Sustainability Matters in the Textile Industry

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Singapore-based clothing label MATTER, which prides itself on being a company with a conscience, takes Doyenne.sg through its sustainability journey.

By Janey Goh

“Alongside conversations around revenue, customer metrics, growth percentages and the like, there is also a parallel continual conversation around why we exist in the first place, and the impact we want to achieve.”

A row of MATTER garments stands out in a well-lit boutique with a riot of prints and bright colours. While the Singapore-based clothing label is known to construct signature pants for men and women, a collection of children’s apparel, made completely from leftover material that would be otherwise discarded, is a step forward towards minimising production waste.

A Wasteful Industry

In 2015, the textile industry produced 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, more than that of the airline and maritime industries combined. These dire numbers, as reported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, can be attributed to the linear ‘take, make, waste’ business model adopted by many fashion companies.

MATTER is determined not to be one of them. It has never seen itself as a fashion brand, touting collection after collection, season after season. In fact, MATTER deliberately works on a relatively slow, six-month design-to-product cycle, creating clothes in classic styles meant to withstand the fickle whims of fashion trends and excessive consumption.

Higher Retail Prices

In general, MATTER observes that consumers are increasingly becoming more eco-conscious and aware of how their habits and lifestyle choices can impact the natural environment. However, sustainable fashion can also be expensive and unattainable to the masses, due to higher production costs.

When customers buy from MATTER, they are paying to ensure that environmental standards are being met through regular factory audits, inspections, and that workers are given a fair remuneration. Therefore, the cost of one sustainably produced clothing item can range from USD79 for a top, to USD129 for a pair of trousers. For garments made from organic material, the prices are even higher.

Nevertheless, maintaining a sustainable and ethical production has always been MATTER’s ethos. Since inception in 2014, the brand has placed emphasis on the stories behind the prints, the traditions behind the techniques, and the textile artisans behind it all.

In India, where most MATTER garments are produced, the label collaborates with traditional textile craftsmen. Its purpose is to enable these communities to flourish as an industry, and make rural artisanal production sustainable as a livelihood.

Driven by Conscience

Yet, the commitment to reducing waste, by reducing consumption – seems to contradict the basics of good business – increasing revenue and profit. But MATTER prides itself on being a company with a conscience, driven by more than just arbitrary business numbers.

“Alongside conversations around revenue, customer metrics, growth percentages and the like, there is also a parallel continual conversation around why we exist in the first place, and the impact we want to achieve,” writes Farisia Thang, MATTER content creator, in an email interview.

Ostensibly, MATTER wants to effect positive and lasting change in the world. For those without the financial option to support sustainable fashion, the brand suggests thrifting, or clothes swapping. Even taking a bit more care to wash existing garments on a gentle cycle and air-drying them, would extend their overall wearable life span.

Moving forward, MATTER aims to participate fully in the circular economy. Ideally, this would begin with zero-waste designs, something MATTER is already working on, by partnering with other social enterprises to repurpose offcut fabrics into new and innovative products. It is these sustainable practices that matter in today’s textile industry.


Images by MATTER

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