Inspiring action in the fashion industry

Published: 20 April 2023
Audience listening to a group of 4 women speakers. The speakers are from the panel called Circular Economy and the Australian Context.

“The thing about the circular economy is you can’t do it by yourself. I think collaboration is key,” says Courtney Holm, founder of circular fashion label A.BCH, which received funding from the Circular Economy Innovation Fund.

One of Holm’s solutions to circular collaboration is Circular Fashion Now, an all-day workshop and networking event sponsored by the City of Melbourne.

Held in March this year, the event encouraged businesses in the fashion, apparel, and textile sector to learn about and implement circular strategies in their practice.

“Circular Fashion Now is about trying to start a conversation with small to medium businesses that are really keen to start working in the circular space but feel left out of the conversation because it’s usually had by the big brands, or it’s more of a global conversation and not anything to do with the local context.”
Courtney Holm, Founder of circular fashion label A.BCH

“We wanted people to walk away from the day feeling as though they had made new connections and that there were people on their side.”

During the first half of the event, attendees heard from experts about what’s happening in the Australian context now, and how that relates to small businesses in Australia.

Aleasha McCallion, strategic projects manager, Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Alice Payne, professor and dean at RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles, both discussed the circular economy in an Australian context, sharing details about Australia’s first National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme, which sets out to improve the design, recovery, reuse, and recycling of textiles.

A panel of speakers followed these presentations to discuss innovations in the circular textiles space.

Featuring Kirri-Mae Sampson from Hatch + Make, Nessie Croft from Corepret, Jacki King from Remote Equipment Repairs and Guy Dempster from Dempstah, the panel shared how they were implementing circularity in their businesses while balancing cost and profit.

Another key theme of the day was the importance of collaboration to make change happen.

“We wanted to demonstrate that there are so many people you can collaborate with that could help us achieve circularity together, but also to show that circular design doesn’t have to be about starting a new fashion label with new products,” says Holm.

“There are so many ways to engage in the circular economy space with fashion and textiles that doesn’t involve making new stuff.”

A group of people are attending a workshop in an indoor setting. Attendees also heard from CEBIC’s program leader Emily Adamson about how small to medium business can lead innovation, and funding pathways for action.

Holm herself spoke about how funding from CEBIC enabled her to develop a new Circular Sourcing Marketplace. This is a game-changer for industry and aims to address the problem of pre-consumer textile waste.

The platform will support textile businesses across Australia to share and source excess materials that would otherwise be wasted.

In the afternoon, a small group of brands and businesses participated in a circular design workshop to share practical advice on circular design.

“We had someone there creating uniforms for defence, someone from Target, someone making large amounts of wholesale items for various brands, and we had the very small labels,” says Holm.

“We used the power of the group to come up with solutions.

A designer in the group shared a problem she was having with the durability of hemp as a material in activewear, particularly in the crotch area of her leggings.

Another designer suggested she could change where the seam was placed to distribute the pressure across a few different points, rather than having a traditional seam down the middle of the leg.

For Holm, that one interaction, among many, demonstrated the power of coming together with different people from the industry to bring fashion and textiles closer to circularity.

“The reason for the event was to discuss what we can do immediately to start enacting the circular economy for fashion and textiles. It’s not something that has to wait for 2030.”
Courtney Holm

“Even if you have a goal to be circular by a certain date, you have to take action now.”