This article was first published by The Vine on February 8, 2013.
You only need to take one look at the models stalking the European runways to see that what today’s fashionable ideal of beauty, and how far away it is from the aesthetic reality of your average work-going, online-shopping, Girls-watching punter.
But according to attractiveness studies (and yes, such a thing does exist), what people perceive to be beautiful is actually an average of the facial features on people we see around us. So, contrary to popular opinion, the thing that dictates a beautiful face is actually how everyday it is.
Investigations into what is sometimes called “the law of averages” have been applied to beauty since 1883, when Francis Galton discovered that composite faces tended to be more attractive than any individual photo. And this finding is remarkably consistent, regardless of whether the sample is full of Miss Universe Finalists, an isolated population of hunter-gatherers or everyday folk from a German University. This means, that no one person is more beautiful than an average of any group of people.
It make sense, really. We’re essentially lazy, so we like to look at things we’re familiar with, to save the extra mental energy it takes to analyse anything out of the ordinary. The less work involved, the more beautiful we perceive something to be. Hence the phrase “easy on the eye”.
So, if our perception of beauty is actually based on averageness, are we essentially striving for mediocrity? Is our desire to look like everyone else programmed by science?
Biologically, we’re sexually attracted to features that have been able to survive. Any abnormalities are seen as potential mutations or diseases and need not apply. Perhaps this means all the unusually lithe limbs, high cheekbones and shiny hair we see on the pages of the fashion glossies may actually be a dying breed, destined to be weeded out by the process of natural selection that Darwin described so brilliantly.
(A freak fact: though perhaps less well-known, Sir Francis Galton is a polymath cousin of Charles Darwin and contributed to developing the theories of heredity and eugenics, the wisdom of the crowd and the inheritance of intelligence. Any wonder – clearly there was an intelligence mutation in their family! Google the man if you want to feel like a comparative academic under-achiever.)
Our fondness for an average of what we see daily accounts for cultural/ ethnic differences in the perception of beauty – and is seen in isolated populations. If we are surrounded by people in who all have certain facial features in common, we can safely assume our brains will be trained to find these attractive.
But this phenomenon also explains how and why global ideals of beauty are shifting further towards Caucasian features, and it correlates to the greater reach of Western media. Whether we’re in Delhi, Shangai, Dubai or Melbourne, the more white people we see, the more our lazy brains are programmed to find white features beautiful, despite the reality of the ethnic diversity of the people around us.
There is a sinister side to this, with a whole generation growing up to find normalised Caucasian features the aspirationally attractive and going under the knife in pursuit of the Western ideal. In an August 2011 episode entitled “Beauty Race”, SBS Insight discussed this at length. They featured Heidi Liow, who at the age of 20, had already undergone three operations to her eyes, nose and chin to create a “more balanced” and “Western” face. (Read full transcript here.) She wasn’t alone in aspiring to a Caucasian ideal, with examples of skin whitening creams used in South East Asia and Africa discussed at length. Does the imbalance of the global media landscape mean we’re creating a more aesthetically homogenized society, devoid of unusual features and ethnic attributes? What a disturbing prospect. To think we could all be bound to end up all looking a super race of average white people through artificial means like Heidi Liow.
As disturbing as the thought of us as a cobbled together Frankenstein race seems, it is also quite poetic to think that despite rising ethic tensions, the ever-presence of racist attitudes in our increasingly racially diverse society, we are programmed to find beauty in a perfect mix of the people we’re surrounded by, not just the perfectly beautiful (and inherently atypical) leggy types we’re led to believe are the the beautiful people.
At the same time too, it is oddly comforting to think that those perhaps those beautiful people are really… just average.
This article was first published by Peppermint Magazine on February 7, 2013.
Just a few weeks ago, on a very warm night in Melbourne, a committed crowd assembled downstairs at Donkey Wheel House to discuss all things sustainable fashion. Tailoring Tomorrow – a partnership between Billy Blue College of Design and Peppermint Magazine – boasted a great line-up of sustainable fashion minds as speakers. Alex Trimmer (Sosume), Kelly Elkin (ALAS) and Rachael Cassar covered design and design thinking for fashion businesses and Eloise Bishop, Simon McRae (ECA), Julia Haselhorst (TFIA) and Mieke Leppens tackled how larger businesses, collaboration, accreditation and education play a key role.
I’ve been meaning to post about Ryan Lewis and Macklemore’s Thrift Shop for ages now, but with the song taking out the number 1 spot on Triple J’s Hottest 100 on Australia Day I couldn’t help but celebrate again and so I’m posting about it now.
