The impacts of the Industrial Age on the environment is a hot topic of discussion. Humanity is trying to wriggle out of the grasp of the environmental degradation that it has brought on itself. The conversation usually revolves around the use of renewable sources of energy, banning plastic bags, etc. But what if I told you that one major change you can make is by choosing what you wear?
A study carried out by the University of Newcastle, Australia in 2019 found that an average person consumes 5 grams worth of microplastics every week. That’s enough plastic to make a credit card! Wonder how this is connected to your choice of clothes? Well, a major source of these microplastics is the clothes we wear. The use of synthetic fibres have long since overshot the use of natural fabrics, and with every wash, these synthetic fibres shed microplastics – around 1,900 individual fibres can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment. These microplastics end up in the hydrosphere. And, in turn, find their way into our bodies through the water and/or aquatic life we consume. It causes a wide range of ailments including various types of cancer. But this is just the tip of the iceberg as scientists say that synthetic textile production does even more harm as waste products from the process contribute to over 20% of industrial water pollution.
The Linen Trail team seem to have had the foresight to understand the harmful effects of “fast fashion” before the studies were published for they founded their “slow fashion” brand in 2015. Slow fashion or sustainable fashion is based on four pillar values – production-based demand, use of natural products, fair treatment and fair wages for labour, and preservation of traditional techniques. It is on these four pillar values that Linen Trail, Kerala’s very own pure-linen slow fashion brand was founded.
We asked Anirudh Kollara, Director of Linen Trail, why they chose to go with linen as their fabric of choice. He says, “Linen as a fabric consumes very little water, as it is produced from the flax plant which requires little irrigation. It is durable and versatile and can be worn in many ways. It is comfortable and perfect for our climate. Being a natural fabric, it does not harm the environment.”
But linen clothing production comes with a wide array of challenges. This makes linen clothing extremely expensive with most linen clothing brands charging upwards of ₹5,000-10,000 per product. Thus, the challenge that the Linen Trail team took upon themselves was to create 100% pure linen clothing products that were “made to stitch” at affordable prices. Given the barriers to linen clothing production, it has taken the team 6 years to perfect their craft.
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Sticking to their core values of sustainable fashion, Linen Trail employs traditional techniques such as dyeing and block printing, and thereby, support traditional artisans with regular work and higher than industry-standard pay. They employ woodcarvers in Hyderabad and block printers in Chennai. They have also partnered up with the Toda community of the Nilgiris to produce a unique line of clothing that is traditional yet modern. Currently, they are working with the Toda community to produce a men’s line and are on the lookout for other partnerships.
Anirudh says, “We keep everything in mind while producing the product, to make sure that everything, even the packaging is not harmful to the environment.” The current focus of the Linen Trail team is to turn the company into a zero-waste firm. They have been turning their fabric waste into masks that they give out for free with their clothing orders. They are currently in talks with NGOs from Mumbai and Mangalore to find ways to upcycle their fabric waste by turning it into laptop sleeves, scrunchies, book covers, and slippers.
It has not all been sunshine and rainbows though. Covid-19 hit Linen Trail just as they launched two retail stores. They had to go into lockdown, but the versatile team took the business online and worked relentlessly to adapt to the new normal. This ability to adapt seems to have paid dividends as the brand now has a presence in all Indian states and has gone global with a reach in five countries.
With their vision to play a major part in reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry, along with providing traditional artisans and socially backwards communities opportunities to grow, Linen Trail is a brand that every Malayali can be proud to say is from Kerala. And if you haven’t already, do check out their collection at www.linentrail.com.