Sustainable fashion, slow fashion, closed circular fashion production system … all these things are the future of fashion and we need to start doing them now.
At the Future Fashion. Is it a stitch up? conversation held as part of VAMFF’s Independent Ideas Event series, and in collaboration with The Possibility Project, a group of like-minded individuals came together to examine the future of the fashion industry in Australia and beyond.
With Kim Pearce from The Possibility Project and slumwear108, Marnie Goding, the Creative Director of fashion label ELK, and Karina Seljak co-founder of Seljak Brand on the panel, the focus was on the importance of changing the current fashion industry system, with the hope to improve the overall sustainability of making and wearing clothes; and doing so with kindness and ethical awareness.
As Pearce said: “It is time for the fashion industry to open the conversation, and reimagine the industry in a way that is not all about technology but also about common sense”. She believes that historical fashion choices by both industry and consumers have led to “immense damage”, not only of the environment, but also how people and their work is treated.
Like the Fashion Revolution movement and its popular hashtag #Imadeyourclothes, The Possibility Project focuses on the social movement behind changing people’s shopping choices. They don’t want people to feel guilty about how they shop for clothes, but they do want to educate shoppers about what they’re buying.
For Karina Seljak, one of the co-founders of Seljak Brand – an Australian company that makes blankets from recycled wool – getting the technology, machinery and skills behind creating a fully sustainable and closed circular fashion production system is most important when it comes to creating a better fashion system.
“One of the main inhibitors to moving to a closed loop system in Australia is that we are still shipping our textile waste offshore; those recycled products don’t come back to Australia. We need to our on-shore manufacturing to be circular [to make a difference],” explained Seljak.
This issue of waste was also emphasised by Pearce, although her perspective was as much about how human potential is being wasted in the large scale fashion industry.
And waste, plus the sourcing of the right materials, also came up in Marnie Goding’s comments on how her brand ELK currently operates. “In Australia we don’t value our waste products. There is a factory in Vietnam that we work with that completely recycles all of its waste water used in making jeans. They put it back into the environment,” said Goding.
Although Goding wants her brand to be as ethical and sustainable as possible, her core concern is that not just in Australia, but globally, the established manufacturing industry has not kept up with the move towards more sustainable fabrics and textiles. She also mentioned that although ‘sustainability’ is currently a global fashion trend, customers are not yet educated enough to understand why they need to change their shopping habits.
Shown by the few questions asked by the audience, all three speakers were preaching to the converted. A few asked about how younger shoppers can be converted when they are focused on cheap prices and social media trends, however apart from discussing the importance of education, and shopping at Op Shops, there was little that the speakers mentioned that could impact in any great way.
While it is obviously important for more people to know about why we need to stop sending clothes to landfill and choosing to buy fewer, better, things, the relatively small turnout for the Future Fashion conversation also showed that a great deal more needs to be done to get the message out. As long as it’s done with kindness.