Macklemore (along with his collaborator Ryan Lewis) is fast building a name for himself as a man with more than a few things to say, covering religion, equal love, and his previous struggles with substance abuse in his music. But the subject that he’s received the most attention for is his love of op shopping – or as they call it in the US “thrift shopping” hence the name of his Hottest 100 topping song.
I can’t tell you how excited I was the first time I heard this song. Not only is it loaded with sass and sax (yes, sax – not sex), it seems the kid previously known as Ben Hegarty is a man after my own heart – a fellow secondhand trawler!
The clip is ace – it looks like everyone’s favourite op shopping experience. And Macklemore celebrates op shopping for the following reasons, and I quote:
Fifty dollars for a T-shirt – I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt’s hella dough, And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t
I could take some Pro Wings, make them cool, sell those. The sneaker heads would be like “Aw, he got the Velcros”
I wear your granddad’s clothes. I look incredible. I’m in this big ass coat, From that thrift shop down the road
So pretty much, you don’t have to spend heaps of cash to look good. Just hunt down something cool that the old folks are wearing, get your swag on, and love the fact that you don’t look like everyone else.
Lyrics on their own just don’t do it justice. Go watch the clip again. And happy Monday.
Oh, and you might be interested in more about these clever kids. I posted more here.
Well, well, well… Long time no see! It has been a while between posts and it seems there is so much to catch up on!
I didn’t mean to leave y’all hanging, but I got a little sidetracked! It has been quite a blessing in disguise, not only for some other ongoing pursuits of mine which have been afforded a little more attention, but hopefully also for the blog, as it has allowed me to take a step back and think about exactly what I’d like to spend my time thinking and writing about here. And hopefully what might be interesting for you as a reader.
Initially, when this here blog was set up, I really wanted it to be about the “Wonderland” that is fashion – and all the beauty, art, quality, design, and craftsmanship that entails – and the cultural, personal, historical, social, economic complexity that goes along with it. This is still true. For me, the maze of fashion feels a little like I am Alice, and as I walk through wonderland everything around is beautiful and wondrous, but it isn’t as it seems.
In the early days though, I got pretty heavily embedded in the broader industry implications of this and I’ve spent a great deal of energy establishing a place for conversations to continue at that level. If this is something you want to learn more about, or you work in the industry, you head on over to Sustainable Fashion Australia to register your interest. There will be more on this soon.
This frees up Wardrobe Wonderland to be what I intended it to be, a place to document my personal journey as a fashion consumer. Though my original intention was to simply celebrate the good things about fashion – the stuff that is centred on quality, clever design, beauty and integrity – for me it is really hard to discuss these things while ignoring the broader context. I’m planning to continue to interrogate the big issues here, but on a personal level – looking specifically at how the big stuff impacts me as a consumer; my choices and the way I engage with fashion.
On top of that, there will be the same street style snaps that featured heavily in Wardrobe Wonderland Mark 1. And despite having resisted it for a while, I’ve decided to include some snaps of me. Or at least I will if I get to the stage where I feel comfortable with pics of me in all my sartorial glory splashed all over the internets!
So you don’t get too sick of me, I’ll be calling on some of my favourite fashion folk to add their voices to the discussion, and I’ll be posting their musings when it comes to style, sustainability, identity and creativity here.
Another thing I’m hoping you’ll find interesting, is a weekly sale of items all from one person’s wardrobe. Prompted by an amazing project by british Sustainable Fashion Academic and Author, Kate Fletcher, called The Local Wisdom Project which focused on “the craft of use”. There will be more on this as it evolves, but for you, it means some personal insights and fashion related stories, and the chance to get your hands on some gorgeous pieces, complete with a history via our new shop! You can also become a profiled seller and have some of your items listed. News on this very soon.
A little about our new look
With this slight shift in focus and feel of Wardrobe Wonderland in mind, I recruited two very talented folk to help me recreate the blog. This may seem a lot of effort to go to for a blog, but I plan on putting quite a bit of energy into it, and I’d like to think you lovely people will enjoy coming here to visit too!
Shannon Michael Collins is a friend of mine and a very talented man. He created the logo using texture, fabric and a riot of colour – always a plus with me. Shannon has been an absolute delight to work with and I highly recommend him if you’re on the hunt for a designer. (He also does framing, illustration, identity – all manner of things.)
Some of you will be very familiar with Alicia Hannah Naomi – the lady behind the phenomenal Sea of Ghosts, and a very talented designer in her own right. Luckily for me, she also has a background in multimedia and web design and was good enough to build the streamlined, minimal feel of the blog, leaving room for colourful images. I really love Alicia’s work, her aesthetic and her voice as a designer.
