AFC MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
MEET | THE FASHION ADVOCATE
FOUNDER & EDITOR
This week we caught up with Claire Goldsworthy, Founder and Editor of The Fashion Advocate, a website devoted to likeminded individuals who are designing for positive social and environmental change…
The terms ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ are quite broad and complex when it comes to the fashion space. How do you define these for your work with The Fashion Advocate? How do you go about selecting brands to work with? And how do you seek to inform and educate the consumer?
Ethical and sustainable fashion is what I live, breathe and love, but I do forget that sometimes not everyone knows about it. Five years ago, I was even new to it. But now, I believe it’s a responsibility for anyone who works in fashion. Fashion is soon to surpass oil as the most polluting industry in the world, but we have an incredible opportunity to use fashion as a force for good and turn this around; to design sustainably and operate ethically. It’s definitely a complex issue though, because there is no global standard for wages and it’s only been in the last ten or so years that we’ve come to realise the full impact of the industry through research. We’re all constantly learning, and being ethical and sustainable is journey for us all – a process of buying better every day and continually educating ourselves. Everyone has different values and ethics though, but I believe in common sense. If you wouldn’t work for 14 hours a day on 39 cents an hour, why would you buy fashion made in those conditions? If you wouldn’t work for someone who refuses to give you sick leave, superannuation, maternity leave – even holidays – why would you buy something made in those conditions?
It’s about taking the trends out of it, and really considering the process of a garment from start to finish – and when you do – it’s pretty easy to work out what’s ethical and sustainable, and what’s not.
When I’m working with a label, I have a clear set of values, and they must share at least three of my ten values, and also agree to The Fashion Advocate code of conduct which states, ‘All workers are paid fair wages, offered safe working conditions and ensured workers’ rights throughout the entire design, sourcing and manufacturing phase, to maximise the benefits to people and communities while minimising the impact on the environment.’
Being ethical and sustainable isn’t about being perfect, because we’re all learning and trying to do better every day; being ethical and sustainable is about committing to being better, designing better, making better, buying better; committing to understanding your impact, and valuing clothing for what it really is. Ethics to me, is the human impact of clothing, and it’s about paying someone what they deserve for the work they do. A living wage is not just a minimum wage either; a living wage need to cover food, housing, healthcare, education, clothing, utilities, transport and saving – all of the things that so many of take for granted and have grown to feel entitled to in the Western world.
Sustainability to me, is the environmental impact of a piece of clothing, and it needs to consider before, during and after production. It’s about what resources are being used and if they’re renewal, what fabrics and fibres are used and what kinds of dyes are being washed into our waterways, if the fabrics are biodegradable, if plastic zips or buttons are used, even how much wastage is generated during the cut and make stages. It’s a very complex web but when brands are aware and making an effort to continually improve their processes, that’s what matters to me.
A lot of the time, brands will be ethical and not sustainable, and vice-versa, but they’re making a concerted effort every day to introduce ethical and sustainable practices into their business, and they have a long-term plan for positive change. I don’t want to just educate people, I want to inspire people to educate themselves. I could regurgitate what anyone could learn themselves from Google or the likes of The True Cost movie, but I think people need to be shocked themselves, and take responsibility themselves to make changes. If I can encourage the process, I’m happy, and if I can offer an alternative to fast fashion when they’re ready to come over to the ethical and sustainable side, I’m happy.
What does Australian fashion mean to you? What sets our industry apart? Where do you see us sitting globally?
I’ve always been an advocate for Australian fashion, always. I’ve done the Milan and Paris Fashion Week thing, I’ve worked for labels in Berlin, and I’ve scoured the New York design scene – but I love Australian fashion and always come back to it. We’re different, we’re more inventive, we’re fighters. We don’t have hundreds of years of rag trade history to lean back on; we’ve had to forge our fashion identify ourselves, and that’s something really special. We design for our climate, which unlike any other, and we’re forced to use what we have because we’re limited by what resources we can and can’t import. I love it. Often the best things come out of difficult landscapes, and that’s very true for Australian fashion.
RECOMMEND 5! WHO/WHAT/WHERE ARE YOUR LOCAL TEXTILE & FASHION GO TO’S?
1. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t drop The Fashion Advocate in! It’s a great online store for ethical and sustainable Australian designers, and it’s a community of likeminded labels who are designing for positive change. It’s a good place to learn about ethics and sustainability too.
2. Clare Press’s podcast, Wardrobe Crisis, is amazing. I really struggle to listen to podcasts and stay interested, but Clare is amazing, and the way she presents industry facts and stats though her interviews, is really engaging.
3. Bianca Spender is an inspiration for me; she’s accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, she advocated for sustainable design, she uses deadstock fabric for her collections and she’s slowly been eradicating plastic from her supply chain over the last few years.
4. Fool Clothing is an incredible locally-made brand, and Rowena (the designer) is an absolute delight. She’s always manufactured locally, and the craftsmanship behind her knitwear and the process that goes into weaving her patterns – is just amazing.
5. Hara The Label is another favourite local label, and soon to arrive at The Fashion Advocate. I respect and admire Allie’s commitment to ethics and sustainability – and her passion for promoting diversity through her brand imagery.