Australian Circular Fashion Conference 2018

Sat 24 Mar 2018
Australian Circular Fashion Conference 2018

 

This week, I was lucky enough to attend the first Australian Circular Fashion Conference. Held in Sydney, it was the first real formal opportunity to meet with likeminded individuals and professionals in the industry to share experience and learn from each other’s fashion journey towards sustainability.

 

Following the latest edition of Vogue Australia, where Emma Watson was featured as an ambassador of sustainable fashion, the atmosphere was hopeful and enthusiastic.

 

The day started with a collection of short “ted-talk” like presentations from various professionals within the industry. Highlight talks included Andrew Sellick, Yianni Giovangolou and Craig Reucassel. Andrew Sellick, of Australia Post, spoke of how to tap into the millennial market with regards to sustainable clothing. He brought up significant ideas such as compromise free consumerism and how providing an easy return when selling ethical goods is key. Giovangolou, of WGSN (Worth Global Style Network), provided an insightful presentation on growth within the fashion industry and spoke of some interesting examples of brand incorporating new technology in order to make their products more ecologically friendly. Reucassel, presenter on ABC’s ‘War on Waste’, provided the most realistic talk of the day. He spoke of how whilst there is a lot of positive talk and innovations arising in the sustainable fashion industry there is still a lack of consumer support therefore these efforts are often wasted. His talk was excellent in the fact that it addressed the underlying issue of the fast fashion industry: people still want cheap clothes!

 

After a break and interactive session, there was an opportunity to attend multiple round table sessions. Topics included greenwashing, textiles and technology, creating your sustainable brand story, investor perspectives on circular fashion and environmental laws. The sessions were casual and offered the chance for everyone to contribute, which became a great opportunity for myself to take advice and examples of sustainable practices back to Brigid McLaughlin.

 

This event really reflected the need to form an industrial body for sustainable development in the Australian fashion industry. There is a real need for clarity within this industry and the gathering of all the experts in the field is definitely a step in the right direction. It was not only a great networking opportunity but it was really refreshing to meet a group of people with the same goal of making a more sustainable and circular fashion industry.

 

Whilst the momentum built at the conference was positive it was still frustrating to see that many solutions for achieving sustainability were only applicable to large brands that have the capacity and resources to fund research and experiment with different methodologies. As a small designer brand, we seek to improve upon our sustainability everyday

 

  • We produce small production runs to reduce waste and discourage the excess associated with mass production. We strive to only produce to fulfil demand. Whilst this practise means we are never going to be the cheapest offer in the market place our customers know they are buying quality and a limited exclusive product. This is of value in a crowded market.
  • We believe ethics to be central to business and that all involved in the production of our products deserve a fair wage and job satisfaction.
  • We proudly manufacturer the Brigid McLaughlin collection in Australia and the Porcelain collection in India. We believe there are pros and cons to local vs offshore production. Whilst local production is clearly the more sustainable option, offshore production in India means we are investing in a country with poor living standards which benefits from foreign investment. The number one reason we make in India however is that we are privileged to  get access to the great artisan skills of India’s rich textile culture. The reality is for the type of products we produce in India, the price saving are not great but we are privileged to be able to produce garments with hand worked detail and artisan skills simply not possible in Australia. For a designer of textiles and clothing India offers endless possibilities.
  • All garment development, whether for our local or imported garments, the first samples patternmaking and grading is completed at our design studio to ensure our high quality standards are met.
  • All local production cutting is done in our Sydney studio so we can responsibly recycle any offcuts of fabric.
  • We also recycle packaging ie plastic bags through reuse.
  • We design and craft all of our styles for longevity in regard to shelf life in store and after purchase. This is the central practise of the Slow Clothing movement to which we adhere.

It was a pleasure to attend the conference, many thanks to Camille Reed who organised the event; the team at Brigid McLaughlin are constantly working towards a more sustainable fashion industry. With Fashion Revolution week just around the corner, it was great to get some more ideas and goals for making our brand more sustainable in 2018.

 Looking forward to the next one!

 Meg Fisher

Sustainability and Visual Communications

 

 

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