So fear not, we’re back on top of things and you can expect posts much more regularly as we get back into the swing of being an active blog. I’d love to hear your feedback and hear about what you’ve been up to in the past little while so head over to the Facebook Page, or drop us a line via twitter or email.
What do you think of our new look? I’d love to hear from you.
As I’m getting my head back into thinking actively about fashion and all its facets, the lovely people from Peppermint Magazine have asked me to MC their upcoming event Tailoring Tomorrow, this Thursday evening.
Held in partnership with Billy Blue College of Design, the event will feature Simon McRae from Ethical Clothing Australia, TFIA Hub Strategic Manager Julia Haselhorst, Sustainability Advocate Eloise Bishop, Kelly Elkin of ALAS, Alex Trimmer of SOSUME Clothing and Designer Rachael Cassar. A very impressive lineup of clever sustainable fashion folk!
As well as some delicious treats thanks to Grassroots Productions, there will also be a mini market showcasing some excellent examples of sustainable fashion with textiles, processes and labels on show.
If you’re interested in finding out about the promising future of sustainable fashion in Australia, and the critical skills and ideas required to get our fashion graduates and designers there, Tailoring Tomorrow is not to be missed!
There are limited tickets still available for only $20. Things kick off from 6pm. See you there!
One of my favourite people in Melbourne, the fabulous Miss Tullia Jack, is almost finished her Masters of Philosophy. She is investigating how we wear and wash our clothes and how our excessively high hygiene standards effect the environmental impact of our clothes.
Statistically, the period when we own our clothes (known as the use phase) can account for up to 80% of the environmental impact of a garment over its lifecycle. Now, you don’t need to be a Masters student to know that this is a lot! In theory, this means regardless of how much care the manufacturer takes in sourcing environmentally responsible materials, we the user can drastically reduce the impact of our wardrobe by taking more care when washing. In reality though, much of the washing behaviour is often determined by what materials are used, the design of the garment and the quality. Either way, how we wash our clothes can go along way to lightening our environmental footprint thanks to less water, chemical and energy usage. It can also save you cash and increase the longevity of your clothing.
Tullia suggests 4 golden rules when laundering clothes. They are:
- When taking off a garment hang it straight back on the hanger in a well ventilated place.
- To freshen garments leave them in the steamy bathroom while you shower, or hang them outside in the sunshine (this also negates the need for ironing, leading to greater energy savings).
- Spot clean with moist cloth to remove visible dirt.
- Hand wash in cold water using biodegradable detergent.
For all those of you who seem to spend a lot of time visiting the dry cleaner rather than bent over the laundry sink, I recommend tracking down a good environmentally friendly dry cleaner as typically dry cleaning is a chemically intensive process. Award winning sustainable business Daisy Dry Cleaners use no chemicals and have locations all over Melbourne.
As part of her research, I’ve been collecting some information on how and how often people wash their clothes. A sample of the responses is below.
After how many wears would you usually wash each item? How?
“Undies – every wear! T-shirts etc – probably every third wear. Everything else, probably 5-10 wears depending what it is. Mostly washing-machined with a low water level, cold water, hung on clothes line. (I should definitely hand wash more… now I feel guilty).”
“I am the worst at washing my clothes! I don’t have a laundry or live near laundromats so things mostly air out unless I take them home to clean when visiting my parents.”
“Sorry, my boyfriend does all my washing so as soon as it drops in the basket it gets washed so I guess it depends on the rotation of clothes!”
“Depends on the item. Tops two full day wears, jeans when they become lose and soft, bottoms (pants and skirts) generally 5 full day wears, dry clean only items generally get dry-cleaned once a year. Never use a clothes dryer and always choose the speedy wash option.”
“It depends on if I’ve sweated or not. I will take things straight to the dry-cleaners after dinner parties, because I’m a messy eater!”
“Depending on fabric and item. I don’t wash anything (besides my undies!) more than once in two weeks. I try to air everything as much as possible and my true loved garments come with me in the shower.”
“3 or 4 wears, hehe.”
“Skirts: usually after 3 wears. I have a lot of pleated skirts so I dread having to hand-wash them each time! Tops: 1-2 wears (in the washing machine unless made out of silk). Coats: once a year (dry clean). I own one pair of jeans which I wash in the washing machine every few months. I almost never use the dryer… always hang my clothes out to dry.”
“It really depends on the garment. I almost NEVER wash jeans! I rarely wash jackets and it’s mostly just my smalls (undies, singlets, socks) that get a regular wash (in a front loader, with a full load and using eco-friendly washing liquid). I almost never use the dryer (I use a drying rack) and wash a lot by hand. After I take off my clothes I hang them up straight away on the top of the staircase because it’s airy or I hang them in the bathroom while I shower.”
