Learn about the ways that we can make more circular and sustainable fashion choices.
Fast fashion is a business model that has set the trend of buying many items, using them for a short amount of time, and then throwing them away. Fast fashion products are often unethically made and made in ways that pollute and damage our environment. These products are not made to last, often containing low-quality and unrecyclable materials.
The Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) hosted the event ‘Purchasing Power for the Planet’ to explore ways that we can make more circular and sustainable fashion choices. The event was held on Thursday 9 March, as part of the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival.
In this session, Geoff Paine from BehaviourWorks Australia facilitated a panel of experts, including representatives from Nobody Denim, Ownershift, Patagonia, and the Country Road Group. These are all brands that offer sustainable alternatives to fast fashion.
The event included audience participation where attendees were quizzed about their participation in the fashion industry.
Our panelists reiterated the message that we can develop a collective response to the problem of fast fashion by using our ‘purchasing power’ to make environmentally friendly choices. They outlined several ways we can do this, while still enjoying fashion – and getting value for money:
Our panelists work for organisations that are at the forefront of circular practices. They shared their company stories and sustainability journey with us.
John Condilis, Chairperson and Co-Founder of Nobody Denim
John Condilis is passionate about re-establishing and growing the clothing manufacturing industry in Australia. In the 1990s Tarif cuts affected the industry, and most manufacturing was sent overseas. But Nobody Denim still manufactures their jeans locally, employing over 80 people.
Because of their localised production, they have a shorter supply chain compared to most brands. This reduces travel miles and associated greenhouse gases and increases the transparency of their product manufacturing. Local production also allows Nobody Denim to achieve the ‘perfect fit’ and achieve their aim of making high-quality, durable, repairable denim products.
Amelia Crook, Founder of Ownershift
Most of us only wear a fraction of the clothes in our wardrobes, while the rest gather dust. Meanwhile, Amelia Crook had always wished buying second-hand items was as easy as buying new – particularly from the brands she loves and trusts. With both these things in mind, she created Ownershift.
Ownershift is an up and coming online platform and centralised logistics service to make branded resale viable and profitable for Australian brands. Ownershift plans to take back items that people no longer want, wash them, quality check them, and then resell them on behalf of brands.
In doing so, Ownershift will encourage items to be kept in circulation at their highest (original) use for as long as possible. From a participating brand’s perspective, this can be a key element for its circular strategy.
The platform also removes barriers that can exist with peer-to-peer selling including trust, quality, and reliability. This model of resale is already happening overseas, and now Amelia is bringing this circular approach to Australia.
Dane O’Shanassy, Country Director Australia & New Zealand at Patagonia
Patagonia is in business to save our home planet. The company has evolved over the past 50 years as a leader in sustainability by embedding it into the core of every decision they make. The brand asks consumers to make considered purchases, and this is what the famous ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ ad was all about.
Dane has shown that business success and positive environmental impact do not have to be at odds, in fact, they can be harmonious and profitable. Patagonia uses design principles and business strategies that create lasting products and working relationships.
Patagonia designs products that:
Patagonia’s commitment to the environment goes beyond its products. They use their influence and resources to solve the planet’s challenges, this includes activities in environmental philanthropy.
Eloise Bishop, Head of Sustainability at Country Road Group and David Jones
Eloise leads the Good Business Journey in Australasia across David Jones and Country Road Group’s (CRG) brands. Their strategy has ambitious goals including:
At David Jones, circularity is a big focus of the products they make and the brands they partner with. From a production perspective, Country Road works with The Textile Exchange and with other certification bodies to manage their use of preferred fibre and materials.
CRG are working in several other ways to extend the life of their own products, including:
Matt Genever, CEO at Sustainability Victoria
Geoff Paine, BehaviourWorks Australia
Dane O’Shanassy, Country Director, Australia & New Zealand at Patagonia
Amelia Crook, Funder of Ownershift
Eloise Bishop, Head of Sustainability at Country Road Group & David Jones
[Opening visual of slide with text saying ‘Purchasing Power for the Planet’, (Image of barcode), ‘Join at: slido.com’, ‘Code: PP4TP’, ‘Paypal’, ‘Melbourne Fashion Festival’, ‘Sustainability Victoria’, ‘Victoria State Government’]
[The visuals during this webinar are of the presenter and panellists seated on stage, speaking with reference to the content of a PowerPoint presentation being played on a large background screen and Auslan interpreter signing to the bottom left of screen]
Can you hear me? Fantastic. I was in the green room which is a new thing for me and I really wanted to tape the conversation because I was so excited. There’s some amazing guests that you’re going to hear from today and some of the ideas and the enthusiasm and the traction in there was absolutely brilliant. So if I wasn’t excited before I’m excited now and hopefully you’re excited too.
