Melbourne Fashion Week (M/FW) is here and like everyone else we’re excited! But behind the champagne and runways, remains a system that despite the efforts of many homegrown fashion brands, is having a severe impact on our environment. The push for fashion sustainability is being driven by consumers increasingly and in response M/WF like other fashion weeks is pivoting towards showcasing sustainable fashion brands and holding conversations and workshops on the subject.
The environmental problem wrought by fashion is one that that Dr. Rachel Matthews, who heads up Fashion & Sustainability studies at Collarts, says we can’t afford to ignore.
“There are a number of fantastic local brands whose business model is entirely circular, or heading in that direction, but the reality is that designer clothing isn’t accessible to the majority of the population,” said Matthews.
Circular fashion is a model that asks the industry to close the loop on production, from responsible manufacturing to end-of-life for every garment. As the story so often goes, the stand-out trends of fashion weeks are inevitably translated by non-circular fast-fashion brands for a fraction of the price and quality, making around-the-world journeys to bulk-bins and mailboxes alike.
“…The stand-out trends of fashion weeks are inevitably translated by non-circular fast-fashion brands for a fraction of the price and quality, making around-the-world journeys to bulk-bins and mailboxes alike.”-Dr Rachel Matthews
We know that fast-fashion is not new, but Matthews says the likes of TikTok and Instagram are encouraging the chewing up and spitting out of micro trends and ‘must-have’ items faster than ever before – and it makes for a staggering amount of waste. It’s a message echoed by the Australian Fashion Council (AFC) who recently reported that Aussies are buying on average 14.8kg of clothing, or 56 new items, every year – around 10kg of which per person is ending up in landfill.
“We know that fast-fashion is not new…but…TikTok and Instagram are encouraging the chewing up and spitting out of micro trends and “must-have” items faster than ever before – and it makes for a staggering amount of waste.”_Dr Rachel Matthews
While Gen Z and millennials often cop the media blame for over-consumption, Matthews stresses that eco anxiety weighs heavily on younger generations’ shoulders. “Students come into our courses feeling immense pressure about the state of the world, wanting to do something that will make a real difference.”
“People beginning a sustainable fashion journey often ask where the best place to shop is, but the answer isn’t in shopping – it’s not shopping. Or at least shopping a lot less.”
In line with this thinking, Matthews predicts that prominent fashion influencers and celebrities will adopt a more minimalist approach, or face backlash.
“Environmental issues combined with a recession will see consumers look unfavourably on excess consumption and one-time-wear of clothes. What was once aspirational, or served as escapism, will become harder to digest – even for well-liked public figures.”
“environmental issues combined with a recession will see consumers look unfavourably on excess consumption and on-time wear of clothes.”– Dr Rachel Matthews
Rachel also adds that the next Matilda Djerf type following could go to someone who makes a name off an anti-shopping stance. “We’ll likely see the rise of a fashion influencer that builds their brand through the consistent re-wearing and re-purposing of the same small handful of outfits.
“Just as consumers are getting smarter about brands that greenwash, they’ll hold the people they follow to the same standard.”
So, how can you enjoy M/FW sustainably? Matthew’s shared some tips for enjoying your fashion sustainably:
Audit your wardrobe
This can be confronting but start by itemising your full closet. Take note of what you have multiple versions of and what you’re not wearing. This should give you a good understanding of your personal style and what works for you.
Buy one quality item
Pull out the wallet for that one piece that you truly love and find different ways to wear it – lots!
You heard right – you probably don’t need to wash your clothes as much as you do. Especially denim and knits. Spot clean and line dry to keep clothes lasting (& looking good for) longer.
Repeat, borrow or swap
Enjoy, and enjoy again. And when you’re no longer enjoying it – swap with a friend. Renting for a big occasion is a great option too.
Also on Saturday 15 October in Adelaide there’s: A Day in Fashion on The Parade Norwood with fashion sustainability at the centre of its main events!