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Australia ramps up sustainable fashion amid growing awareness

Published: 2024-04-12


  • France's parliament targets ultra-fast fashion with crackdown, proposing bans on ads and fines/item.
  • Australia emphasises ethical production amid growing consumer sustainability awareness.
  • Global Sourcing Expo in Sydney focuses on sustainability, tackling environmental impact.
  • Panels discuss circular fashion and conscious fashion evolution among major retailers.

In March 2024, France’s lower house of parliament unanimously voted in favour of a crackdown on ultra-fast fashion, targeting giant companies like Shein and Temu, which have become increasingly popular with consumers across the globe by offering popular fashions with jaw-droppingly low-price tags.

France’s landmark bill proposes a total ban on ultra-fast fashion advertisements and annually increasing fines of up to ten euros per item of clothing as a measure to curb the devastating environmental impact fast fashion is having on the planet.

While an outright ban on ultra-fast fashion has not yet been proposed in Australia, brands are facing a growing obligation to provide evidence of ethical production processes.

“Now, more than ever, the sustainability of products is carrying significant weight in customer purchasing decisions,” explains Marie Kinsella, CEO of the International Expo Group, and organiser of the Global Sourcing Expo, the first truly global wholesaling show of its kind in Australia.

This is evidenced by a 2023 survey conducted by Monash Business School which revealed that more than half of Australians (51%) say that sustainability is an important factor when making a retail purchase.

“Concurrently, regulators are introducing comprehensive transparency and supply chain due diligence laws, resulting in a new era of corporate accountability that brands will need to adhere to,” Marie shares.

Sustainability is a core pillar of the Sydney Global Sourcing Expo, which will take place from 12-14 June 2024 at the International Convention Centre, bringing together hundreds of world-class exhibitors from over 20 countries to showcase apparel, footwear, textiles and homeware products. “We have a long history of connecting Australian and New Zealand buyers with world-class suppliers that not only provide top-quality products, but adhere to sustainable and ethical production processes,” says Marie.

She believes that the greatest harms posed by the rise of ultra-fast fashion include but are not limited to: 1) Unsustainable production and supply chain processes, 2) Environmental pollution and 3) Worker exploitation.

“In response to these growing threats, the Global Sourcing Seminar program at the upcoming GSE Sydney has been carefully curated to include sessions that will highlight strategies for overcoming these challenges and help brands ensure that their sourcing practices are transparent and ethical,” Marie says.

Ensuring sustainable apparel manufacturing and transparent supply chains

By 2030, all textile products for sale in the European Union will need to carry a Digital Product Passport (DPP), containing an unprecedented amount of environmental impact data. Crucially, the DPP is linked to France’s bill which would mandate that all fast fashion retailers include an item’s reuse, repair, recycling, and environmental impact near the product’s price tag – requiring complete supply chain traceability for all companies exporting to the EU.

Acknowledging the daunting task that lies ahead for brands, Melinda Tually, Director of Ndless, a human rights and sustainability consultancy, will lead a Global Sourcing Seminar panel discussion that will give companies a framework for pinpointing and addressing environmental data gaps. She’ll also share pointers for identifying strategic partnerships with service providers to guarantee seamless supply chain traceability and data delivery to end-users.

Tackling fast fashion’s environmental impact

200,000 tonnes of clothing goes into Australian landfills each year, with the rise of ultra-fast fashion brands as a major contributor. “The good news is that there are local innovators looking to change the way Australians design, consume and recycle clothing – such as Seamless, a national product stewardship scheme from the Australian Fashion Council,” says Marie.

Announced by the Australian government a year ago, Seamless aims to divert 120,000 tonnes of end of life clothing from landfills by 2027, a goal they are achieving through major partnerships with brands like BIG W, Lorna Jane and David Jones. Their larger mission, as Seamless CEO Ainsley Simpson will share in her upcoming Global Sourcing Seminar session, is to achieve a circular clothing economy in the country by 2030.

Circular fashion refers to the creation of a closed-loop system for apparel, reducing waste and maximising the lifespan of clothing and textiles – unlike fast fashion garments, which often fall apart after a few uses. If the approach is implemented correctly, brands can reap the benefits – as Rosanna Iacono, CEO of The Growth Activists will explain in her Global Sourcing Seminar, ‘Circular Fashion – Moving from Ambition to Implementation.’

Ending worker exploitation

Fast fashion’s cheap price tag comes at the cost of exploited workers. However, the Living Wage movement stands as a beacon of hope for equitable labour practices and fair wages. While many apparel companies have resisted increasing worker wages out of concerns that increased production costs will alienate price-conscious consumers, the Living Wage panel in the Global Sourcing Seminar program will highlight a local company that has successfully implemented the Living Wage initiative – Outland Denim.

Outland Denim CEO James Bartle, a pioneer of sustainable fashion, expanded his approach to consider the human rights aspect of ethical manufacturing, specifically hiring at-risk young women and providing funding for personal development programs that include language and self-defence classes.

“Implementing a living wage goes beyond having an income that will support a decent standard of living by covering necessary expenses – it gives workers the freedom to prepare and save for unexpected events,” says Marie. “The panel will unpack the benefits of the Living Wage movement from both a practical and academic perspective, giving audiences a variety of approaches to see how this initiative could be best implemented in their own unique context.”

Australia’s biggest fashion retailers unite to discuss the conscious fashion evolution

Australian apparel brands are increasingly embracing the philosophy of ‘conscious fashion’, which is seen as the antithesis to ultra-fast fashion. “Conscious fashion is a philosophy that considers all the inputs that go into making our clothes – natural, animal and human – and what harm the manufacturing process may cause,” says Marie. “It prioritises the sustainability of people and planet as much as the bottom line.”

The Global Sourcing Expo has brought together some of Australia’s biggest and most influential clothing retailers: Country Road, Trenery, bassike and ELK Conscious Fashion for a panel discussion led by Fashion Equipped founder Elizabeth Formosa on Navigating the Conscious Fashion Evolution. The panellists will share practical and crucial tips for implementing a more sustainable strategy, one mindful decision at a time.

“The evolution of conscious fashion is calling, and we’re proud to be able to give a platform to the movement shaping brands with purpose,” Marie concludes.

Note: The content of this press release has not been edited by Fibre2Fashion staff.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (HU)