Welcome to Purchasing Power for the Planet a PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival Event. My name is Matt Genever and I have the honour of being the interim Chief Executive Officer of Sustainability Victoria. It’s wonderful to be here with you in person and I think we’ve got people who are joining digitally. So wherever you are in the wide world welcome it’s lovely to have you here for as I said what I think is going to be a really exciting event.
I’m going to start things off. You won’t hear much from me today. As I said there are some much wiser heads in the green room that you’ll be hearing from most. But I’m going to start us off with an acknowledgment of country.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands upon which we’re based today the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nations and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. I also pay my respects to any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are here today and indeed the traditional custodians of the lands on which anyone else is joining us from through our virtual world. Welcome. I acknowledge that we live and work on the lands of the world’s oldest and most sustainable culture. I acknowledge the deep connection to earth of our First Nations people over the last 60,000 years and their invaluable contributions to understanding sustainability and the environment.
This is our decade for action, action by individuals, action by businesses, action by the collective. At Sustainability Victoria we are very proud to host on behalf of the Victorian Government the Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre or CEBIC as we colloquially call it. And this year one of the focus areas of CEBIC is indeed the world of textiles and fashion. So it’s wonderful to be here today, wonderful for us to support and host a great event.
I am going to hand over to Geoff Paine. Geoff is going to be our facilitator today and is going to lead us admirably through this exciting conversation. Geoff works with some of Australia’s best behaviour change scientists at BehaviourWorks Australia. He’s a writer, presenter, performer who specialises in communicating behavioural science. He produces educational content and interviews with leading change makers in ethical fashion and circular economy. And for any Neighbours fans out there you may recognise Geoff from his role as Clive. So Geoff come on out and let’s get things started.
Am I on? Yes I’m on. Thank you. I think the Neighbours thing kind of drops the whole credibility at the end of that introduction but thank you very much for that. Thanks everyone for coming and those of you who are online. I have not been at Melbourne Museum too many times but I did come here early on when they built this museum. Beautiful job too. And took my kids to the newly built museum but what I didn’t realise was there was a Neighbours section in the museum. And I didn’t know so I’m walking around thinking this is interesting and then I noticed people were looking at me as if I was this weird Sovereign Hills sort of character walking around the set so I skedaddled very quickly.
Thank you for being here today. Yes I work with behavioural scientists. I’m not a scientist myself but I work with them and my job is to communicate what they do and explain what they do the best way I can. We’ve got a great line up of professionals who work in the textile and clothing industry and they’ve got some fantastic information to share with you.
But it is an interactive event and the spotlight is on yourself in the audience. Now who brought their mobile phone with them today? I want you to have your phone and hold it up in the air loud and proud. I want you to hold your phone up in the air. You are going to need that device because you are going to go to slido.com.
So basically I don’t know if they can flip the slide over but we need you to go to – can anyone actually focus their phone that far away or is this impossible? Okay. The best way to go is to go to slido.com. Just open up Google or whatever your search engine is and go to slido.com.
And then it will ask you for a code and you can put in to that code #PP4TP. And what that should do is open up a Slido page. And I’m just looking around the room to see if people are totally baffled by this or actually connected.
And I’m going to use an old fashioned analogue system which is a show of hands. Who is actually on Slido at this point in time. That’s a very, very good turnout. Fantastic. I think we’re going to open up to the first question hopefully which is are you on? So you have some choices. Yes. No. Does anyone have a phone charger? Oops. I opened the Service Vic app instead. Give me a second. Come on. Someone give us another answer there. Someone say no. It shows power. Does anyone have a phone charger? Three percent. Okay. Okay. We’ve got some phone chargers there. Great. So most of you are on and you understand what’s going on. Fantastic.
