There’s a change happening in the fashion industry the more consumers become conscious about how their threads are made. We talk to four women who are championing the path of ethical and sustainable practices, with designs you’ll actually want in your wardrobe.
Say hello to the basics you need in your wardrobe. The Road is an ethical and sustainable clothing brand that uses Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified-organic cotton to create a range of basics that look good and stand the test of time, with fabrics sustainably dyed using a zero liquid discharge system to stop wastewater run-off.
The startup works with Fairtrade-certified farms and mills, paying makers a living wage, including things that shouldn’t be seen as an added luxury in the industry, such as health care, superannuation, holiday leave and a housing programme.
Four years ago, after becoming aware of the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster, designer and director Nikki McAllum made the conscious decision to be a part of the fashion industry’s solution, rather than contributing to its many social and environmental problems.
“I quit my job and researched solidly for six months. I wanted to find the most eco-friendly fabric and the most ethically sound practices available. This took me to India where they have the most sophisticated ethical supply chain in the world. From seed to finished garment, there is strict certifications to ensure humans and the environment are well looked after,” Nikki says.
Consumers are moving towards being more ethically conscious and responsible for their purchases, and The Road is designed to be an affordable option for ethical fashion basics. With the belief that ethics should be mainstream in the industry, The Road isn’t merely a fashion brand, but an opportunity to give everyone access to high-quality clothing at an affordable price.
“People are ready. They’re ready for the industry to change and they’re happy for there to be an alternative to sweatshop labour or over priced ‘eco-fashion’.”
Annie Hamilton is the namesake label of Sydney designer and musician – you guessed it – Annie Hamilton. Launching in late 2016 after her experience in textile, jewellery and graphic design, photography and fine arts, Annie Hamilton has crafted collections that are a reflection of her love of detail, illustration, pattern and contemporary Australiana within sustainable textiles. Balancing classic, timeless styles and bold prints, her debut collection features silk and linen pieces, printed and made in Redfern, Sydney.
“Fashion does come at a cost, and that has been my biggest challenge with winning people over.”
“When I decided to start my own label, I didn’t really think twice about whether or not to put sustainable and ethical fashion production at the forefront of my work – it just naturally had to be,” says Annie.
Annie’s appreciation for the natural world continues to drive her focus on sustainability. In addition, she has a commitment to combat the immense environmental and human impact of the fashion industry. Once something is recognised, it becomes difficult to ignore, she’s found.
“Learn about different fibres before you buy something,” a panellist at the Locally Made Journal launch advised. “If you’re trying something on in a shop, check the label and google the fibre, and you’ll quickly be able to find out whether or not it’s something you should be investing in.”
Blurring the lines between fashion and art, Annie’s hand-illustrated prints explore a contemporary take on the tradition of botanical textile prints, with a distinctly Australian feel. The pieces are designed and made to last, with a focus on sustainability and functionality.
“If you had told me a year ago that I would have a fashion label, I wouldn’t have believed you. In the end, though, I just love making stuff … I’m just driven by the desire to make stuff.”
Annie also runs Locally Made Journal with sister Jess, a blog that explores and documents the local textile manufacturing industry. It features conversations with growers, designers and creatives surrounding conscious consumerism, ethical and sustainable production and the concept of slow fashion. Annie is currently doing an Artist-In-Residence program in Iceland, working on her music and the next collection for her label.
LÉ BUNS is an independent, eco-conscious Australian intimates and swimwear label designed in Melbourne by founder and creative director Keisha Dessaix. Classic yet effortlessly cool, the collections are made using innovative regenerated fibres and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified organic cotton.
Keisha is determined to minimise the amount of clothing in landfill by creating collections that are not only eco-friendly, but also minimal yet versatile. Rather than focusing on trends, LÉ BUNS offers value through longevity of wear and timeless pieces; with swimwear that can be worn up to 10 different ways (and counting).
“We all wake up every day and put clothes on and our decision’s as simple as (or sometimes not so simple). What to wear really does make an impact – so we all have the opportunity to make change for the better.”
LÉ BUNS intimates are made with GOTS certified-organic cotton; cotton free of chemicals and GMOs commonly used to achieve anti-wrinkle and anti-static during production. The LÉ BUNS swim collection is produced with regenerated fibres such as discarded fishing nets that are reconstructed into luxurious fabrics that you can feel good about wearing on the inside and out.
Revel Knitwear is far from the very loud jumper your nanna made you that lives in the bottom of your closet. Designed and hand-knitted in Sydney by 27-year-old Shannyn Lorkin, the label combines the classic, timeless aesthetic of knitting with a chic neutral colour palette and fashion-forward styles to complement any wardrobe.
Revel Knitwear is a legacy to the designer’s late grandmother Beverley, who taught her the skill of knitting. Shannyn credits the bond between herself and her grandmother as the foundation of her collections. With a passion for knitting so deeply ingrained in Shannyn from the countless hours spent with her grandmother, her collections are made-to-order, each piece with a unique story to tell.
“Ultimately I felt a huge aftershock from watching The True Cost documentary and knew right away that creating an ethical business was the only way to go about it… Fashion does come at a cost, and that has been my biggest challenge with winning people over,” says Shannyn. “Wool isn’t cheap and the knitting it takes to create a sweater is a labour of love. If the end sale price is cheap, you know that there have been costs cut along the way, and generally it’s not the retailer feeling that burden.”
While the core of Revel Knitwear comes from a deeply engrained passion, watching The True Cost cemented Shannyn’s vision of an ethical knitwear label. It inspired her to quit her fast fashion retail position and focus on a more fulfilling path, creating ethical and sustainable knitwear designed to be cherished over a lifetime.
“My creative process is very non-linear. It’s a constant mix of lightning bolt thoughts and ideas that come rapidly and unexpectedly. Fashion magazines, books, people, fashion editorial – it just comes from so many beautiful places! I’m constantly writing and sketching ideas down and then curate my collections from them.”