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Seamless: a just transformation to clothing circularity

AFC CEO, Leila Naja Hibri, shares how collaboration, creativity and courage resulted in the design of Seamless, a scheme to guide the just transformation of the Australian clothing industry.


15 June 2023

Australia is watching us, waiting to see what we are going to do about the 1.4 billion units of clothing we import into this country each year, half of which ends up in landfill. I think we can all agree that that is just not acceptable.

That’s why, for the last 18 months, the Australian Fashion Council, in consortium with Charitable Recycling Australia, Queensland University of Technology, Sustainable Resource Use and WRAP Asia Pacific have collaborated to design a scheme and roadmap that would transform our $27.2 billion clothing industry, from a linear - take, make and dispose - model to a circular - reduce, reuse and recycle - model.

We worked closely with a reference group of sustainability experts, the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence, and collaborators from the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR), the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), the Australian Council of Recycling (ACOR) and the National Retail Association (NRA), as well as State and Local Government agencies, manufacturers, recyclers, designers, brands, retailers and so many more.

We conducted research, developed reports, held town hall meetings, hosted discussion forums and participated in hundreds of one on one meetings. 

Working together to challenge the status quo

And that’s how we did it. We worked together, we dared to challenge the status quo. We talked about the future - a just transformation to something better, more prosperous, more progressive, more forward thinking. We talked about being a global leader, a circular industry that’s respectful of its people and mindful of its planetary boundaries.

And from this, Seamless was created.

Seamless, changing the way we design, consume and recycle clothing

Responsible clothing stewardship

Seamless is a stewardship scheme that recognises that the brands who place clothes on the market are responsible for the entire life of that garment, from design through to recycling or sustainable disposal.

Seamless will be funded by a financial contribution paid by those brands on each item of new clothing they place on the market. The funds raised as part of the scheme will be used to guide the industry on its journey towards clothing circularity by focusing on four priority areas:

- Incentivising clothing design that is more durable, repairable, sustainable and recyclable.
- Fostering new circular business models based on reuse, repair, re-manufacturing and rental.
- Expanding clothing collection and sorting for effective re-use and to ensure non-wearable clothes are recycled.
- Encouraging citizen behaviour change for clothing acquisition, use, care and disposal

Thank you to the pioneering foundation members

To achieve this significant transformation will require courage, it will require creativity but most of all it will require collaboration. In fact, the brands and retailers that have joined Seamless as its foundation members are setting a new standard that exemplifies creativity, courage and collaboration. Those brands are BIG W, David Jones, Lorna Jane, Rip Curl, R.M. Williams and THE ICONIC. The NSW Environment Protection Authority has also contributed to the transition phase as a supporting partner.

To those organisations, I say: Thank you for your daring leadership and foresight. You stand on the right side of history.

Leila Naja Hibri
CEO, Australian Fashion Council

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