Fashioning the Long Green Thread of Change
Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending Fashionably Numb, and sustainable fashion event that was curated by Kelli Donovan. Kelli has long been a leader in the Australian sustainable fashion industry. She is the creator of Pure Pod, one of Australia’s first sustainable fashion labels, which she founded after many years working in the fashion industry. Kelli became disillusioned with the industry, left it entirely to become a yoga teacher, and then found her way back by creating a sustainable alternative to the norm. She has been leading change, and advocating for change within the industry ever since.
In the inaugural event, Kelli and the team behind Fashionably Numb were able to highlight the problems in the industry and showcase the alternatives with talent and finesse. An art installation in the middle of the warehouse space showed us the vast number of perfectly usable denim jeans that are donated to a single Salvation Army over 10 days. While the walls were hung with more than one thousand white garments, calculated to the exact number of garment workers who have lost their lives in the Rana Plaza factory collapse and in major factory fires and incidents since.
While, with an eye to the solutions, independent sustainable fashion labels such as Pure Pod and Every Thread Counts, or reclaimed fashioned retailers such as the Salvation Army and the Green Shed, offered clothing and homewares at market stalls. And in case we needed some style inspiration, the fashion runway showed us how we could wear them.
But it was the panel discussion that gave us the most insight into the real value of supporting sustainable fashion brands. I was thoroughly taken with the passion and candour with which a number of industry leaders spoke about the very real impact that their work has on the artisan partners that they work with overseas, and the great lengths that they go to to ensure that they get to know the factories and the makers who bring to life their garments and products.
There are people behind all the things that we buy. We can chose to support passionate small businesses who value and respect the lives of their makers, or we can choose faceless brands that are disconnected from their supply chains and, through their pricing strategies, make it difficult of factories to respect labour laws. Of course, there is a middle ground between these dichotomies too, but I know where I want my money to go. And as much as possible, I will be championing the ethical small business alternative.
Fashionably Numb also shows us that Canberra has quite a strong sustainable fashion community, considering our size. A number of the industry speakers from out of town- including Jennifer Nini of Eco Warrior Princess– commented to me about how impressive Canberra was. I am really proud of what our small city has to offer. I guess Lonely Planet wasn’t all that mistaken when it described Canberra as the number 3 city to visit in 2018.
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