TRT World speaks to consultant and designer Nermin Kose about sustainability in fashion, and how customers can make choices that respect the Earth and their fellow humans.
“I used to work for a fast fashion company, so I know what that’s like: fast pace, cheap quality fabrics,” says Nermin Kose, consultant and designer.
Consumers buy more, wear less, discard quickly. According to Greenpeace’s ‘Timeout for Fast Fashion’ report, “sales of clothing have nearly doubled from $1 trillion in 2002 to $1.8 trillion in 2015, projected to rise to $2.1 trillion by 2025”.
Kose, born in Kocaeli, studied Econometry at Marmara University, and Fashion Design at La Salle Academy, both in Istanbul. The 40-year old is now working for her own sustainable design company, Away Denim, and doing design and brand consulting for textile clients under the Creatrix name.
The designer points out that textile manufacturing is the second most polluting industry in the world, following the oil industry. She blames fast fashion for producing fast, cheap, and low quality goods. “The multi-season approach and fast trends are putting pressure on people and the environment both,” she adds.
“Sustainable fashion is against that. It aims to treat the world with a responsible view, and leave the next generations with resources they can rely on.”
She started her work on sustainable fashion while researching for her denim company. She also writes about sustainable fashion and is the founding member for two sustainable design initiatives: Surdurulebilir Moda Platformu (Sustainable Fashion Platform) in Istanbul, founded in 2017 with 11 members, and Notion Kolektif (Notion Collective), founded in Izmir with five members.
The Sustainable Fashion Platform aims to create a textile and fashion ecosystem sensitive to the planet and society, and is an independent platform that is based on sharing knowledge, experience and ideas. It has held many activities and workshops that helped share information on sustainable fashion. It has also collaborated with universities.
The Notion Collective is a creative association for sustainable fashion. It has held seminars on ‘Fashion and the Climate Crisis’, ‘The New Face of Fashion’ that dissect the social and environmental impact of the textile industry. It continues to hold talks and produce a biweekly podcast.
Kose mentions that sustainable fashion really hit its stride about 10 years ago, but that its roots go back to the 1960s environmental movements. “There is the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson that discussed the use of pesticides, for example. Now we have organic cotton, raised naturally without the use of pesticides. There is also cannabis, a plant that does not demand as much care and nurturing as cotton, that has appeared as an alternative in textiles.”
Some US companies such as Patagonia and Esprit were at the forefront of the revolution, criticising overconsumption and adopting Earth friendly production methods. Increased research and publications have helped, and many brands have chosen to be more respectful of the environment.
In the past ten years, Kose explains, Europe has made great progress in ecological and sustainable fashion. In Turkey, she muses, perhaps the interest has been more recent. According to Kose, fabric companies are innovators, pushing the frontline with organic fabrics, fabrics dyed with natural waste plants, fabrics made using less water, fabrics made using fewer or no chemicals.
Kose’s initiatives, Sustainable Fashion Platform, and Notion Collective, are working to inform end users of the effects of capitalistic consumption, arranging panel discussions and film screenings to better explain the ideals behind their work.
“We can say that there is a new consciousness among end users in Turkey. But there is still much to do,” says Kose. “We can share more information via sustainable fashion initiatives and bring suggestions to consumers about making choices that respect the environment and humanity.”
“I suggest,” Kose concludes, “that end users check the labels of their purchases and especially stay away from polyester-based products for their own health and to protect the environment. They are better off investing in sturdy, long lasting products that they can wear for a long time, preferring goods made of organic cotton, and shopping from local brands and second hand shops.”
Thumbnail photo: A model displays a creation by French designer Isagus Toche during fashion-display of eco-clothing collections from recycled materials in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, June 23, 2017. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
Headline photo: A film screening by Sustainable Fashion Platform in May 2018. Photo courtesy of Nermin Kose.