Visual building blocks of sustainability: The Design Collective launches the Sustainable Edit

Earth Day took place last week on 22 April and, like always, was an opportunity to reflect on the impact that we as humans have on Earth. The fashion industry is one of our largest industries worldwide, it caters to one of our most basic needs – shelter and clothing. It is also one of the world’s most polluting industries.

From seed to retail floor, the fashion industry supply chain is complex, and it is very difficult for brands to be perfect. One sobering statistic on just how much fashion can impact the environment, according to upcycled sustainable lifestyle brand House of Lonali Founder Lonali Rodrigo, is that “worldwide, one garbage truck of textile waste is landfilled or incinerated every second!” 

In addition to Earth Day falling on 22 April, 19-25 April also marks Fashion Revolution Week, a global fashion activism movement formed in the wake of the tragic collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2014 that killed over 200 people, and aims to get consumers and brands together to revolutionise the fashion industry and conserve and restore the environment, and value people over profit. 

The Design Collective (TDC), one of Sri Lanka’s leading design retailers, marked Earth Day and Fashion Revolution Week with the launch of the TDC Sustainable Edit. 

The TDC Sustainable Edit is a curated edit of the TDC’s sustainable fashion brands that celebrates designers making a conscious effort to make change within the fashion industry supply chain. “What we’re trying to promote is that brands don’t have to be completely sustainable but need to work towards sustainability,” TDC Co-Founder Binu Wickremasinghe said, adding: “We have a sheet of goals that we hold as a benchmark. Every brand in the Sustainable Edit has what goals they’re already at, written on it for customers to see.”

The six sustainability goals identified by TDC are reduced chemical usage, reduced waste, the use of recycled materials, employing local artisans, guaranteeing fair wages, and ensuring products are animal cruelty-free. In doing this, the TDC hopes that customers, in turn, will become more aware of the definitions of these values and be curious as to who makes their clothes, and thereby make more eco-conscious decisions. 

For a brand to be selected for this designated space, they will have to declare the values they comply with and confirm that they hope to align with all six principles in the future. “It doesn’t have to be 100%,” Wickremasinghe said. “Brands can start small and go from there.” 

The brands in the Sustainable Edit include House of Lonali, Sthri by Selyn, Kantala, Ethno, Ileana the Label, Nithya, Mint Ceylon, Nakota Tuwa, Pigeon Island, Bubu, Salvage, Satat, Original Source and Supply, Sustainable, Beauty by Rosh, Amilani Perera, Leekoh, Koca by RN, ITR by Khyati Pande, Booteek, Mala Yoga, De’Anma, NAD, Sangeeta Boochra, Swarang, Summer House, and Suaroma.

The TDC Sustainable Edit features an installation hand-crafted by sustainable lifestyle brand House of Lonali. House of Lonali Founder Rodrigo shared that the installation was made entirely of pre-consumer waste from the apparel industry. “We throw away a tonne of textiles as garbage every second,” Rodrigo said. “What we wanted to do with the installation was represent the amount of textile waste that we create through fashion and bring consumers’ attention to it. We also wanted to build awareness of the different types of fabrics that fashion uses and the impact these fabrics can have on the environment. The installation uses polyester, which has a heavy impact on the environment and ends up in our oceans as microplastics.”

Bubu, one of the brands in the Sustainable Edit that makes bags out of gunny bags, shared that as a brand, they strive to be cruelty-free and empower women to be able to work from home producing bags from Bubu. Maria Domingos and Menusha Gunawardena of Bubu also explained that they follow zero-waste practices, making sure to utilise the whole sack, and making sure their other materials like leather (when used) are by-products of other processes.

Speaking on the concept of the Sustainable Edit, Domingos and Gunawardena shared that what is different about the Sustainable Edit and its criteria is that it is very visible. “Lots of people talk about it but don’t know where they stand or where to start from,” they shared, adding: “There are words given but we don’t know why. This is visual. Having the little symbols the Sustainable Edit uses also makes a difference.”

Rodrigo of House of Lonali also commended the Sustainable Edit, adding that brands of the future are going to need to be sustainable in some way to survive because sustainable fashion is going to soon become the norm. It is absolutely the future of the fashion industry. “The differentiation of this effort at this time is also very helpful because people will see why sustainable fashion is expensive and why the effort that sustainable brands put in is more.” 


Photos Saman Abesiriwardana