Fashion with the environment in mind

Nkanyeziyethu Malinga

WHEN buying clothes, only a few people ever think of the process up to having the final product on the shelf. The process is environmentally devastating and environment experts state that the industry is the second dirtiest sector in the world, next to big oil.

Giving a small glimpse into this speculation they further argue that it takes 2 700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt which is enough for one person to drink for two-and-a-half years.

Nevertheless one self-taught fashion designer, Nkanyeziyethu Malunga, who works with natural fabrics and dyes believes that ethical fashion is the best step towards combating environmental pollution.

“Using indigenous knowledge systems is one of the best ways to combat environmental pollution. Ethical fabrics that we use for different fashion designs are very environment friendly. Though not yet fully practised, the method is very effective,” said Malunga.

Malunga creates her own fabrics and dyes from methods that most young people would not give a second thought to or never imagine. It is this environmentally friendly method that has earned her a unique space and loyal customers.

“I use highly sustainable dyes from different wild fruits trees and sisal fibre. I also weave my own fabric from tree bucks and even from Angora goats’ fur. These methods are sustainable and at the same time are environmentally friendly,” she said.

Giving a reflection on the local fashion industry, Malunga, in an unapologetic tone blames Zimbabwe for following Eastern fashion trends blindly at the expense of local indigenous methods.

“Zimbabweans heavily rely on the East for any new fashion development, yet they don’t see that they are killing their own traditional fashion system and culture, at the same time causing a huge environmental impact,” she said.

Her solution is simple. She believes institutions should start teaching fashion indigenous knowledge systems to combat pollution and embrace our own culture.

“Institutions like schools and universities should introduce indigenous knowledge systems. This is how we can begin as a country taking huge steps towards combating environmental pollution. Nevertheless I am glad that we have approached Nust even though we engage them now and then we believe in the long run it will pay off,” she said.

Malunga describes her upbringing as a colourful passage where she was surrounded by creatives who spent much of their time in the arts sector, with the leading inspiration coming from her mother who introduced her to ethical fashion.

Though she started ethical fashion designs from a tender age she is aware that financial fruits in this sector take long to ripen because society doesn’t look up to the fashion sector with keen interest.

“I think it will take long to start realising fruits from ethical fashion designs. The problem with our society is that we don’t take ethical fashion seriously. I am very passionate about this form of design and I believe soon we will penetrate the global market, although we have to note that the problem is with the youth, they are not passionate about ethical fashion,” she said.

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