Have you ever had a clothes swap with your friends? What you probably thought was a bit of fun and an excuse to get together, was one of the most powerful things you could do to up your environmental sustainability and reduce your carbon footprint.
How? Well, the fashion industry is up there as one of the most polluting and unethical industries going. In particular, the culture of ‘fast fashion’ and the brands that pump out cheap, poor quality clothing to meet each new season and changing fashion trends. Australia is, unfortunately, one of the leaders in this area, with Aussie’s being the second largest consumers of textiles in the world per capita! Cringe.
Here’s some crazy fashion facts for you!
- Australians dump 6 tonnes of clothing into landfill every 10 minutes
- Synthetic (plastic) fabrics can take over 200 years to decompose
- It takes about 2.7 tonnes of water to make one cotton t-shirt
- The fashion industry produces 2.1 billion tonnes of fabric waste annually
- The fashion industry emits 1.7 billion tonnes of CO² annually and thus contributes to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The ABC recently reported on Baptist World Aid’s 2019 Ethical Fashion Guide, which graded, named and shamed over 400 big brands globally. Identified as some of the worst perpetrators were Showpo (F), Wish (F), Lowes (F), Forever 21 (D-), Noni B (D) and Millers (D), with the most ethical list including Mighty Good Undies (A+), Outland Denim (A+), Icebreaker (A+), Patagonia (A), Bonds (A), Adidas (A), American Apparel (A-) and Cotton On (A-). So, now you can’t say you didn’t know!
Why support sustainable fashion?
Let it be said that I advocate for buying less and sourcing second-hand clothing over anything new. Always and forever. This is why I’m such a big fan of gathering the pals and having a clothes swap every 6 months… instead of going shopping together. If you do need to buy something new, make it from an Australian business, the best quality item you can afford and made of natural or recycled fibres (choose organic hemp, linen, bamboo, cotton, Tencel, Pinatex and Econyl). Also, be aware of the carbon footprint you leave behind when you buy online (as the products are, no doubt, shipped nationally or from overseas). Always choose local businesses first and ask them where they make their clothes.
Sustainable and ethical fashion brands are different from their unethical counterparts because they understand the impact the fashion industry has on the planet and its people, and they aim to minimise their footprint in the following ways;
- Having higher standards of workers’ rights and working conditions
- Reducing the use of harsh chemicals and pollution
- Reducing the use of plastics and water in production
- Accounting for every step of the supply chain
- Using environmentally friendly, natural or recycled fabrics
- Reducing the amount of waste fabric and materials used in production
- Making garments that are high quality and made to last
- Partnering with charities and community initiatives
- Staying local and keeping jobs onshore
- Reducing their carbon footprint and helping their customers do the same!
Whilst the Ethical Fashion Guide is a good resource if you support big business worldwide, generally us Australians have the privilege to CHOOSE what we buy and wear every day (except work and school uniforms, sigh). So, who do you choose to support with your precious dollars? I like to support the little guys (or gals, I should say); small, ethical, women-run and local businesses doing epic things for the planet, its people and our bods.
The list of 10 local, sustainable fashion brands I love:
Tasi Travels is a Sunshine Coast, Queensland based business founded by creative Jessica Abraham. The idea for Tasi was dreamt up on a marine debris research trip to Timor Leste, where ‘Tasi’ means ocean in the local Tetun language. Tasi uses sustainable Tencel (cellulose from eucalyptus trees), organic cotton and recycled polyester fabrics for their garments, they ship orders in plastic-free packaging, operate under a ‘slow fashion model’, they’ve partnered with Carbon Neutral and plant one tree per order, and their clothing is designed and handmade in Australia. You can find them online or in 8 stockists’ stores around the country. I loveeeee wearing their wrap skirt and wrap dress (pictured above) on adventures. @tasitravels
We have a special discount for our Wild Search Australia customers. Use the code ‘WILD’ for 10% off at the Tasi online checkout!
Flora and Fauna*
Flora and Fauna is a 100% vegan, ethical and cruelty free online store. F & F was started in Australia in 2014 and now they boast 6000 products on their website from over 270 brands. Their products are delivered in plastic-free packaging, all of their products are recyclable through TerraCycle at end of life, they are a Certified B Corporation business (meeting the highest standards of social, ethical and environmental performance), and their entire operation is now carbon neutral. They also recently opened a store in North Rocks, Sydney. Go to their ‘Fashion’ tab on their website to shop their sustainable fashion. @floraandfaunaau
OceanZen was created by Sunshine Coast based ocean conservationist, Steph Gabriel in 2014, after diving in the Caribbean and Indonesia and seeing first-hand the impacts humans were having on the ocean. OceanZen’s swimwear are designed in Australia and manufactured in Bali, Indonesia, from 100% ‘Econyl’ fabric, which is made from recycled plastic fibres. Their products are shipped carbon neutral with zero plastic packaging and their waste fabric is repurposed to make scrunchies. OceanZen also hosts annual retreats to Tonga to swim with humpback whales and Komodos Islands to learn about marine conservation. @oceanzen
Magpie Goose is a fashion social enterprise started by Australians Maggie McGowan and Laura Egan. Their missions are to connect non-indigenous people with Aboriginal art through fashion and to generate new economic opportunities for Aboriginal people living in remote parts of Australia. Magpie Goose work closely with many collaborators, including the Palngun Wurnangat Aboriginal Coorporation’s Wadeye Art Centre in the Northern Territory, who support the work of many local female artists. Their bold, colourful clothing prints are designed for men, women and children in remote areas of Australia by Indigenous artists and the garments are then hand screen-printed and manufactured in NSW. You can find them online and in three stores in Darwin NT, Brisbane QLD and Newcastle NSW. @magpiegoose.nt
