Emirates Environmental Group talks sustainable fashion in Dubai - GulfToday

Emirates Environmental Group talks sustainable fashion in Dubai


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Sustainable fashion is possible. It only has to start with being conscious of waste segregation, more of the walk-the-talk on collaborative efforts between and among individuals, and political will.

This was the take-away from the “Sustainable Fashion: A Moment or a Movement?” panel discussion hosted by the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) on Thursday in Dubai.

EEG chairperson Habiba Al Mar’ashi opened the forum.

“The fashion industry is the third highest polluting industry in the world with three-fifth of clothes being sent to the incinerator in just a year after its production. In the UAE, clothing sales amounted to $12.3 billion or an annual growth rate of 4.8 per cent according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With the industry playing such an important role in our economy and national interest, it is high time that the case for sustainable fashion is implemented effectively in the UAE to avert potential effects it can have in an already water-scarce region. The private sector has a crucial role in this industry, as it is predominantly run by them.”

DGrade managing director Emma Barber told Gulf Today that while sustainable fashion is possible, it is expensive because of the ethics of fair trade, synonymous to fair wages, which means salaries for everyone in the industry have to go up.

Barber has been in the industry from 1991. Since a decade back and in the UAE, she has been into the recycling of two of the eco-friendly types of plastics, spinning these into several types of fabrics.

Sustainable fashion is also on the high-end scale because “cheap materials like cheap dye are not used.”

“But, (we) cannot keep on pulling virgin resources out of the ground like for polyester, we need a lot of oil in its production. (Yet), when we use recyclable plastics which already contain oil, then we are doing away with the (voluminous) oil (for the manufacture of clothes).”

At the open forum, Barber stressed the significance of maintaining two trash bins at home. One for the wet/food waste. One for the recyclables such as plastics which could be spun into fabrics, while the pieces of paper could be re-used as packaging items.

She said one need not necessarily purchase loads of clothes then rarely use these.

In the “A-Z Most-Used Terms in Sustainable Fashion” booklet of The College of Fashion & Design-Dubai (CFD) distributed to the audience, Barber’s opinion is referred to as the “cost-per-wear.”

Cost-per-wear “considers the value of a piece in relation to how many times it is worn. For example, you buy a pair of $200 sneakers and wear them twice, that is $100 per wear. You wear then 100 times, it is $2 per wear and so on. It is the price you pay for an item should be reflective of its value to you.”

Barber said sustainable fashion is achievable.

However, “We need to be educated. We need strong collaboration among manufacturers, the shipping and freight sectors, the consumers, and the regulatory bodies.”

At the open forum, visiting Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong said “strong political will” answers the challenges mankind face towards sustainable living, which includes everything everyone utilizes.

Interviewed, Ong, among Philippine-based beauty pageant/foundation ambassadors for environmental protection, said the problem of political will and leadership reeks in the developing countries.

“I went to one of these last year. The village officials who asked me to take part in their beach clean-up burned all the plastics we had collected because they had no place for these. I was (aghast). They said they needed promotion.”

Meanwhile, CFD marketing director Jessica Galeno said that the 50 enrollees at the fashion school are seeing themselves as future designers not into the mass production of garments and as astute industry players who know where to responsibly source out their materials.

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