“I wash most of my clothes every 3-4 wears, including my black singlet, machine wash. I have only washed my gray top (its wool) once, by hand, and have worn this maybe 30 times. I have washed my cardigan twice, with a machine, and have worn it approximately 35 times. Jeans, every six weeks or so, machine wash. I never use a machine dryer, so they are all hung out to dry.”
“Depends on the season! Skirts, probably after 3 wears (depending on the situation worn in). Cardigans, 2 wears. Dresses, 1-2 wears. Coats, dry clean 6 monthly.”
“One if they’re wiffy, or ten times if it still smells fresh.”
“Jackets I dryclean when needed and the rest I wash via machine after use or hand if ultra delicate.”
“About 3 times unless it’s been hot or I have dropped food on them. Washing is either by machine or hand and hung out to dry.”
“I usually hand wash or machine wash my vintage clothing after each wear (depending on what it is). If it is a jacket I just air it out on the clothes line and get it dry cleaned every now and again.”
“Handwash – depending if its dirty or smelly.”
“At the moment it’s all old-fashioned hand-washing, but usually it would be the washing machine delicate cycle. I wash my clothes when they’re dirty or smelly. Which is not all that often. I’m a bit of a grot.”
“Hmmm… really depends on how dirty (read: smelly) they get. Unless it’s a stinking hot day and I spill my lunch on myself, I generally will wear things 3-5 times before washing them. Dresses goes into the washing machine and then drip dries. Jackets I’d dry clean.”
“Dresses – I dry clean every few months. Jackets – I wash it maybe twice a year, more if I spill something. I wash tops the most – maybe every second wear – less in winter sometimes more in summer. Socks – every. single. wear.”
How and how often do you wash your clothes? Does the idea of washing them less gross you out or make sense?
This post was first published at Style Melbourne.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good news story.
In a week of mixed press (questions over the ethics of the use of fur in fashion design, an online spat between two Melbourne designers over intellectual property theft), Melbourne Spring Fashion Week did showcase at least one overwhelmingly positive story – that of The Social Studio.
The celebrated (and award winning) social enterprise, now in its second year, showcases the work of young designers-in-training as they gain training and experience in fashion design and manufacture.
The business works with young people – often former refugees or disadvantaged members of the community – training them in fashion and textiles or in hospitality skills as they work in the design studio or adjoining cafe. Their unique training model allows students with limited exposure to the local school system to complete the program at their own pace, an unusual structure which is having great success. The enterprise receives excess fabric runs from other design companies, turning fashion’s left overs into unique and colourful garments.
The Social Studio has garnered positive reviews from the fashion press, not just as a result of its focus on having a positive social impact, but also thanks to the strong design aesthetic that references the african heritage of many of its program participants. Their pieces feature bold colours, fluid shapes, and distinctive styling.
And their Spring/Summer display was not an exception. Their first ever gala event at BMW Edge on Thursday night during MSFW saw several of their program participants (moonlighting as models) stalking the runway in vivid blues, reds and yellows, relaxed shapes and many layers. It is clear that new design techniques are developing, with the studio exploring digital printing, new fabrics and increasingly complex garment construction.
In an industry that can be subject to criticism due to its superficiality, limited definition of beauty and its fleeting nature, the Social Studio is creating a lasting positive impact for its program participants and their community, not to mention some stunning pieces that deserve pride of place in the wardrobes of stylish Melbournians.
All images via Style Melbourne.
This post was first published at Style Melbourne.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that fashion retail in Australia is struggling.
Recent months have seen a long list of notable local designers and retailers going into administration and closing their doors. Announcements of international retail superpowers setting up shop on our shores have added to pressure on the local industry. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ recent retail figures were less than inspiring, showing a 4.2 percent decline in clothing, footwear and accessories. Understandably, the fashion sector is a little worried.
The City of Melbourne team behind Melbourne Spring Fashion Week were determined to counter this unsteady retail climate with a Business Series Program that focused on getting back to the basics: engaging with your customer, developing a quality product and creating an environment that supports and communicates the personality of your brand.
What they delivered at the Business Series forums was a line up of impressive speakers addressing the critical business elements for Australian fashion retailers today. They are:
Have a strong brand story
This was reiterated in different ways at each session. Thibaud Cau-Cecile from The Wearer’s Right says he looks for substance and personality when selecting brands to participate in his events. Both are critical when trying to engage retail buyers and shoppers who are both looking for a point of difference when stocking or purchasing your product.