Solsoya was created by artist and waterwoman Birralee Hassen in sun-drenched Byron Bay, Australia, for a ‘healthy mind, body and planet’. Solsoya’s bright and cheerful activewear and swimwear is designed and made in Australia using ‘Econyl’, an Italian-made fabric derived from 100% recycled plastics. Solsoya have partnered with not-for-profit ‘One Wave Is All It Takes’ and made fluro surf leggings with 15% of sales going to the org. Their packaging is plastic-free, their Aussie manufacturers are compliant with Ethical Clothing Australia and they are advocates for body positivity and mental health awareness. I love surfing and hiking in their long, high waisted leggings! @solsoya
Arnhem was created by Australian fashion designer Arnhem Bickley, whose sewing and design career started at 4 years of age when she used to sew clothes for her dolls. Arnhem manufactures women’s and girl’s clothing in Bali, Indonesia, using 98% sustainable fibres (‘Tencel’, ‘Econyl’, ‘Ecovera’, recycled polyester and organic cotton). Most of their collection is printed digitally by a ‘Bluesign’ certified mill (saving on a lot of dye waste and chemical, energy and water use), they are committed to their workers’ and manufacturers’ rights, they have a single-use plastic free policy, a full-time Sustainability Officer and they are a 1% for the Planet member (donating 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes). They are online and also have a store in Byron Bay. I absolutely love wearing my Bella Rose wrap dress – Tencel is the softest fabric! @arnhem_clothing
Boody are an Australian family-run business based in Sydney, NSW and specialise in ethical bamboo underwear, activewear, sleepwear, under-garments and babywear. Boody make products for men, women and babies using the fast-growing bamboo plant (certified by Ecocert), which comes from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified forests in China. They are a 1% for the Planet member, use 100% organically-grown and vegan fibres in their products, they are advocates for the show fashion movement, and their manufacturing is certified by WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production). They have an online store as well as 4000 stockists in 15 countries. I love wearing the silky soft Hipster Bikini Underwear and have about 5 pairs! @boodyecowear
Biome Eco Stores*
Biome is an online hub of everything zero waste, toxin free and ethical choices. Biome was founded by Tracey Bailey in 2003 and now stocks over 5000 eco-products online, for men, women and children, as well as having four stores in Brisbane. Biome is a Certified B Corporation, their products are 100% palm oil free, they offset their shipping by supporting Greening Australia and they stock 98% vegan products. Go to their ‘Slow Fashion’ link on their website to shop their sustainable fashion. @biomestores
Salt Gypsy was founded by surfer Danielle Clayton in 2012 and is run by a group of lady sliders and ocean women in Byron Bay, Australia. Their women’s range of swimwear and surfwear is manufactured locally by a women-owned company on the Gold Coast, using Econyl’s recycled nylon fabric. They are proud to use 100% Econyl fabric for their surf and swimwear, which is made in Italy using regenerated fishing nets from the ocean and textile offcuts. You can also try on and buy their swimwear at Dani’s surf concept store Sea Bones Byron Bay. @saltgypsy
Fairtale was created by fashion designer Fiona Roubin in Sydney, NSW and each piece is still lovingly handmade by Fiona in her new home in Byron Bay. Fairtale specialises in handmade, one-offs and custom-made fashion, festival wear and bridal wear for women using recycled and vintage fabrics. Fairtale is committed to their Byron Shire community and you can find Fiona at her new store in the Byron Bay Industrial Estate and at the Byron Shire markets most Sundays. @fairtale_story_
Spend with the planet in mind
Supporting sustainable fashion is just one way you can reduce your carbon footprint. But it’s a big one, and something we have 100% control over, every day. Vote for a better planet with your money! Look, no one’s perfect, but I hope I have inspired you to think local the next time you really need a new dress, workout gear or a bikini. At the very least, I hope this article inspired you to throw a clothes swap with your friends next Friday night. Unmaterial Girl has some great tips on how to host a proper one. So, get the gang together and save the planet, one item of clothing at a time.
P.S. All of these sustainable fashion labels were created by women! Coincidence?!
P.P.S. Some other resources to inspire you:
Fashion for Good website https://fashionforgood.com/
Fashion Revolution and the ‘Who made my Clothes’ campaign https://www.fashionrevolution.org/
Be More With Less and Project 333 https://bemorewithless.com/project-333/
B-Corporation certified fashion businesses https://bthechange.com/9-b-corps-leading-in-ethical-fashion-c7c659f6c92e
Watch The True Cost documentary https://truecostmovie.com/
Watch The War on Waste TV show https://www.abc.net.au/ourfocus/waronwaste/
Read WWF’s Changing Fashion Report 2017 https://www.wwf.ch/sites/default/files/doc-2017-09/2017-09-WWF-Report-Changing_fashion_2017_EN.pdf
Listen to Clare Press’ podcast Wardrobe Crisis https://www.clarepress.com/podcast
*Disclosure: I am committed to transparency, honesty and finding the most ethical products out there. I wouldn’t recommend a product or business I didn’t 100% support. Whilst all of the above are my genuine recommendations based on my experience and research over many years, some of the links provided in this article are affiliate links, included gifted products or I am an ambassador for (links with a *). For these links, I may be paid a commission on any sales which result directly from the link. You will be charged the same price nonetheless. This is an easy and free way for you to support the work that I do. So, thank you in advance!
** Featured photography by Perlin Earth Photography.