There is a fashion revolution taking hold in the clothing industry. Like the mass appeal roadblocks that have existed for clean energy cars because they weren’t practical, fast and cool enough, so too is it seemingly difficult to produce reasonably-priced, trending clothes with ethical labor and environmental practices. Not anymore.
Fashion Revolution, formed three years ago, is working to change the way our clothing is sourced, produced and consumed. While many fashion brands and retailers are scrambling just to keep up with a fickle and impatient consumer, the non-profit Fashion Revolution is going deeper. Coincidentally, I was in Sydney during Fashion Revolution Week, from April 24 – 30, 2017. The week is about promoting transparency in the supply chain.
I stumbled on a terrific pop-up shop on Oxford Street, in Darlinghurst–a stylish shopping area for Australian brands and emerging talent. The shop had the spirit of collaboration on every level–from sourcing materials, to making the clothing, to sharing in the space, to support from the city.
The pop-up called, Make Fashion Great Again featured about 10 local, ethical and sustainable brands. Perhaps the name was a misstep, but the concept and goods weren’t! I think I may have been pegged as an American right when I walked in, because the first thing I was greeted with was an apology for the Trump slogan reference. Citizen Wolf Co-founder, Zoltan Csaki and I had a good laugh and then he began to show me his democratized, tailored, perfect t-shirts. Starting at $89 AUD you choose the fabric, style, base size and then begin customizing the length, type of fit, and you can even make unique requests like, “accommodate for my broad shoulders.” The fabrics are sumptuous–organic cotton, bamboo cotton, or merino wool. They store your info so you’re ready to go the next time you order. Citizen Wolf just celebrated their first year selling t-shirts that are ethically handmade in Sydney. They say, “Stop hunting. Start creating.”
I couldn’t keep my eyes off the cowhide slides and bags that were across from the t-shirts. I’ve always loved this material, but these were special, even before I knew the story. The thing about sustainable, ethical fashion is that nobody’s going to buy it if it’s not done well, at a price point that gives the customer value. These awesome accessories from The Hides do just that–modern, and organic, global, chic. Made from Brazilian hides that are created and produced in Australia, the Campinas and Salvador slides are reasonably priced at $179 AUD. The Hides only work with reputable tanneries in Brazil and New Zealand; carefully selected for their sustainable and responsible environmental business practices for which they’ve won industry awards. Fashion industry veteran Rachelle Dendle Crerar told me she launched The Hides in January as a passion project. The company’s emphasis on quality products that are good for humanity and the planet, has also been good for Crerar’s soul. Searching for more meaning in her work, this brand of fashion revolution has been immensely satisfying.
…designed to bring the worlds of our sewers and our customers closer together. –Outland Denim
One of the most powerful stories comes from Outland Denim. The brand provides training and work for women rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. When you purchase a pair of Outland Denim jeans you are connected with the woman who sewed them, getting her personal story in your back pocket. They verify their supply chain, sourcing only the most ethically and environmentally sound raw materials, and using upcycled pocket linings and recycled packaging. Made from premium denim with attention to detail, the women’s styles are mid and high-rise skinnies with a variety of finishes. I like the dark denim, and distressed skinnies, at $219 AUD. These are jeans you will feel good in every day you wear them.
If you’re looking for athletic gear, or just a cool t-shirt, KUSAGA ATHLETIC runs a clean operation that uses less than 1% of the water that’s used in a regular cotton t-shirt! AND their fabric is completely compostable! From basic t-shirts of zero odor-retention fabric, to technically-designed racerback tanks with ECODRY® fabric, prices range from $45 – $55 AUD.
Mighty Good Undies are streamlined essentials coming only in black, and in two designs–Granny Knickers and Boy Leg. The former are really just mid-rise panties that I want to order for the name alone! Their Bare for Good campaign, during Fashion Revolution Week, featured celebrities and “change makers” in their underwear encouraging people to ask #Who Made My Clothes, so consumers know the bare facts. Mighty Good Undies uses cotton grown by farmers from the cooperative Chetna Organic, in India, and they’re certified under the Global Organic Textile Standard. $15.95 – $100 AUD (7-pack).
Every trim, binding, thread, and fabric used in the designs of Lois Hazel are accounted for on her website. Everything is made in Melbourne, with a minimal aesthetic. Their super-cool Pinstripe Classic Trench ($550 AUD) is a wardrobe hero piece that brings modernity and interest to basic pieces you already have. Finally, Natalie Miller showed an incredible wall hanging with juicy colors at the pop-up. An architect, interior designer, textile artist, and teacher, Miller’s commercial and art installations are seen world-wide. Based in the Southern Highlands of Australia, she hand dyes Australian grown and milled wool. Miller leads creative retreats in Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong and Bali with the mission:
To unite crafters around the world and bring back the beauty of hand making. –Natalie Miller
The architecture, neighborhoods, beaches, food, and lifestyle in Sydney all provide an inspiring backdrop for these creative talents, encouraging us to #buybetter. This incredible city oozes life well-lived that I wanted to bring home with me. The Sydney city council even provides an innovative business climate that nurtures start-ups, giving pop-ups like Make Fashion Great Again free space, in vacant retail property. These cutting-edge companies who mix business with stewardship show us that when we do better, we feel better. Please consider supporting these brands–to thrive they need people like us to contribute to the Fashion Revolution movement. Stronger Together. *
*equal time for Hillary Clinton
Photos: Dawn Bell Solich