NEW DELHI, Sept 21 — Can waste be transformed into a valuable resource? This would undoubtedly be a major breakthrough, since waste has been piling up for years on all five continents, much to the detriment of the environment. It would also be a sustainable solution to drive down the carbon footprint of certain sectors. This is the idea behind the Indian label Urban Darzi, which turns only to landfill to source the raw materials needed for its future clothes.
Creating a garment from nothing. It might sound impossible at first glance, unless that “nothing” in question refers to the mountains of waste that we throw out each year. Indeed, some 20 billion tonnes of waste are dumped each year in the oceans, according to the specialist website Planetoscope, So there should theoretically be enough “nothing” out there to revolutionise our wardrobes, without harming Mother Nature. And this objective has become essential for the fashion sector, the world’s second most polluting industry.
Waste, a resource not to be neglected
After a first lukewarm experience in 2018, Akshit Bangar, founder and creative director of the Urban Darzi brand, decided to relaunch his label in the midst of the pandemic by centering the concept around upcycling—or overcycling. Here, it’s about using only waste, whether that’s fabric scraps or objects found in landfill, to create everyday products, including clothing. It is all based on the philosophy of “Jugaad,” which involves drawing on creativity to put objects to use in new ways, and to make something new and better all while consuming a minimum of resources.
Based in Kanpur and New Delhi, Urban Darzi’s teams, made up in part of students, create only from what already exists, relying primarily on “circular design practices that take into account the functionality, longevity and durability of the product we upcycle.” The concept in itself is not new, as the practice of upcycling has boomed since the onset of the pandemic. But, until now, it had probably never been so deeply ingrained in the DNA of a fashion brand.
“The fashion industry needs to be an inspiration for society in times of need, instead of being just another industry burdening the environment. With a push for building a circular economy and effectively re-purposing all the waste around us in an honest, responsible and transparent approach, we invite you on this journey together,” reads the brand’s e-store.
Upcycling, a solution for the future
From potato chip packets and other food packaging to household waste, unsold goods, fabric scraps, broken furniture and objects, single-use plastic and even newspapers... all kinds of waste is now recycled by the brand to design new products. Not content with being creative, the firm has also — inevitably — specialised in the management of this waste. And that could one day become the norm, or at least a potential solution, in an industry that has every interest in making something new out of something old in order to reduce its impact on the planet.
The Urban Darzi brand offers, for example, a reversible jacket made from a faulty uniform jacket, single-use plastic waste and food packaging waste, a bucket hat made from old jeans and other textile waste, or a shirt made from the remnants of five different fabrics. All are unique and handmade. It’s an initiative that proves that there is enough waste available on the planet to not have to resort to using new raw materials to enrich our wardrobes. — ETX Studio