Collaborative purchasing of eco-friendly fabrics

I’ve been speaking to Rise Up Productions about manufacturing our first range. One of the challenges is that labels need to commit to spend a lot of money up front on eco-friendly/Fairtrade textiles and fabrics – as the minimums for these are quite high (e.g. 300 m2 for a single fabric).

Rise Up is trying to aggregate demand for such fabrics to enable smaller labels, such as myself, to be able to access such fabrics more affordably, and in smaller quantities.

I spotted this press release in a trade publication the other day, but couldn’t find it online, so I’m reproducing it here to help “spread the word”.

Opportunity to collaboratively purchase eco-friendly fabrics

Rise Up Productions is looking for designers interested in working collaboratively to source eco-friendly fabrics from around the globe.

Managing director Bronwyn Darlington said she hoped designers would collectively purchase eco-friendly fabrics to secure more reasonable pricepoints.

“By buying collectively, we might be able to introduce these fabrics into the market,” she said.

And she stressed the fabric sources she used offered a high quality that could easily be sought by after by local designers.

“We don’t deal with people who are working with experimental handicrafts, we are working with those who have been supplying Europe for years,” she said.

“The fabrics perform excellently and offer exceptional printability. We are also able to specify exactly the make-up of the fabric and we look at every step in the production process.”

She stressed volume buying was essential to secure an affordable price.

“Sustainable fabrics are not the cheapest,” she said.

Darlington is also determined to build a profit-for-purpose business creating clothing labels that have a minimal environmental footprint.

For example, pyjamas in the Rise Up range are made in Australia from Fair Trade certified cotton from India and any profit from their sale will be put towards an Oxfam donation. Similarly, sales of hoodies in the collection will lead to profits going to Opportunity International.

“The concept is eco-sustainability and a minimum footprint and that we give all our profit away,” Darlington said.

She plans to soon launch a second higher end fashion label called Ayoka.

Darlington suggested the significant consumer spending dollar was larger than funds competed for by charities.

“The consumer dollar is much bigger and we need to think more creatively to channel those funds into worthy projects,” she said.

Fashion Exposed

Last weekend I went to the Fashion Exposed exhibition at Darling Harbour. The last time I attended the event was in Melbourne 4 years ago. If nothing else, this year’s event was a firm indicator of how little has changed.

Granted, there were a few booths with organic cotton, hemp or bamboo offerings. Bamboo Body were there, along with Eco Wear and Pure Pod – but there were probably less than a dozen offerings in the full exhibition center area, and of those only one had menswear (tshirts).

The organisers claimed that there was an “eco-fashion” precinct – but this turned out to be 6 stalls, one of which was linen, and the other was Drizabone – included because they use Australian sheep which is a “natural fibre” (supposedly we’re meant to overlook the immense damage sheep grazing causes on the environment.)

I spoke to a couple of merchandising and shop-fitout suppliers at the show, and it seems that they haven’t yet received word that “green is the new black”. Not one could answer even the most basic questions about eco-friendly shop fittings – they had none. One at least made an attempt, claiming their mannequins were recyclable, but I’ve yet to find evidence to back up that claim.

There were two paper bag companies I spoke to – one responded to my question about recycled bags with “you’d want to look at our natural finished product”. When I asked about the recycled content of the bags, he acknowledged there was none!

Paper Pak, on the other hand, seemed to have a good range of blended recycled material with sustainably managed virgin pulp – and the sales rep didn’t try to bullshit me. He explained that they used water based inks, improving the enviro credentials, but that the adhesives were problematic from a biodegradability standpoint. Still more research to go, but a good start at least on that front.

Overall it was worth the visit to review – but not overly inspiring. I’m currently also reading Eco Chic which serves as a stark reminder as to why I got into this game in the first place. But more on the broken-ness of the system in another post…