Ever wondered what happens to your clothes after you throw them away?

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Vogue spoke with designers and brands who are paving the way for recycled and upcycled fashion in India to understand what happens to your clothes once you throw them away

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As voracious consumers of fashion, we’re quick in purchasing clothes that catch our fancy, and equally swift in discarding them. But have we ever given a thought to where those clothes are ending up? The staggering statistics of the quantity of clothes that end up in landfills is not news—in fact, what is new information is that landfills are brimming with so much urban waste that by 2050, India is reportedly going to need a landfill that’s the size of its capital, New Delhi (as claimed by a joint report by Assocham and accounting firm PwC).

The telling numbers and warning signs cannot be ignored anymore by consumers and companies alike. Which is why, designers and brands are stepping forward now more than ever to intervene. Kriti Tula is one such name, whose contemporary label Doodlage is upcycling factory waste into innovative designs. “In a linear fashion model, it’s estimated that 73 per cent of all our clothes end up in landfill for various reasons like the lack of collection systems and ineffective redistribution. There are no large-scale solutions available to recycle blended yarns at the moment,” explains Tula. “In India, the end of the line for our garments is limited to charity, which eventually fill up local landfills,” she states.

Ironically, instead of recycling the fabrics and textiles that are over-loading India’s landfills, we are importing huge quantities of second-hand clothing from countries all over the world including the US and the UK, all of which are ending up in Haryana’s Panipat area. “When we dispose our clothes, they either end up in landfills or are sold again. However, now there are many recycling mills where second-hand clothing and fabrics from all over the world are segregated, torn apart to remove buttons, zippers and labels, and then treated to be re-purposed and used as yarn. This yarn is used to create inexpensive blankets and carpets that are sold at rock-bottom prices,” explains designer Amit Aggarwal, who works with waste material to design his couture collections.

The way around

How does Tula hope to make a difference with her ethical label? “We have spent a lot of time understanding fabric waste in the fashion industry—both post-consumer and post-production—and the current solutions available,” says Tula. “At Doodlage, we approach circularity holistically. Our raw material is factory waste. Scraps are patched together to create collections in ethical spaces, with fair wages given to artisans. For fabrics that are too small to be patched together, we create textures that are used to make bags and home accessories. The last stage is recycling to make paper for stationery products,” says Tula. Doodlage’s products also come packed in bio plastics that are 100 per cent biodegradable, with the final packaging layer being a reusable fabric tote bag made from their own leftovers