The way our jeans are dyed, washed and finished before leaving the factory plays a huge role in reducing the environmental footprint of the garment.
A woman who is particularly knowledgeable on this subject is Ishita Tandon, Chief Sustainable Officer at Anish India Export (a VILDNIS supplier) and a trailblazer both in terms of implementing sustainable practises and working towards equality in the industry.
We asked her a few questions about her role in changing the fashion industry.
First off, please tell us a bit about yourself: what’s your background and how did you end up in your current position?
I grew up in New Delhi, India, and went to St Andrews, Scotland, for my higher education. In my first semester, I came across a module on Sustainable Development, and that is when my passion for sustainability commenced.
Since then, I have been passionate about turning our family business, Anish India Exports, into a sustainable apparel manufacturer, one step at a time. Upon completion of my degree, I returned to India to join the business and am now the Chief Sustainable Officer at AIE.
I would characterize myself as a soulful leader who is passionate about implementing sustainable practises as well as working tirelessly towards making AIE a more inclusive workplace.
My keen interest in garment washes and laundry began when I was a child, and through my role at AIE I want to pass this passion onto the younger generations around me.
What does sustainability mean to you?
‘Fundamentally Right’ is the company’s approach to sustainability, focusing on several areas; textiles, people, money, energy, water and chemicals.
Trust is the foundation of sustainable development, and trustworthy relations between the organisation and its stakeholders is key to success in today's competitive business environment.
As Chief Sustainable Officer, please explain the difference between AIE’s Laundry 5.0 and a traditional factory laundry.
As part of our commitment to become a sustainable laundry, we partnered with Italian company Jeanologia in year 2000 to bring advanced technology on board and help us achieve our goal.
Apart from lowering the factory’s environmental footprint, the new technology not only enhanced the product quality both in terms of aesthetics and hand-feel of the fabrics, but also increased productivity.
For Laundry 5.0 we have commissioned the following sustainable processing techniques:
G2 which uses air to achieve different aesthetics such as bleach effect with zero discharge and no water or chemicals involved.
E-Flow which uses nano-bubble technology to achieve a myriad of finishing effects with zero discharge, such as effects with resins, bleaching, e-acid wash, e-dyeing, enzyme, tinting flow, softening and stone flow.
Nano Laser which uses laser light to create small motifs [local damage to the fabric such as rips]. It is our most sustainable dry processing machine, saving water and energy.
H2Zero which recycles water used by other machines to cut down wastage to zero.
The ecological footprint of all the garments being processed in our laundry is measured according to Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measurement. My goal is for all the garments that are laundered at our factory to achieve the lowest category impact score (0-33) on the Environment Impact Measurement (EIM).
The laundry runs on piped natural gas (PNG), which has the lowest CO2 emissions amongst available energy sources.
The new laundry only employs female workers. How does this contribute to equality?
We have collaborated with Jeanologia for 21 years, pioneering advanced and sustainable laundry practises, and essentially transforming the Indian apparel laundry industry.
Part of our sustainable goal includes enabling and empowering women throughout the company to hold positions that are traditionally held by men. The first step towards that goal was to make AIE’s sustainable laundry 5.0 plant 100% run and managed by women.
This innovative project contributes to a double challenge, changing the norms in the country’s apparel industry AND providing equal work opportunities for women.
Textile factories traditionally employ men in leadership roles. Why do you think this is?
India accounts for a large proportion of the world's textile and apparel industry, and women make up 60% of its workforce. Due to patriarchal colonial history, women have often been underrepresented in leadership positions in their workplaces and communities, and have not been recognized.
This is changing now across the country with more women stepping forward to take up leadership roles and proving that it is possible while maintaining a good work/family/life balance.
What are the three main changes you would like to see in the fashion industry?
Fashion has always been known to push the envelope. With new trends and ideas constantly arising, fashion has a permanent eye towards the future.
The fashion industry will see huge amounts of innovation in coming years as new technology and changing customer trends and demands will drive its transformation.
As a business, we have three main goals for the future:
- Continually improve the sustainable practices across the business
- Increase the ratio of female workers across the business to 50%
- Digitalization to realise economic and environmental efficiencies
The biggest change I'd personally like to see in the fashion industry is a general switch to sustainable laundry practices to save water, electricity and chemicals.
A big thank you to Ishita for taking time out of her busy day to enlighten and inspire us. If you would like to see some of the VILDNIS products that she has been involved in, click here.