All right. I’m going to throw us straight into some interactive questions and the first one is going to be a question about what I’m wearing. So can we go to the next slide which is a question about me and the clothing – we’ve still got answers coming in there.
Can we go to the next slide please?
Which items of clothing is Geoff wearing that’s second hand? The shirt, the pants, the shoes, the tops, all of the above? Bang. Someone said everything I’m wearing is second hand. I see. Okay. That’s fine. The shirt, the pants, the shoes or the – when I say tops, it’s just top. Okay? So they’re stretching it out now. The shirt’s number two. Pants. I’ll just walk around like a model for a second here.
All right. People are now guessing to see what am I wearing that is second hand. And the shoes. Wow. Some people have got very, very critical vision obviously of fashion there. All right. So we’ve got a few more people come in. Just come on in. Come on in. Sit anywhere.
All right. So I’m going to get people to lock it off there but they probably won’t. They will probably keep guessing all the way through. In fact it’s the shirt that I’m wearing. But I think what it does illustrate is that it’s very hard to tell what sort of clothing and garments people wear whether it’s new or whether it’s recycled.
So I’m going to turn this back on to you now ladies and gentlemen and I’m going to ask you to think about what you’re wearing. And I want you to think about the top or dress you are wearing now and how did you come to be wearing this item. So I’m going to move to the next Slido question. Think about the top or dress you’re wearing. How did you come to be wearing this item?
None of these answers are being recorded by the way. This is just for our interest. We’re not tracking you.
Second hand or hand me down. That’s winning at the moment. Owned it for years.
Okay. Bought it brand new this year. Made it myself, someone made it for me or other. Or have rented it.
So most people have owned it for years although there’s a lot of people there with a second hand top or dress or a hand me down. As people are logging in those answers are changing.
So that’s an interesting point to look at because what it says is that while most of us are wearing items that we have bought ourselves new there’s also a healthy proportion in the audience who are wearing something that is second hand or hand me down. And this is something that is an increasing trend in fashion where people are looking for pre-owned or vintage or retro clothing.
Or in fact the shirt I’m wearing which I bought one hour ago at Smith Street basically. I raced in I said ‘Just give me anything white’ and I found something that fitted. And it is amazing to see what is on offer and the fact that this is something that while it has been round for years is an increasing part of the fashion industry.
Okay. Let’s move on to the next Slido question to get a read on our audience. Matt I don’t know if you’re answering these questions as well. You are? Good. Okay. How often do you generally buy a new piece of clothing? So we’ve got the options here. Every week, every fortnight, every month, every second or third month, every six or more months, I never buy anything new.
Okay. So we’ve got the answers coming in here now. Of course I’ve got a screen here right in front of me.
Every month. I never buy anything new. I like those committed people that never buy anything new. I don’t know what you’ve been doing in COVID but I have had to buy new stuff because I’ve got bigger during COVID.
Every six or more months. Okay. Every second or third, every month.
Every fortnight, every week. So it’s interesting to see how the results are changing and how the results are changing when people go ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have bought that. I’m in amongst a group of people who don’t buy a lot of new clothing. I’ll just change my answer now’.
So it would seem that the average answer to how often do you generally buy a new piece of clothing is around every six or more months.
Great. Now I don’t think that is the national average. I think we live in a world where people are buying clothing on a much more regular basis and that’s something that we are actively trying to change so that we can eek out the resources that we’ve got and that we can use the textiles in a much more sustainable way.
So you’re all aware of fast fashion and you’re all aware of the ease with which people can buy new clothing and the increasing speed with which it’s produced and pumped out. So this is something that of course can’t be sustained and something that we as a society need to work on. Australians are the second largest consumers of textiles in the world. Again I don’t know whether I’m meant to punch the air or hang my head in shame. It’s one of these things where you don’t want to be a leader in that sort of area. We are wasting more. 30% of garments go to landfill within a year of purchase and the average Victorian throws away around 28 kilos of clothing each year.
And I don’t know. Has anyone seen the Four Corners ABC report of landfill that’s basically on fire in developing countries particularly in Africa. So a lot of the stuff that we take to our charity bins disappears overseas, is not worn again and ends up as landfill or in fact on fire. So it’s doubling up the whole carbon footprint.
