Dhana Inc. at the Birth of Circular Fashion
I was thrilled to attend the 2017 Copenhagen Fashion Summit this past May. It was especially meaningful for me as Dhana Inc. will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in July 2018, and the theme of the summit was the Circular Economy — which affirms how the Dhana brand has practiced business from the beginning. In fact, the prime impetus for the company came from our awareness of how fashion and apparels’ traditionally linear way of production and consumption has been inefficient and harmful to the planet, and by extension, to ourselves. The fashion machine has had a relentless hunger for resources with no sense of finite limits and the current short-term solutions discard garments in landfills.
Dhana saw how this broken system had made the fashion industry the second most polluting (following petroleum) in the world. As a brand that has always looked to nature for design and color inspiration, it was a short hop to a bigger vision based on the symbiotic co-dependence of life on earth and confirming a way to coexist with nature without destruction during production.
For context, here’s one of the circular economy’s biggest cheerleaders, Ellen MacArthur, talking about statistics and impact:
“The industry’s immense footprint extends beyond the use of raw materials. In 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production totaled 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The industry also has direct local impacts. Textile production can have negative effects on farmers, factory workers, and the surrounding environment. And 20% of industrial water pollution globally is attributable to the dyeing and treatment of textiles.”*
At the 2017 Copenhagen Fashion Summit the largest group of sustainable fashion professionals in the world went deeper into new ideas and practices, through presentations and discussions. Learning about water stewardship, smart textiles, such as stem-cell-based leather and fur, healthy, breathable fabrics made of 100% recycled-from-landfill orange peels, and 100% compostable plastic bags which “dematerialize” after 24 weeks. Experts spoke about digitizing an industry that hasn’t shifted from an analog model since its inception. Ideas varied from digital showrooms--which reduce by 80% the need for physical samples--cutting down on manufacturing, and the rise of 3-D design and manufacture, which will remove many potentially polluting factors, such as shipping.
For a thoughtful and thorough overview of what the circular economy is and does, take a moment to listen to Ellen MacArthur: Click to watch video.
Since ours is an industry in fascinating and vitally important flux, the very term sustainability, which has been the button word for the new value system, is modified and replaced in 2018 with two words: Restorative and Regenerative. The circular economy idea, which was introduced by the British environmental economists David W. Pearce and R. Kerry Turner in 1989, is embedded in those words. At the summit, we were challenged to commit to adopting this new system of designing, making, and selling fashion. Dhana Inc. was one of 64 companies which signed the letter of commitment, joining well-known brands--including Adidas, Eileen Fisher, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, and Target. H&M—to pledge to only use recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
The Dhana Inc. commitment embraces a 3-pronged approach.
- Continue to use sustainable fibers such as organic cotton.
- Promote and offer education on circular fashion, to cultivate an open mind in consumers and teach them to look for recycled fibers when buying clothes. While promoting the practice of bringing old clothing to stores which recycle.
- Introduce innovative fabrics into future collections sourced from the natural world; grapes, mushrooms and oranges are some examples (see Salvatore Ferragamo’s latest collection based on citrus fruits).
At this time, these innovative materials are still exotic and less mainstream within the market. We see Dhana as one of the early adopters of these fibers regenerating a network of sustainable solutions for the community implementation. Can you imagine grapes being repurposed into fiber for fashion after use in vineyards? We are only at the tip of the knowledge pyramid, an exciting and inspiring place to be!
At our 10th Anniversary, Dhana Inc. plans to prove that circular fashion is an idea that can be scaled. This is the sobering question that eventually meets every visionary initiative: Can it grow and be viable as a business? We are committed to raising capital in 2018 to broaden our product offering, to nurture awareness through digital marketing and communications, and to secure long-term relationships with strategic partners. And, through our collaboration with our current partners, including Global Fashion Agenda, B Labs and CO, we will continue to pursue our mission to “Unite Humanity Through Fashion.”
* Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, (2017, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications).