A brief history

This post is a bit of background about the reason I’m embarking on the ethical clothing project again. It’s far from definitive, but I hope it sets the scene for posts to come.

A couple of years ago I had a crazy idea of starting what I called a “fair trade fashion label”. The basic idea was simple: producing fashionable clothing using environmentally friendly materials ensuring that manufacturing was carried out ethically – “from seed to sale” was a bit of a tag line. After initially dubbing the group FWV – “Fashion Without Victims” – eventually we settled on “Huméco”, a made up word reflecting the environmental and social values we were aiming to uphold.

At the time I mentioned the idea to a few friends and we started researching the idea – we were talking to a designer, researching fabrics, looking into the No Sweatshop label. I left the business I was working for to pursue the venture but then stumbled upon the opportunity to work for WWF-Australia which was too good to pass up.

A few months later work and other life commitments meant that I wasn’t able to focus enough on the project to work through some of the challenges we faced, so I reluctantly disbanded the group to focus on other things.

Fast forward a few years. The market for organic clothing is beginning to explode. As an avid reader of Treehugger, it seems that every day a new label is entering the “green” space – and well known designers are jumping on the “green” bandwagon by the minute. Reading Fast Company highlighted Nau – joining Patagonia in doing very interesting things in the performance wear space.

(As an aside: I’m a big fan of both companies – be sure to check out Nau’s Grey Matters and Patagonia’s The Footprint Chronicles for some of the challenges running an ethical business in this space.)

While the internet technically makes many of these labels available here in Australia, and even though there are even some great folks in Australia creating ethical clothing, none are quite the style I’m into and very few are available local to where I live; on the clothing strips where I shop, the options simply aren’t there.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of purchasing over the net – I like to try things on, check them out, get a feel for the fabric and the cut.

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking very hard about my future direction – what really makes my heart sing? What am I passionate about enough to get me through “The Dip“, as Seth Godin calls it.

I’m a big fan of sustainable (in the broad sense of that word – environment, social, financial) business, and am bullish on the impact that good design can have creating a sustainable future. I’ve read Cradle to Cradle and I’m a convert.

And then Anita Roddick passed.

Anita was a huge inspiration to me – and her passing really got me thinking about what I was doing with my life – what impact was I actually having…

I brainstormed a bunch of business ideas and the one that stuck in my mind, that wouldn’t let go of my imagination, was the ethical clothing idea. This is not new – I’m far from the first and likely (hopefully) to be far from the last. But I feel it important to give it a shot – to try and make this happen – and I hope I have a few innovative ideas about how to make the business work.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t like talking – I prefer to do. So early next year I have arranged a change in work arrangements to free up 1-2 days per week to apply to this goal.

The label will likely be starting in an obvious place – t-shirts. I’m a big fan of Threadless, band merch and I’ve become a bit of a “t-shirt snob” – so it is fitting that I should start there. But I hope to link up with like-minded people that want to participate in building a business like this to expand the range and ideas that we can explore – focusing on smart-casual mens wear. Stuff you can wear to work and then to a pub or a club.

Although ethical and social concerns will be a major part of the business – the focus will be on great designs that people will want to wear first and foremost. As fashion designer Gary Harvey says:

“The future of Eco fashion depends on designers concentrating on great design and not letting the Eco cause become the only component…after all people wear clothes not causes.”

I know I can’t do this alone, nor do I want to. For those of you that don’t already know me – if you happen across this blog and are interested, please get in touch. If you do know me already and you know someone you think might be interested, please do the same.

I’ll be using this blog to record the journey, a place to share what I learn as I work towards this goal (regardless of the outcome). My hope that sharing my thoughts as I learn and explore might provide value to others.

  • Congratulations on making the decision to jump start your vision. I wish you all the best! I am a cradle to cradle and fast company junkie too.

    Coincidentally, THIS week we added an Aussie distributor for our organic fabrics (http://www.organicfabriconline.com.au/). I do believe the momentum is growing. If I can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to ask. To change this industry it will take all of us working together… which is the fun part.

  • Cool – thanks for the links. I’ll be sure to check them out asap.

    I saw a great quote in the Worldchanging book (I think from Alex Steffan’s introduction) saying “Changing the world is a team sport” – couldn’t agree more 🙂

    Thanks again.

  • Great to see you moving into the action/doing mode. If you’d like to run some of your ideas by me, or just engage in a dialog about the plans you are working on I would love to help out.

    btw… I’ve always liked the way that “sustainability” is spoken of in Japan. They express it in a way that is far deeper and more powerful than here in the States. They speak of it as being about – “Fairness across space & fairness through time.”

    Good luck.

  • Hey Grant, this is great news… I’ve been playing around with some t-shirt stenciling lately also. When I started about 6 months ago I demanded that all my shirts be eco, but I soon realised how hard that was to do, esp. on a budget. So I started using my old shirts instead. That worked well, but now I’m starting to do them for friends and I’m needing to buy shirts,… anyway I’m light years from being commercial but I’m really enjoying the whole thing, we should catch up in the new year and discuss further.

  • @Eric – thanks very much for the very kind offer. I’ll be in touch via personal email to chat further…

    @Phil – that’s cool man – I just finished a fabric printing course. I’m assuming you’re using ezycut etc.? Let’s definitely catch up for coffee in the new year – let me know when suits.

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  • if you are still looking for help give us an email-info@tammam.co.uk. We are an ethical fashion label, we also have a consultancy service to help new designers find ethical producers / fabrics. Sure we can help you.

    Best wishes



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