I love fashion. I’ve dedicated my life to it from retail, to textile design, working with familiar brands such as Jacqui E, Forever New, Thurley, Marcs and Seed and my business By Mili.
I’m starting to see a real shift in attitudes amongst the Australian fashion industry to embrace more environmentally responsible and sustainable practices, which is incredibly heartening to see. Thank goodness, since I’ve given it all to pursue the vision of developing a circular fashion economy – that is, a closed loop system that encourages the reuse and re-design of recycled materials in the fashion industry that has not only major environmental benefits, but economic ones too.
Last year I was able to launch the first Australian Circular Fashion Conference, to encourage greater collaboration within the industry and to provide resources to gear us towards circular manufacturing models.
The whole premise has stemmed from the severe impact the fashion industry has had on the environment and what we can do to support closed loop innovation currently available right now, right here in Australia.
It takes over 200 processes to produce a piece of fabric and dying fabric users over 5 trillion liters of water (2 million olympic sized swimming pools!) and yet 95% of textile material can be recycled, which decreases the need for natural resources used in the production phase and improves toxic polluting. Recycled materials also use less than half of the water needed and similarly that of the chemicals to re-produce recycled fabrics.
The industry is transforming, and I believe in the next few months all local companies will be asking the right questions – it’s a very exciting transition.
However, a large percentage of the industry acts largely on consumer demand, so there’s actually more power than you might think that sits with how you spend your money.
Assess your purchases – Do you really need to buy more? Each time you’re thinking about shopping (out of habit), ask yourself “Do I have it already… Do I need it?” You may come to the conclusion that you’d much rather hold onto your money for something else instead!
For the past 5 – 8 years I’ve rarely purchased anything new, with the majority of my wardrobe coming from second hand shops, op shops and sample sales. I never buy full priced items, as there’s not a lot of value in it, but there’s so many ways you can obtain high quality, unique pieces through so many other means than shopping retail. I often mend and repair seconds and samples I purchase and look for bargain opportunities wherever I go. Not to mention, visiting the markets myself, to on-sell my pre-loved items. The thrill of shopping may never go away, we’ve all experienced it, but instead we can try and redirect these endorphins to second hand shopping.
Focus on quality items when you do need to buy, and do your research on brands following sustainable practices. Believe it or not big companies respond to buyers trends, so if you don’t buy, they’ll respond and try new tactics. Social media is powerful, so let your favourite brands know you want to see them invest in circular or ‘closed loop’ production models.
Stick to your guns when it comes to shopping. There’s lots to learn, yes you can be an ambassador for change and yes you can influence the tribe around you.
Because despite progress, the fact remains textile production is still the world’s second most polluting industry after the oil industry. There is much to be done, and it can be overwhelming. But I believe the beauty of fashion after all is, the flexibility to be inventive and creative, and it’s these inherent qualities which will lead us to the industry of the future where the dress you buy one day will become.
The 2019 Australian Circular Fashion Conference will be held on March 21 in Melbourne. Further information about tickets, events and speakers is available online australiancircularfasion.com.au