Feature

Why Green is the New Black

Green is the new Black

Credit: Andrew Lee

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Home grown

In Australia, however, despite consumers becoming increasingly eco-savvy, environment-friendly clothing is still very much in its infancy.

“We are still behind the world in the development of this,” says RMIT’s Thomas. “But it is happening and inroads are being made.”

One Byron Bay-based designer paving the way is Rachel Bending, whose eco-conscious fabric, clothing and homewares label, Bird Textile, lays claim to being the first climate neutral company in Australia. Launched in March 2006 under the slogan “pioneering sustainability in style”, Bending has already seen her designs snapped up by buyers in Australia, the US and Asia and has plans to open a store in Sydney.

“It’s really about recognising that the fashion industry is notorious for waste,” says Bending of her company’s philosophy.

“And recognising that the industry is not taking responsibility in terms of human sustainability - in other words underpaid labour in Third World countries - or in environmental sustainability in the production of crops for fashion garments. So we’re looking at ways to improve in these two areas.”

She explains how her designs are created locally using solar power, and all carbon emissions produced by the business – from powering the showroom to freighting the finished goods around the world – are offset by funding projects that slow global warming.

But although Bending is committed to being carbon neutral, she is equally determined to produce cutting-edge designs.

“I’m very clear about targeting the range as a lifestyle fashion range in its own right, rather than just trying to sell it as a sustainable fashion range,” says Bending.

“People will not buy something just because it’s sustainable, they will buy it because they like it and it’s at a price they can afford.”

This sentiment is echoed by Sydney-based Sara Victoria, who designs what she describes as ‘high-end’ fashion using 100 per cent organic cotton. In 2005 she launched her line, Sara Victoria Organic Softwares, at the Organic Expo in Sydney and generated enough interest to keep her in business for the whole of her first year.

“There were a few others selling organic clothing but my sample range was more angled towards ‘fashion’,” says Victoria of her success.

Each item of clothing that she produces, from organic cotton wrap dresses to silk blend skirts, comes with a label detailing statistics involved with the production process. Buy a plain white T-shirt, for example, and you learn that as a consumer you have “saved the earth from around 226 grams or 1/2 pound of toxic chemicals” and that “approximately 1/2 the amount of water is used in this process [as opposed to traditional cotton]”.

“It gives people an idea of what’s involved,” explains Victoria. “It provides a measurement. People think, ‘Golly that’s a lot of chemicals. And look how many T-shirts there are everywhere’.”

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