India recently overtook China to become the most populous country in the world. While there is excitement of the demographic dividend that India can gain from, we need to also find a way to avoid the usual challenges that comes with growth and consumerism. With over 65% of its populace under the age of 35, India stands at a unique juncture in its fashion journey, where it must leapfrog over the pitfalls of fast fashion.
India's young population is dynamic, aspirational, and more connected than ever before. As they seek to express their individuality and keep pace with global trends, the demand for fashion has surged. However, it's the path of this fashion consumption that holds immense consequences. Brands offering cheap and trendy clothing have increased, and as a result, India's clothing consumption has soared, particularly in urban areas.
The dilemma lies in the hidden costs of fast fashion. The fast fashion industry is notorious for its massive resource consumption, prolific waste generation, and unethical labor practices. If India's youth were to consume fashion at the same rate as their counterparts in developed countries, the environmental and social consequences could be catastrophic.
The Urban Decay Predicament
India's rapidly expanding urban areas are already grappling with the consequences of unchecked consumerism. Overflowing landfills, polluted rivers and lakes are visible signs of the toll on Indian cities both as a result of bad planning and breakneck growth. As cities struggle to manage the waste, the repercussions on public health and urban aesthetics are evident. If Indian youth continue to embrace fast fashion without a shift towards sustainability, urban decay could intensify.
India and the art of Leapfrogging
India has a remarkable history of leapfrogging technological trends, a testament to its adaptability and innovation. In the realm of telephony, the nation swiftly transitioned from a limited landline network to a mobile-first society, bypassing the constraints of traditional infrastructure. Similarly, India achieved substantial progress in network connectivity, especially with the widespread reach of 4G and 5G technology, connecting even the remotest regions.
It is time for India to leapfrog similarly in the case of fashion. It will not be easy, unlike the examples above, where technology made it easier to adopt the new technology, in the case of fashion, sustainable fashion still remains difficult to understand, adopt and a bit more expensive.
For India to win this battle and have a chance at leapfrogging, fashion brands will have to focus on educating the customers and making sustainable fashion more accessible. Customers frequently raise the concern that sustainability remains vaguely defined and it is not clear whether there is any tangible benefits for them as an individual to adopt these concepts. Cracking these challenges will be key for Indian brands to enable our youth to take that leap!