Dr.Virajini Karunaratne & Dr.Gayathri Ranathunga

The fashion industry today is a multi billion dollar market globally which impacts the environment significantly. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world, following after oil. Due to over consumption and rapid productions, the fashion industry has landed itself on an environmentally damaging path. According to True Cost, a documentary highlighting the reality of the fashion industry points out the main cause for this dilemma as the creation of cheap trendy collections, known as fast fashion. Fast fashion bases its business model on high volume collections and speedy production. Since production is rampant, consumers are enticed to buy the latest collections.

In this context, the question arises as to how can the applied art of fashion, in contrary, improve our quality of life? Of which we believe the answer is sustainable fashion. In conversation with Dr. Virajini Medagedara Karunaratne and Dr. Gayathri Madubhani Ranathunga, Senior lecturers at the Textile and Clothing Technology Department of the Engineering Faculty at the University of Moratuwa, we explored the subject of sustainable fashion through the sustainable collection of designerwear they presented at ‘Shilpa Sena’ 2019, organized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research.

Q | How did you approach the subject of sustainability in your latest collection ?

Dr. Gayathri Ranathunga | We approached sustainable fashion in two ways in this collection. One being sustainability in the design context and the other being sustainability in the dying and colouring process. We do not guarantee that we have given the fullest answer in order to tally with sustainability which is now interpreted in myriad ways but have included practices, suggestions, predictions and recommendations to the stakeholders of the fashion world in addressing this subject in a practical and accountable fashion.

Q | What is the significance of using natural dyes in the context of sustainable fashion and why is it not used commercially to a large extent?

Dr Virajini Karunaratne | The use of eco-friendly natural dyes has become significantly important today due to rising environmental awareness around the world, and especially in the textile industry, in order to minimize the adverse environmental impact created in the textile dyeing process. However, there are certain deficiencies in using natural dyes as the process is slow and are not commercially viable. Usually natural dyes provide a limited and selected range of colours. Moreover, the long extraction processes, moderate colour fastness to wash and light, non-availability in bulk quantities and less reparability contribute to the limited use of natural dyes in the textile industry. For successful commercialization and use of natural dyes, it is vital to develop standardized dyeing techniques, improved colour fastness properties, obtain new shades of colours and investigate an economical process for extraction and application of natural dyes. Therefore, the need has arisen to look back and examine the traditional natural dyeing techniques to learn from ancient practices and rejuvenate them to suit the modern world, while maintaining the eco aspects of the product and process. The traditional practices can provide a perspective for decision making about present problems.

Q | What content matter inspired this sustainable collection?

Dr Virajini Karunaratne | It began when Dr. Gayathri and Prof. Samudrika Wijayapala who was the head of the Department of Textile & Clothing Technology and myself, composed a book called ‘The Buddhist Robe’, a collaboration of our research. In ‘The Buddhist Robe’, we discussed about Sri Lankan traditional dyeing techniques. We revealed information on traditional dyeing techniques through colouring of the robe as it was the earliest garment that used this type of colouring method dating back to 2500 years ago, which spurred us to bring back and explore this sustainable technique in the modern context.

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7th October, 2019 Applied Art