Alasdair MacKinnon described the success he’s experienced with local label Otto & Spike – a family business based on local manufacture and traditional skills. Their case served as a stark contrast to the trend for local brands taking their manufacture offshore and gained positive media attention for all the right reasons. According to MacKinnon, shoppers want to know about your business and feel like they’ve bought a piece of something special when they’ve parted with their hard earned dollars. Handmade and artisan brands like Otto & Spike are reaching new markets by capitalising on their brand essence through online communication, tailored communications strategies and a consistent environment in retail stores.
Deliver a quality product
This one should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, I seem to be saying “they don’t make ‘em like they used too” far too often these days, and I know I’m not the only one. Quality is about employing innovative design, good quality materials and care and attention to detail in manufacture. But for me, as an advocate of a fashion industry that is socially and environmentally responsible, quality and conscience are inextricably linked.
Having a clear understanding of your supply chain can help businesses understand the true impact they’re having, maximise efficiency and minimise costs. For John Condilis of Nobody Denim, this means making their cult jeans in Melbourne and having their supply chain accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia.
For Marks and Spencer, it means aiming to be the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015. According to Mike Barry, Marks and Spencer want each and every product to be accompanied by at least one positive story along its supply chain, and eventually two and three stories. And for the skeptics, Plan A delivered A$100 million in additional value to Marks and Spencer last year. Who says there’s no business viability to sustainability?
Make people feel special
At its core, fashion is about making people feel good. In a crowded market place, doing this successfully becomes a critical element to any retail business strategy. This goes for your instore retail experience, your customer service and using digital platforms to build relationships online. Lucy Feagins from The Design Files and Billie Iveson of RUSSH Magazine stressed the importance of a personal and tailored pitch when approaching print or online media for press support. Good press agents build real relationships and trust with the right people in the right places. Doing this well can be a huge asset to your business.
Similarly, personalised customer service and strong online communications (especially when using social media platforms or blogging) will help to create a personal connection with your brand and create loyalty. One of my favourite quotes of the series was from Lucy Feagins who said “have a generous spirit”. When done sensibly, this is a great attitude to take into your business.
So there you have it. The formula for success according to Melbourne Spring Fashion Week’s Business Series speakers. Fortunately, it seems the marketplace is tiring of the mass marketed, cheap fashion retailer and is seeking integrity, quality and substance. If this is true, the labels coming out of Australia have one up on the Zaras and TopShops of the world.
A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to the Pop-Up Pirate Radio Tower erected in the centre of the Victorian College of the Arts Forecourt. Tegan Caffrey Kop was at the top of the tower – a perilous climb away. After a few trips on the way up the stairs I made it – and the microphone awaited.
We had a grand old chat. Tegan let me play some cool tunes. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
The chat is available to podcast below:
This year’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week is almost upon us!
The City of Melbourne Melbourne Spring Fashion Week events team have outdone themselves this year with a really great overall program featuring some of Melbourne’s best up and coming designers and business leaders of the local and international industry. This morning’s event launch and program announcements caused a little tingle of excitement – at least for me – as sustainability is finally getting some of the spotlight at the Business Series! And for the Business Series golden trifecta – design integrity and customer engagement via online technology have also been given screen time! Hoorah!
Here is a quick summary of my Must See Events for the week:
- Talk the Talk - Mon Sept 5, 7am – 8.45am, Savoy Park Ballroom
How to successfully engage consumers using online technology. Featuring designer and blogger Lucy Feagins from The Design Files and Erik Lavoie from cult US magazine VICE.
- The Good Fight – Tues Sept 6, 7am – 8.45am, Savoy Park Ballroom
International Leaders in the sustainability and CSR space – Marks and Spencer – will be represented by their Head of Sustainable Business Mike Barry. Bringing insight into one of the biggest retail sustainability campaigns (beginning initial £200 Million pound investment and expanding to a goal for carbon neutrality), Mike’s insights into the M&S way of doing this will provide a desperately needed reality check to the Australian industry. He will be accompanied by local sustainability superstar John Condilis from cult denim label Nobody who leading the pack in the Australian sustainability game.
- When the Market Gets Tough, the Smart Get Creative, Wed Sept 7, 7am – 8.45am, Savoy Park Ballroom
With the influx of international mega brands into the Australian market comes an opportunity for local brands to differentiate by delivering quality products developed on principles of innovative design and exceptional quality. It is also an opportunity for stores to employ innovative retail techniques and engage with their consumer base in a real way. Featuring UK design consultant Edward Church, Alasdair Mackinnon from Otto and Spike and Thibaud Cau-Cecile from The Wearer’s Right.
- Runway Show #2 – Boutique
Melbourne is renowned for hidden away boutiques stocking innovative designers. Runway 2 shows what’s in store for some of our best boutique labels and the stores that support them in doing things their own way.
