Peter England, by the end of FY 2018-19, will be able to create employment for at least 1000 women in rural areas, and produce 3.5 lakh pieces of shirts. What is more noteworthy than these numbers is the brand's commitment to social and environmental compliances. Anurima Das, in conversation with Nidhi Raj, Creative Director – Design and VM, Peter England, Madura Fashion & Lifestyle .
Tell us about Peter England's sustainable production processes.
At Peter England, the journey of bringing sustainable clothing to our consumers started in 2011 when we launched a collection called "Oxygeans". Jeans as a product category is probably the biggest culprit among all textiles that cause harm to the environment. It consumes thousands of litres of water and kilowatts of energy and generates toxic waste. Our designers developed a new process that was a combination of innovative jeans washing technique and cutting edge technology. This new process helped us save 60 to 80 litres of water while making exactly the same jeans that a conventional process would deliver. Oxygeans was also awarded the prestigious "design concept of the year" at Images Fashion Awards.
How was the jeans received in the market?
In 2011, we sold 15,350 pairs of Oxygeans that is equivalent of a savings of 1,200,000 liters of water. This saved water was collected and distributed in 18 different locations in Karnataka with severe water crisis under an initiative called "Give Water".
You say, right from the farming stage the brand follows environment friendly methods. Guide us through the process till the product reaches the consumer.
Jeans manufacturing cycle from the cotton field to retail stores consumes about 11000 litres of water and about the same amount is spent by consumers during its lifecycle. We decided to give a tool to the consumers to help them make a difference. We developed PROTECH.t, a technology that creates protective surfaces on the jeans, which allows it to stay fresh for much longer. While Oxygeans saved water at its washing step, Oxykult gave the potential to consumers to reduce impact by atleast 70%. In the year 2013, we went a step forward and introduced "OxyKult" Jeans that is powered by our trademarked property called PROTECH.
Then in 2014, Peter England introduced Advanced Denim. Our Knowledge Management Center team partnered with Clariant Chemicals and developed a special dyeing process through which we managed to save 92% of water in jeans manufacturing process right from the cotton fields to the ready to wear jeans. We sold 27,000 pieces of Advanced Denim that is equivalent of a savings of 340 million litres of water. It also delivered energy saving of 30%.
Our obsession to create sustainable products led us to dream the impossible. Could we make jeans without using any water? Initially the answer was very simple NO. After a research that lasted 3 years and multiple trials, we developed "Oxy-Tech".
So what exactly is this Oxy Tech jeans?
"Oxy-Tech Jeans" is a pair of jeans that is not made but printed. With digital printing technology we imitated a washed jeans effect on a 100% organic cotton fabric. Oxy-tech, thus, not even uses a single drop of water or chemicals to wash the jeans. This is scheduled to reach our consumers in Spring Summer 2016.
What else is there in the pipeline for the brand?
Yet another maverick product in the pipeline of Peter England is ECOBLAST Jeans scheduled to be launched in Autumn Winter 2016. There is absolutely no compromise on look or feel of the garment. It uses DRY ICE instead of poisonous Potassium Permanganate to create the vintage effects on the jeans and natural coffee waste is collected to add a tint of used impressions. Completely handcrafted, these products are 100% chemical free while saving 90% of water, reducing 45% energy consumption. EcoBlast can potentially reduce global warming by 57% (GWP 100 years)
The Slow Fashion range of hand spun and hand woven fabric is a direct reflection of the work Peter England has been doing for years now. Tell us about the range in detail.
The journey on hand supn and hand woven fabric started 2 years ago and after multiple trials on 26th January 2016, Peter England launched this SLOW FASHION Collection in India. Mirroring the emotions of the confident and young India, we developed a series of garments such as shirts, blazers and trouser in hand spun and hand woven Fabrics.
The journey started in April 2014 in Murshidabad, a small town in West Bengal where we worked with the local weavers to develop the model of large-scale production of hand supn and hand woven fabrics. Compared to mill made fabrics, this saves 45% energy and water. Extensively handmade, these fabrics celebrate slow fashion.
What are the consumer segments that Peter England is targeting with the Slow Fashion range?
It is meant for the new and confidant young Indian who is ready to take it to the streets to make a positive difference in social and cultural construct.
What are the fibre constituents of these collections?
These are made of 100% natural cotton.
When you say Slow Fashion, are all the raw materials hand spun or hand-made? How much of the process is traditional.
The process is extremely traditional and is free of any chemicals that have unfortunately become an integral part of fabric making now.
A Newer Approach To CSR
CSR wing at the Peter England factories have taken up several initiatives that look at sustainability in a completely new avatar. One of the models is based on encouraging employees to volunteer for initiatives that would create sustainable livelihood in the communities in which they live and work, and at the same time, support the company's leadership role in community development. It provides opportunities for employees to contribute to an issue that they really care about, and in doing so, build and strengthen relationships, increase confidence and acquire new skills.
Extension of welfare from internal community of factory workers to external community of villagers is the objective of the flagship programs such as "Namma Library" or "Namma Village". These programs currently focus on education and health and sanitation.
Micro Manufacturing is yet another flagship initiative from ABFRL. In order to create sustainable livelihood and improve economic conditions of the villages from where the workers come from to work in the factories in Bangalore, the manufacturing team did something unthinkable. Instead of bringing the workers from the villages to the city, they took the work to them. We enabled 54 women employees to move back to their village, Avathi. It took us almost a year to develop a cooperative with building to house a lean factory, moving of machines and training women from the village to be able to produce high quality apparel for Peter England brand. Apart from these 54 women employees, we were able to generate employment for 100 other in the same village thus making huge contribution to village's socio-economic conditions. These women in other circumstances were not enabled to generate revenue for their families and the village.
Such program was very quickly replicated in other two locations in Denkanikottai and Akkondapalli in Karnataka. With the help of indigenously developed "Fast Track Training", we are able to train any woman from the village in less than 15 days to be able to stitch a perfect and high quality Peter England shirt.