In this new article series, we wanted to dive right into our current rationale around each of our EMPATHY values to provide you with more transparency but also helpful information that you can take with you on your next purchase.
This is also a great exercise for Ethi as we’ll be able to set a baseline to continue to improve our knowledge and criteria for each value as we grow. As with sustainable fashion in general, we are a work-in-progress so any feedback will really help!
This week we look at our Your Local value, which we define as brands that keep their design and production in their brand’s country of origin.
We want to emphasise the ‘Your’ in ‘Your Local” because Ethi is based in Australia but is a global marketplace with brands that call different countries home. For example, Olaf Designs designs and produces their garments in Australia whereas Corkor design and produce their handbags all in Portugal. They both promote their respective local industries and thus qualify for the ‘Your Local’ value.
Similar to handmade clothing, it wasn’t long ago that buying local was anything special. Since globalisation though, with many businesses outsourcing their manufacturing to lower cost countries, supporting local means a hell of a lot more - which we’ll cover in this article.
The current situation
- 90% of clothing bought in Australia is made offshore.
- Mass production of clothing can be costly in first-world countries and are typically outsourced to third-world countries where labour can be exploited. This also completely destroys their local manufacturing industries, making skilled workers redundant in the process.
- An unexpected consequence of surplus donated clothing is that they end up in landfills or flood markets in third world countries such as Haiti. This sudden influx of clothing by the cargo load stifles local industries and traditional artisanal clothing that cannot compete with essentially free clothing.
- The fashion industry is a global supply chain. For example, raw cotton could be grown in the US, shipped in bales to Columbia, where the cotton is spun to yarn. The yarn is then shipped to Bangladesh where the yarn is spun to fabric. It is washed and dyed and shipped back to developed countries such as Australia for distribution. The total journey is estimated to be about 32,000kms for a cotton t-shirt.
What is fashion doing to promote locally made?
It actually starts with you
Taking a greater interest and building awareness of where your clothes are being made, the mileage a piece of clothing has, how sustainable the material is, and ultimately choosing to support locally made sends the most powerful signal to companies. Also, seeking to buy unique pieces made from traditional craftsmanship helps preserve the garment making skills that have developed over many years for a reason.
Who made my clothes?
Fashion Revolution will be seen as the turning point for the entire industry to strive for better quality across sustainable and ethically made clothes because of how effective its awareness campaigns have been. One great example is the ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ social media campaign, which has reached over 156,000,000 impressions with 70,000 people asking brands #whomademyclothes.
By asking this simple question, the global supply chain becomes scrutinised, shedding light on brands that aren’t as transparent about how and who they are working with to produce their clothing, but equally as important, putting the spotlight on the brands that are transparent and that are proud to show consumers what is going on behind the scenes.
This has also created greater currency to handmade and locally produced garments, but also driven a better standard of working conditions and ultimately better quality clothing irrespective of whether your clothing was produced locally or overseas.
Accreditations, certifications, and audits
Part of the appeal of local is that the supply chain is easier to understand, and when things can be better understood, better trust can be built. Accreditation, certification, and audit bodies or such as Ethical Clothing Australia and Textile (ECA), Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) help create even greater trust for the consumer.
Accreditations or certifications can also help lift the overall standard of the industry, with members or compliant brands setting great examples to other brands within the ecosystem. Consumers are also starting to vote on clothing that have these qualifications, further lifting standards.
The other great thing about accreditation bodies is that not only do they provide transparency of brands to consumers, they also help support and develop the local industry through guidelines, programs, and workshops for brands.
What does it mean for a brand to qualify for our ‘Your Local’ value?
Brands that make their clothing in-house at small-scale are a quick decision to meet our handmade value. Brands that outsource or work with artisans that honour the artisan’s traditional artisanal skills would also be a great match for handmade. Some boutique factories can also qualify for handmade though this would require closer inspection by us, with certifications such as Ethical Clothing Australia providing assurance of the handmade value being met.
Olaf Designs Studio - Brand example at Ethi
Olaf Designs Studio is a Brisbane based label where everything is designed and made under one roof, using fabrics that are friendly to animals and the environment. They look better, feel better and wear longer. Simple, classic staple pieces that never go out of style. Olaf Designs Studio’s hope is that by creating and consuming mindfully, it will discourage the pervasive view of clothing as disposable.
Christina Lombardi, designer of Olaf Designs Studio says, “Every piece is cut and sewn locally in my Brisbane studio, using only the highest quality cloth. High quality cloth is more durable, feels better on your skin and lasts for many years and washes. By blending timeless yet modern design with sustainable, ethical fabrics, I aim to produce clothing that you can feel good about and which is flattering and beautiful.”
At Olaf Designs Studio, Christina will also be able to tailor her pieces according to your fit, or even custom to your design style.
You can find Olaf Designs Studio pieces here on Ethi.
So, what can we do?
- Check with the designer or brand where the clothing is produced. At the very least, it helps with creating awareness of the demand for local.
- Choose local! It is rare for generic clothing to be produced locally these days, so by choosing locally not only are you helping a local brand and the economy, but also wearing something fabulously unique!
- Head onto our Your Local values products page on Ethi to browse through clothing that have been made with transparency.
A Final Note:
Ultimately, we want to encourage people to buy sustainable because of its quality, its aesthetics, accessibility, and affordability - not because they have been guilt-tripped toward buying sustainable. We honestly hope that the words “sustainable” or “ethical” will be dropped in the future because that will be the new norm and fashion will simply be “fashion”.