Ethical and Sustainable Fashion at Fashfest Part 1

The rise of fast fashion and increasing consumer demand for the latest trends has cemented the fashion industry as one of the world’s biggest polluters. Textile waste, toxic chemicals, and pesticides used in farming are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact that the clothes on our back have on the environment.

An increasing number of designers and fashion labels are stepping up to make a change both in terms of cleaning up their supply chains and ensuring ethical conditions for their workers. In Part 1 of our interview series we sat down with Melbourne based designer, Cadia Belante, and New Zealand designer, Melanie Child.

Cadia Belante

 

Describe your approach to design.

Cadia Belante is a Melbourne-based fashion label focusing on sustainable clothing production. The label was created in response to the increasing volume of already produced materials and the rate at which these materials are becoming landfill.

The Cadia Belante label proposes to develop ways to re-circulate these consumable items, and at the same time reduce waste. The discovery of large quantities of surplus sleeping bags in second hand stores was the initial catalyst for her exploration into the possibility of re-purposing within fashion design. I began to collect interesting but obsolete items to experiment with, and has since discovered potential for items that would otherwise remain unused, or be thrown away.

 

Why is sustainable practice important to your label?

I believe that all of the choices and actions we make today will affect our future. Making sound decisions right now is important to avoid limiting the choices and growth of generations to come. If it’s unsustainable, it’s unfashionable. BRING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION DESIGN MOVEMENT!

 

How would you like to see the fashion industry move forward on issues such as sustainability and ethical practice?

Ideally I would like to see ‘FAST FASHION’ wiped out. It’s a bit out fashion don’t you think?

We can see so many fashion forward thinkers addressing the issues of sustainability within the fashion industry, however, I do not believe it is enough for independent designers to take on. I would like see a shift within the industry which can help shape it into a more conscious one.

 

What does participating in FASHFEST mean to you and your label?

Participating in FASHFEST means a great deal to my label and I. Canberra is the center of Australia, where the most important decisions are made and laws are passed for the well being of the people within this country. Having this support from Canberra and FASHFEST is important to assist change and help shape the Australian fashion industry.

 

 

Melanie Child

 

Describe your approach to design.

I often think three dimensionally, especially when designing garments from other garments. This is one of the reasons I love the challenge of upcycling. Instead of a clean slate to work with, you have something with shape and structure that becomes something new and unexpected. Sometimes an idea will pop into my head late at night, but more often a detail or element from an existing garment will spark a concept and I will realise it through a combination of sketching and drape. The best ideas often come from a failed attempt at something else entirely! And there is always the question of sustainability that underpins my design approach — what is it made from, where was it made, can I source enough of the garment locally, can it be recycled afterwards etc.?

 

Why is sustainable practice important to your label?

I strongly feel it is something we as consumers and designers can no longer ignore. According to the Danish Fashion Institute (2013), the fashion industry is the second most polluting on the planet, after the petroleum industry. The current ‘fast fashion’ model of mass production and consumption is unsustainable and generates a phenomenal amount of waste (both pre and post-consumer), environmental degradation, and human exploitation. The Rana Plaza collapse of 2013, where over 1100 garment workers were killed, really drove the human cost of the fashion industry into the public eye. For me it’s a no brainer, from an ethical and moral point of view, and I’d like to see sustainability in fashion as the norm rather than the niche.

 

How would you like to see the fashion industry move forward on issues such as sustainability and ethical practice?

The entire system upon which the fashion industry is built must change from the roots. The fast fashion cycle must be broken somehow. We are all responsible, and can all be catalysts for change. Every single person on this planet wears clothing of some sort and therefore contributes to or is affected by the industry somehow. I see too many fingers pointing and blame resting on both sides. Manufacturers and designers are constantly looking at profit margins and reducing overheads, which is why we have fast fashion and exploitation of the environment and workers as it exists today. Consumers have been taught to seek out the best value for money, to buy what we do not need, or that they simply cannot afford to shop sustainably because sustainable fashion costs more. We need to bridge the gap between affordability, style, quality, and sustainably focused, ethical design.

 

I’d like to see retailers and designers adopting more environmentally friendly and ethical methods into the core values of their business models (from the manufacturing process to fair trade working conditions, low impact dyes, chemicals used, the list goes on and on). If these things were in place before the product even hit the shelves we would not have such a crisis on our hands today. Consumers can continue to put pressure on retailers by asking who made their clothes, demanding transparency, fair wages etc. Right now it is nearly impossible to be 100% sustainable, but it is easy to make small changes and build from there.

 

What does participating in FASHFEST mean to you and your label?

It is an incredible opportunity for me as a New Zealand designer to be able to come to FASHFEST for the second year and showcase my label alongside other talented designers from Canberra and beyond. I have made some great connections with designers, models, and other creative people whom I would not have had the pleasure of meeting otherwise, and networking is so important for small independent labels. I am humbled by the passionate team behind the show and how supportive they are of emerging design and creative talent. The professionalism and quality of the event itself is something I proudly put my name to, and is why I came back for 2016. It is amazing exposure, PR and a sales trip all rolled into one!

 

Read Part 2 of our interview series here.

Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.

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