Features: Alice Euphemia, Dhini, Fat, Gorman, Green with Envy, Kings of Carnaby, Leonard St, Life with Bird, Megan Park, Nevenka and Obüs.
More information and tickets available here.
- Runway Show #4 – Senso Uniquo
Melbourne is also gaining a reputation for out-of-the-box design thinking and innovative independent designers. Runway 4 has a great list of local emerging designers who are finding favour with fashionable Melbourne shoppers.
Features: Above, Alistair Trung, Alpha60, Arnsdorf, Carly Hunter, From Britten Product Laboratory, Kuwaii, Limedrop, S!X and Trimapee.
More information and tickets available here.
Seriously. If you want to see where Melbourne fashion is at – these are the events to get to. RMIT has an amazing reputation for producing some of the best design talent in the country and fittingly, students and alumni alike show their wares in exhibition and runway format. There is also a runway show of 12 hand selected up and comers. The next generation of design quality on display!
As a yoga fanatic I will definitely be keen to get along to this one!
So there you have it! It looks like my calendar will be jam packed! You can view the entire program here.
We will have interviews with some of the very clever folk featured in the program in the lead up to the event.
What are you most excited about from this year’s Melbourne Spring Fashion Week calendar?
I know I’m well behind here, but I still have some lovely folk to feature whom I met on the night I spoke at Pecha Kucha at Melbourne International Fine Art Gallery during LMFF. (I still can’t bring myself to post the video of me speaking. I’m slowly working up to it…) One such lovely lady I met that night was Briony Galligan, who just so happens to have attended school with fellow Pecha Kucha speaker and co-conspirator of The AceFantastic Adventure Quest (formerly ThreeChicsTV), Cheryl Lin of Business Chic. Working in the arts, Briony’s creativity shines through in her wardrobe choices with colour, shape and a little bit of sparkle. A great combination for any outfit and welcome relief from the sea of Melbourne black. Its a shame the photos don’t do her colourful outfit a lot of justice. (I’m still making friends with my camera.)
Cardigan, a friends’ costume party reject. It originally came from Savers. I made the necklace, my grey top is from an op-shop, but I can’t remember where. [My favourites are her pink lippy and coloured shoes. It looks like Briony scored a BusinessChic business card too - it doubles as a brooch!]
What are you about?
I work as an arts and museum producer. I believe in independent artists and designers’ ideas, and projects with critical social, political and environmental considerations.
Your favourite vintage/ recycled shops?
Bendigo! RSPCA Op-Shop, the Salvos, the Old Green Bean. [I can vouch for the quality of my hometown op-shops. Not sure how or why but I never fail to find something of quality on trips there.]
Your favourite markets?
Camberwell, or CERES. Donuts, sourdough bread and rifling through exciting piles laid out on tarps is pretty ace. [Can also vouch for this - Camberwell and CERES are both fantastic weekend markets - and not just for the eats.]
Your favourite artists or designers?
At the moment Simryn Gill, Harrell Fletcher, Masato Takasaka, Peaches, Mark Dion, Chaco Kato, Social Studio, Sasufi…
Your fashion inspiration?
Colours and geometric shapes, my mum and my mum’s cupboards, she keeps everything, and its free! From 19th century velvet capes, 70s corduroy jumpsuits and my grandmother’s hand-crocheted hot pink mini, every time I have a look, I find something else.
The best thing about wearing recycled/refashioned/handmade/vintage clothing?
Selecting, sharing and playing with things.
Note: The piece half-hidden behind Briony is by FX Harsono and it is actually a painting, not a photo as it appears.
This week I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the demand for fast fashion. There are a lot of thoughts whirling around in my head. I’ll make an attempt here to articulate them clearly, though I’m thinking I might need a few more posts before I’m able to fully flesh out the ideas.
The high “Pace of Fashion” was the subject of a discussion held at the Miu Miu Musing event in London a little while back. Some of the biggest names in international fashion waxed lyrical about how media, internet, supply-demand and other factors impact on our consumptive patterns and increase the speed of the fashion industry. Susie Lau (from Style Bubble - one of my favourite fashion blogs) wrote about the event and included the following edited video of the discussion. The issues raised in this discussion are actually worthy of a whole post – keep an eye out for one to come.
I touched on this very subject with my post on the launch of Zara’s Melbourne store for The Vine. For me, the appeal of fast fashion is severely diminished when everyone can access it – a sentiment held by Fashionising’s editor Daniel Dykes who discussed this in his manifesto entitled “The Curated Wardrobe“. He contends that fast fashion is now so unfashionable that it is nearing the end of its time.
