sr/