Byron Bay-based brand Afends began as a small screen-printing business specialising in band merchandise. Today the brand is known around the world as one of Australia’s ethical fashion leaders, and pioneers of organic hemp.
The list of celebrity fans of the cult surf / skate label go on and on: Addison Rae, Zac Effron, the Hemsworth brothers, Emma Chamberlain, Charles Melton, Travis Barker, Noah Centineo, Suki Waterhouse, Olivia Rodrigo, Sydney Sweeney, Hailee Steinfeld, and Devon Lee Carlson, to name a few.
We took a minute with the Afends co-founders Declan Wise and Jonathan Salfield to talk about the release of their 100% eco-friendly line, their plans for a big plot of land they’ve snapped up in Byron Bay, and the challenges of running a sustainable fashion label.
Tell us about your 100% eco friendly line
“Our core collections now focus on three layers – hemp as our hero eco-friendly
fabric alternative, we have Premium Organics using only Global Organic Textile Standard and Organic Content Standard so they don’t use any pesticides or GMO, and we have a new certified recycled collection that uses only 4- and 5-star Sustainable Fabric Standard materials.
Before going 100% eco-friendly, most of our collection was from sustainable fibres like Hemp, organic cotton, and Tencel, but not all. A Lot of brands say they are going to go 100 % eco-friendly and put massive long lead times like 5 or more years. We just took the plunge and did it as its the responsible thing to do.
What are your plans for land in Byron Bay – could you it mean you’ll manufacture 100% of your own fabric?
“We purchased the land in Sleepy Hollow just north of Byron Bay at the beginning of this year. At this stage the land is for research and development, so we will be able to grow some of our own fabric but not all. It’s a testing ground so we can then talk to farmers in the area about the process of hemp farming. If everything goes to plan we will be able to have our entire collection made from Australian grown organic Hemp! And a portion of this will be grown on our own farm.”
What are challenges of operating an eco friendly label in Australia, and is there anything the Government could do to help?
“The reality for most businesses is that they will do what’s best for the bottom line, rather than what’s best for the planet. It would help if the Government put some sort of incentive to buy eco-friendly products, something that would help people’s buying power to move to the right choice for the planet. It’s a pretty complex issue and a lot of politics involved but things need to change in all aspects of the fashion industry in order for us to have a healthy planet.”
Can you suggest any changes to policies that would help consumers become more educated?
“The other change could be a tax on non-sustainably made products, like conventional cotton tees, so that it didn’t make sense to buy it. Something similar to the soda tax. If a conventional cotton tee or polyester tee was twice as expensive as an organic cotton tee or recycled polyester tee, the consumer would pick the eco-friendly product every time.”