At this month’s Glad Rags Vox Pops (a monthly sustainable fashion book club started by Tullia Jack) we chatted about how the concepts outlined in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” could be applied to the demand for sustainable fashion. I wrote a brief summary of the discussion for the Glad Rags Blog to bring everyone up to speed.
Though I haven’t really discussed this in detail before, I have big issues with the idea of simply replacing fast fashion goods with similar products made more sustainably. I dream of a world where the fashion industry (and all other industries) operate on cradle-to-cradle principles with a strong focus on resource efficiency, though this scenario is far from a reality.
Tullia wrote a great post this week on “Peak Fashion” – illustrating a scenario where we will eventually hit the limit of our resources and garments will become premium luxury goods, barely affordable to the masses. Drawing similarities to the point of peak oil that we are quickly reaching at an accelerated pace, Tullia paints a damning (and very likely) picture of what our wasteful and inefficient fashion industry may be faced with in the not too distant future.
However in the short-term, simply replacing a standard product for a more sustainable product does not address the fact that most of us (in developed nations) simply over-consume. We want, buy and own much more than we actually need (and often more than we can afford – which causes a whole other set of issues I won’t go into today). For me, nowhere are these excessive patterns of consumption more evident than in fashion, and I would argue that in some ways fashion feeds this behaviour in other industries. The whole business model depends on high trend turnover, planned obsolescence and the constant pursuit of growth (yet another issue that I don’t have time to cover in this post).
On a more positive note though, I have a feeling that the demand for fast fashion is reaching its peak. Thanks to my commerce studies, I’m (too) familiar with the product life cycle graph, and I theorise that fast fashion as a generalised product has reached maturity and is now in decline. According to retail statistics for the past few months – which have been aided by economic downturn – this is decline is already well underway.
I wonder then, why Australian retailers are trying (in vain) to compete with the Zaras of the world. I see a great opportunity for the Australian fashion industry to become renowned for integrated sustainability, quality and slow fashion principles and to celebrate the great design innovation happening among small brands.
Failing that, I sincerely hope the local industry doesn’t go the way of the fast fashion – which may drop off the product life cycle curve into oblivion…?
Bamboo is a bit of a buzz textile at the moment. The quick growing grass is highly renewable, natural and favoured by ridiculously cute pandas.
It does, however, fall short when it comes to production, requiring chemical and water heavy processes like some other natural man made textiles.
Tonight’s Catalyst Program on the ABC will discuss bamboo in more detail, investigating its eco credentials and hopefully weighing up the benefits and downsides of this so-called environmental “wonder fabric”. Alex Trimmer – Wardrobe Wonderland favourite and designer of Melbourne label SOSUME Clothing will chat about bamboo’s applications to the fashion industry.
Picking up from where textile technician, Deakin University PhD candidate and Big Green Conference Speaker Tara Afrin left off, the segment (to be aired on tonight’s program at 8.00pm) investigates the role of science and technology in uncovering new possibilities for sustainability, many of which will have applications in the fashion sector.
The program will also investigate hemp as a viable raw material, and will look also be investigating the next generation of computer technology, natural user interface – sure to be coming to a clothing store near you as the next generation of retail technology.
View the Catalyst Program outline here.
Recent conversations I’ve had with some very clever people have reinforced for me just how much of a role corporations can play in driving the shift to sustainability, with or without consumer pressure. Coincidentally, I’ve been invited to attend a conference in Sydney next week which will no doubt provide me with some more food for thought in this area.
The conference, Mainstream Sustainability, is part of the 3-day Retail World event to be held at Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and features some really impressive names. Tara Allsop from sustainability consultancy Green For Retail will be chairing the conference and will no doubt present a strong business case for retailers who do choose to head down the path of sustainability ahead of the pack.
The conference will highlight the efforts of international retailers like WholeFoods who have a really interesting policy of creating shared value from sustainability innovation. These international leaders should provide some really interesting learnings for their local equivalents, especially considering Australia is a little way off the pace in most instances.
Local speakers Turlough Guerin from Telstra’s environment team and Armineh Mardirossian from from FMCG giant Woolworths will also present and I’m really interested to see how some of their sustainability principles can be applied to smaller fashion retailers, and what influence they have over their supply chain as two of the largest retailers in Australia. I still hold hope that some of these larger retailers will use their considerable budgets to lead the way when it comes to sustainability and I’m really interested to see who’s already doing it well and making inroads.
The fashion sector is represented too with Alexie O’Brien from Lululemon Athletica on the speakers list. I get the feeling there will be some interesting insights from their social sustainability strategy. Though they may be susceptible to criticism on their fabric selection they do have quite active social responsibility policies and an impressive employee engagement record.
