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Jaana Quaintance-James speech at Kirribilli House

The Australian fashion and textiles industry is a collective powerhouse. We employ almost 500,000 people, 77% of which are women...

by Prue-Ellen Thomas

10 May 2024

The Australian fashion and textiles industry is a collective powerhouse.

We employ almost 500,000 people, 77% of which are women.

We are designers, pattern-makers and manufacturers, retailers and consumer representatives, growers, buyers and marketers, textile engineers and chemists, textile recyclers and circular innovators. Our members work in design studios and factories, at markets, in offices, homes and shops in every corner of Australia.

We play a role in the life of every single Australian and how they represent themselves to the world each day.

We are also a serious and significant business, contributing 1.5 percent of GDP and generating $7.2 billion of exports, more than wine and beer combined.

Yet with this powerhouse status comes challenges…

The cost and complexity of doing business…

Inflationary pressures and reduced disposable incomes…

Workforce shortages and digital transformation…

Ultra fast, low cost fashion directly imported by consumers, resulting in an uneven playing field for Australian born fashion businesses.

And the need to significantly reduce the industry’s well documented environmental impacts.

But we also have significant opportunities and nothing brings those to life better than tonight's three showcases, each which uses proprietary Australian technology and innovation.

To my left, we have The Australian Fashion Council FashTech Lab which delivered savings on cost, time, carbon, water and fabric for 15 Australian brands by piloting their transition from physical to digital sampling. Displayed throughout this room are the resulting digital samples from Bianca Spender, Jac + Jack and Cue. For our industry to not only survive, but thrive, we need collaborative programs like this to accelerate adoption of new innovations and technology made in Australia.

In the Drawing Room we have Mud to Marle, the 2023 Country Road Climate Fund winner led by Full Circle Fibres, Deakin University and textile manufacturer Loomtex, which transforms low-value Australian wool and cotton into a natural high-value yarn. For our industry to not only survive, but thrive, government and industry together need to co-fund trailblazing ideas like this which reinvigorates textile supply chains made right here in Australia.

And be sure to visit BlockTexx, through this door here, the Australian technology company that recovers polyester and cellulose from textiles and clothing in order to create a global solution for hard to recycle clothing blends. For our industry to not only survive, but thrive, we need to support pioneering technologies transforming waste into resources right here in Australia.

And, I will just pass to Adrian Jones, Founder of BlockTexx, who would like to provide Jodie with a native plant, nurtured from CellTexx®, a product of the BlockTexx process.

We are so grateful for the opportunity to host this event here with Jodie this evening - thank you - because it spotlights the potential for the Australian fashion industry to be the global leader, renowned for design-led, sustainable, high quality clothing and circular technology solutions that we know it can be.

The Australian Fashion Council advocates for prioritising tech and innovation to bolster our local manufacturing capabilities. While we may not compete with offshore labour costs, we can strategically cultivate and retain sovereign capability in textiles and clothing by celebrating, preferencing and investing in our Australian industry.

If there is one message to take away from tonight it is this - the future of fashion is Australian.

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