Journey in Sustainable Design

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In 2012, a friend and I had co-founded a social foundation through which we raised awareness and gathered donations during national disasters in Bangladesh. When the incident at Rana Plaza took place in 2013 where more than 1100 workers died and approximately 2500 workers were severely injured, I, along with my team were on our phones coordinating help in every form. From arranging drilling machines to gathering funds for both medical needs and rehabilitation, we worked day and night.

Two years after Rana Plaza, I was working for an US tech startup. The company collected data from garment workers from all over Bangladesh. As part of my job, I used to travel to garment factories around the country to carry out orientation with workers where they learnt how to use their mobile phones to undertake a survey and leave messages about their work environment.

When I saw the resources that are available in Bangladesh, I wanted to start something of my own. The garment industry in Bangladesh have been operating for more than 40 years. It is the second largest exporter of readymade garments in the world. I wanted to start a brand where workers and all staff members work in a safe environment with a culture of creative freedom, equality and great exchange of ideas. With a passion for design and the desire to positively make an impact in society and environment, I began Monokrome.

Monokrome’s concept was to create minimal and contemporary clothing. The aim is to effectively and efficiently use the resources that are available in Bangladesh to produce high quality products. It was a solution to a problem in Dhaka, where it was difficult to find a well tailored pair or pants or shirt for women. It was also my vision to give birth to a sustainable brand from Bangladesh that will receive international recognition. A brand that works with sustainable design – design that meets form and function.

As a small brand, we began by targeting specific goals and prioritised methods through which we could operate sustainably. The goal was to build a brand that takes into account its impact on society and the environment. Creating a sustainable brand is a continuous learning process. Hence, we started with five main elements; first, we began sourcing non-polyester fabrics so they are biodegradable; second, we created a safe and friendly working environment for our workers; third, we cut our patterns in a systematic way so as to minimise wastage; fourth, we keep all leftover fabric pieces for recycling; and fifth, we use muted colours, mainly hues of black and white, which reflect the brand’s commitment to minimalism.

Monokrome began its operations in November 2017, but we launched the brand in March 2018. We aim to be more and more sustainable as the brand grows and find ways to involve more sustainable practices within our operations. From 2019 we started using naturally made buttons and put an end to using plastic buttons. We have also begun to save all paper scraps from pattern cutting for recycling. We have recently partnered with an organisation called Cyclo, which processes garment waste into recycled yarn. We will recycle all our Studio waste (fabric scraps from cutting) into recycled yarn. By 2020, we aim to achieve our goals of sustainability and use more and more fabrics that cause minimum damage to the environment when produced.

Our long term goal is to create a value chain where we are in the know-how when it comes to sourcing, distribution, consumption and disposal (product recycle), thus contributing to a circular design economy. 

As of now, we have a few exciting collaborations and projects that we will begin in 2019.

Maheen Khan
Creative Director/Founder

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