Not surprisingly though, the biggest name on the speakers list particularly caught my eye. Following on from a discussion about the arrival of Zara in Melbourne last week, the (recently) ex-CSR manager of the Spanish fashion superpower, Javier Chercoles will be speaking on the measures he introduced during his 10 year stint with Zara. I’m quite intrigued to hear more.
For anyone interested in coming along to the conference and hearing more about how sustainability principles can be applied to retail, you can get your hands on a special discount offer by using the code G4R when booking, thanks to Green For Retail.
Check out the conference agenda in more detail here: http://www.retail-world.com.au/sustainabilityatretail.html
This post was first featured by The Vine.
Today sees yet another international fashion giant moving in on local territory with the launch of Zara’s second Australian flagship store in Melbourne’s Bourke St Mall. The pinnacle of fast fashion retailing is now, officially, at a store near you. Shopaholics are delighted, local retailers are petrified and Zara fan or not, if you’re an avid swapper or op shopper its likely you’ll be seeing the Spanish retailer’s wares among the bargain bounty very soon.
Its been reported that Zara’s first flagship store in Sydney saw figures of $1 Million daily in the weeks following its launch. As local retailers face increased market pressure from major international players, it appears the fight for a share of the fashion market is far from over. The Australian market is no longer protected from big international players by longer freight distances and opposing seasons. Major international brands are already making themselves at home on our shores.
Many who have come home from abroad with suitcases jammed full of bargains from Zara know that the appeal comes from the new – with the retail giant delivering new pieces to stores twice a week. But for me, the elephant in the room is the fact that we simply do not need brand new clothing every 3 days. Where does the old stuff go? How can Australia’s charitable recycling organisations possibly cope with more fast fashion being dumped on their doorstep? When will product stewardship measures be introduced in the fashion industry to deal with such excessive planned obsolescence?
The Hungry Beast Team said it well…
What seems blindingly obvious is that your standard fast fashion retailer cannot compete with this model. There is a limit to trash fashion – particularly in Australia where manufacturing volumes and markets are smaller, freight is expensive and there is little discernible difference between mass market products. There’s a limit – and we’re hitting it.
This signals the need for Australian retailers to make a dramatic departure from traditional ways of doing business in order to set themselves apart from their international competitors, or risk falling behind. Though we can reasonably expect to see mass market Australian retailers suffer with the arrival of this latest international heavy hitter, the LOHAS market segment (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) continues to grow, now accounting for over a quarter of the Australian population and $540 Billion globally. With the introduction of a carbon tax comes a significant opportunity for innovation and evolution. As a consumer driven industry, the fashion sector is already seeing a shift thanks to consistent growth in media and consumer awareness of environmental issues. Though it might spell problems for middle market Aussie retailers, it could also spell success for boutiques and businesses committed to design innovation and sustainability.
Though we’re currently lagging behind international efforts, the Australian textile clothing and footwear industry is presented with a significant opportunity to leap-frog European brands already trying their hand at sustainability. At the recent Big Green Conference in Geelong, the Minister for Innovation, Kim Carr, reaffirmed Labor’s commitment to helping businesses transition to a green economy. “Climate change is remaking our environment and our economy,” Senator Carr said. “Good businesses face the facts and find the opportunities – and the Australian Government will help them every step of the way.”
In his opening speech to the conference, Peter Loney, Chairperson International Fibre Centre summed up the thinking, “Sustainability is with us – it is not a trend – it will not go away. It is not just a philosophy, nor is it a production or procurement issue. Brands and manufacturers don’t have a choice to either opt in or opt out. Sustainability and all its complex facets will be with us for the foreseeable future”.
Etched on the doors of the retailing giant Patagonia are the words of the Sierra Club Executive David Brower, “There is no business to be done on a dead planet”. These global retail superpowers will be well placed when anticipated product stewardship measures are introduced to the fashion industry as we are already seeing in some other sectors.
The Big Green Conference was testament to the fact that there is no shortage of local knowledge among members of the Australian Industry. The event featured local heroes like Leyla Acaroglu from award winning eco-design firm Eco Innovators and sustainability strategist Matt Perry from the Republic of Everyone alongside international leaders in the field such as Andreas Streubig from German superbrand Otto. The conference was the very first of its kind in Australia and showcased the high level of skill and knowledge available to our local industry.
Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Manager of the Technical Textiles and Nonwoven Association and conference convener said, “There is a growing sophistication in sustainable thinking and practices that will no doubt open up new creative business opportunities and inspire green and lean supply chains infused with sustainability values and priorities. The challenge is to position ourselves to capitalise on these opportunities.”
What are your thoughts? Are you happy to see Zara launch in Melbourne? Will you be spending your dollars at Zara? What might its arrival mean for local retailers and designers? Please join in the discussion.