These two words are central to everything we do here at Sustainable Fashion, but what do they really mean?
To us, the key to sustainability is smart design that considers the full lifecycle of a product. At Sustainable Fashion this consideration extends from the point of design and continues even after shipping. Our modern aesthetic means garments are made with longevity in mind. Along with high quality construction and fabrics, it also involves careful consideration to how each design will match previous as well as current collections. Layering is made easy through each new season with your existing pieces because of this sustainable design process.
Producing locally is central to sustainability also as our garments do not travel long distances or need any packaging at all during production. Design, sampling, prewashing and quality control is all completed at our home studio, so there are no warehouses or commercial premises needed. Over the last 12 years we have slowly renovated and added solar power to our home studio, along with rainwater tanks to reduce our environmental impact further. We now operate a business from our home that uses almost half the water and electricity than the average household alone uses here in Brisbane. We are pleased that our architect has won 2 sustainability awards in Australia for the renovations also.
With one of the largest environmental impacts over the lifetime of a garment being in how it is laundered, all our clothing is designed to be easy care and none are dryclean only. For prewashing garments here we use a cold water, gentle machine wash with an eco-friendly detergent, except wool that needs warm water and specialty detergent. We avoid using a dryer by using a low spin speed and simply air-dry garments on a suitable hanger straight away. This often reduces the need for any ironing at all!
So by significantly reducing the resources used to produce your clothing while minimising waste and all while operating from our home, we have been able to showcase what sustainability truly means as it is entwined in our everyday living. Yes we compost, have a worm farm, vegetable patch, recycle, use recycled packaging, energy efficient appliances and lighting, as well as the solar and rainwater (all things that are becoming much more commonplace now which is exciting to see!).
Our clothing is all made locally here in Brisbane, Australia, so produced under Fair Work laws that preserve some of the highest standards and wages in the world. This is some 20-50 times the rate that the majority of clothing workers around the world receive. As all our products are 100% Australian made this means everyone in our supply chain enjoys the same standard of living and really the core of ethics is simply treating people equally. Our garments are sewn by small family businesses, who choose their own working conditions, just like us. We work directly with the makers, supplying everything they need to sew our garments, and being local means we can drive to pick up the finished garments from them too.
Many of our styles are made from knit fabrics, and the majority of these are actually 100% made in Australia too (something people are often surprised by). Our local knit fabrics are all high quality and made under strict environmental standards (including ISO9001 and ISO14001) which includes regular monitoring of waste water, and one of our suppliers also has Australian organic certification. As woven fabrics for apparel are no longer made in Australia, we source these from Japan and South Korea who are known for their high quality textiles. As all our garments are made from natural fibres, including certified organic cotton, bamboo jersey and ethical merino wool, they also feel much nicer against your skin, allowing it to breathe and are from natural, renewable resources (unlike polyester, nylon etc).
So producing locally where everyone has the same standard of living is the best way to achieve equality we think. We are pretty proud as a small family business that we have donated over $50,000 to local charities in the last 4 years too, giving back to your community another ethical behaviour we feel is important. Organisations we currently support include Rainforest Rescue and the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
We always welcome discussion about sustainability and ethics, as this is how we all learn about new ways of doing things and move forward in reducing waste and our reliance of non-renewable resources. These words are more than 'feel good' marketing terms to us. Many fashion labels now claim to have 'ethical' production and there is much talk about what makes a living or fair wage for sewers around the world. Our belief in working locally and creating equal interactions in your own local community to produce clothing is where we feel we can add something a little different to the debate.We are now finding many fashion labels making claims of ethical production or focus on some minor sustainability initiatives with goals many years away, rather than discussing how much their workers are actually paid or what can be done right now to make positive changes. Treating our planet, profits and people equally is a future we would like to see.
We tried to keep the information on the lighter side here (we still want fashion to be fun after all) so if you do want to know any further information you can contact us here.
We don't pretend to have all the answers, there are more and more great resources available, so we have listed a few of our favourites below (not surprisingly with an Australian emphasis).
Peppermint is a local Brisbane mag that has been writing about all things ethical and sustainable for 10 years now. Check out their website and support this great publication.
Good on You is an app to help you decide on how clothing labels rate for ethics with some good blog stories on 'The Good Edit' to help you along too.
Fashion Revolution started the awareness campaign 'who made your clothes' and the push for better working conditions for textile workers around the world after the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013.
RMIT University has compiled a reading list of reports related to Sustainable Fashion and Textiles.
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation is working to promote our transition to a circular economy. Download the report on 'A new textiles economy' for a thorough read on the latest thinking.
We hope this helps people understand a little more about the consideration given to how we make your clothes and help continue the debate about the future of sustainability in the fashion industry.
Thanks for reading,