Climate refugees – earning four times the local hourly wage in Bangladesh – are behind this new zero waste jacket.
Calling the women the “unsung heroes” behind the global fashion industry, Shelly Xu, founder of SXD (Shelly Xu Design), a design company recently incubated at Harvard Business School, said, “We want to bring them to the heart of our design. “
In May 2020, Cyclone Amphan struck a coastal cornerstone between Bangladesh and India, evacuating more than 2 million people, destroying or damaging millions of homes in its wake.
That’s the lesser of it. By 2050, at least 200 million people worldwide will be considered climate refugees forced to migrate, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In Bangladesh alone, where the garment sector is a major economic driver, sea level rise could displace more than 13 million people. The higher wages serve as a buffer “so they can rebuild their lives,” notes the SXD website.
Climate change risks such as extreme weather conditions, droughts, heavy rains, sea level rise and cyclones become what is called a ‘threat multiplier’, exacerbating existing tensions and increasing the potential for conflict.
“I grew up playing in a park between two buildings. This grassy field is now a textile dump, ”said Xu. “I want to change that by maximizing beauty under the constraints of fashion designs. Instead of designing without limits as we currently do, we need to recognize the limits of our planet’s resources.
Born in Anhui, China, Xu has always worked within creative limits. Her sense of design was influenced by living in a 70 square foot house as a child, constantly having to rearrange furniture to meet her family’s daily needs.
She called zero waste design “the only method that can improve affordability and design appeal,” while increasing the appeal of sustainable behavior once these needs are met.
SXD aims to overcome today’s crises with smart design – modernizing the kimono, bodysuit, folding skirt and now jacket, in the name of zero waste fashion.
The jacket is made in a unisex style, with straight cuts and deep blue fabric inspired by salwar kameez (a common style worn by women in Bangladesh). It is available in sizes S to L. Design details include a reverse collar, adjustable cuffs, deep pockets, front button closures and an embroidered back that says “Climate Refugees Reverse Climate Change”.
Starting Monday, the jackets can be pre-ordered on ShellyXu.design for $ 160. According to Xu, the jacket uses a minimal, zero-waste method that halves the typical number of cuts required (earlier models have numbered as few as nine cuts), further facilitating training possibilities, according to Xu. The style uses leftover denim factory waste – if not destined for landfill – untreated to negate the chemical impact. As part of these sustainable methods, the brand claims that the jacket’s carbon footprint is reduced by over 80% compared to traditional clothing.
“’Sustainable fashion’ has become such a loose term, and it’s quite dangerous,” Xu said. “Of course there are many isolated or incremental ways to be ‘sustainable’, but we believe that to be a fundamentally sustainable brand that can have a substantial positive impact, we need fair wages and better designs that eliminate the wasted fabric while using less fabric. “
While the impact of a single jacket can be countered, Xu stressed that “every stitch in the zero waste denim jacket tells a story,” hoping the jacket will inspire a lifetime.
For more information, see:
Short Takes: Bangladesh circular fashion test, seaweed fiber
Myanmar garment workers at the center of pro-democracy protests
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