So our love of fast fashion is speeding us towards disaster unless we slow this wasteful trend. So we can use our purchasing power to adopt alternative sustainable ways to stay stylish, does not involve wearing daggy hand me downs and the shift is one that businesses and consumers are adopting. So before we dive into what we can do we’ll go back to Slido.
And we’re going to get you to now do a word cloud. So what do you think of as sustainable or circular when it comes to clothing? So these are just phrases or words that you type in, hit submit and they will appear on the screen. What do you think of as sustainable? Okay. Here we go. What is sustainable or circular when it comes to clothing? Compostable. That’s good. Returns back. Adorable. Of course.
Natural fibres. Bang. Okay. So the words as they appear on the screen, the more common or more often they’re used will be bigger. I’ll just take my jacket off.
Okay. Matt are these the right words? Have they got the right words?
They’re the right words. Fantastic. So natural fibres. Durable. Of course. Repurposed. Recycled. Compostable. Repairable. Long lasting. Not buy any. I think that was probably half a sentence and then they hit submit. Excellent quality. Eco friendly. Of course. Remade. Retro. Second hand. Good quality. The Salvos. Re-used. Wear what you own.
Donating unwanted clothes. Ethically made. That’s very, very important as well.
Restored. Restored. I like that.
Retro. Re-used. Sexy. Hello. And someone’s even put an emoji there. Okay.
Versatile. So the garments can have multi-use. We’ll be talking about that as well.
Regenerative. Now that’s interesting that they regenerate.
I think we’ve got a pretty good mix of words and you’ve all understood what sustainable or circular means. Traceable. We know what we’re buying and we know where it’s come from.
Hand me down.
Thrifted. Thrifty. Biodegradable. And fair trade.
And breaking away from trends. So who knows. We might be setting a new trend when it comes to how we use clothing and how we buy clothing.
So basically when we talk about linear and circular economies – you probably all know this – in our current economy it’s linear. We take, make and often waste resources from the earth and continually look for more resources to take, to make into something else and then basically dump and it ends up as landfill at the end.
So the term circular economy is a way of doing things that works to eliminate the concept of waste or at least minimise waste. We are looking for ways of circularity so that designs and textiles can come back in to use and that the garments can be re-worn or refabricated or repurposed to extend the life. Sounds like a big task but it is achievable when we work together to reinvent the policy, the business models and the consumer behaviours.
So what we need to do is look at products that are made to last with quality materials. We want stuff that is going to last a long time. We know that the worst excesses of fast fashion means that people will wear the garment once. They will buy, wear and throw away and we need to change that pattern. Made to be made again. So designed to be re-made or re-used. So what else can we get out of this garment? Made from safe, recyclable or renewable materials. So with the growth of acrylics and that sort of thing we need materials that can be re-worn and repurposed. And transparent and traceable. I don’t think they mean transparent garments. We’ve tried that. It doesn’t work. We don’t want to see through them. But traceable. We need to know where those materials have come from.
And with the items we own or that are already in the market to use them more. And examples of this include renting, sharing, repairing, selling, donating and buying clothes second hand.
All right. Let’s see if this audience has ever done any of those activities before. Thank you for that word cloud. That is fantastic. That’s exactly what we’re talking about when it comes to circularity. All right. So which of the following have you done or used before? Have you rented? Have you purchased pre-owned clothing from a charity or vintage store? Have you swapped or borrowed clothing with friends or family, repurposed or altered? Have you had items repaired or repaired them yourself? Participated in a take back scheme? Okay. What have you folks done in this room?
Swapped or borrowed are kicking in. Checked out what clothes are made from before buying. That’s good. You’ve read the label. Recycled.
It only lets you select one? Okay. All right. I can see the consternation of people here when they go all of the above. All right. Well that’s a shame. I guess you’ve got to jump on to that, vote for the one that you want to have the most impact I guess.
Because I guess most of us here have purchased something that’s pre-owned. But that’s the question. Have we donated, had items repaired, swapped or borrowed and rented?
Or repurposed or altered an item of clothing yourself? Okay. So that’s interesting to know. We can only give one option. It’s been fixed? Okay. All right people. Go nuts now. Yeah. That’s right. We pivoted just now. We just pivoted.
And I’ve never seen the Auslan word for pivoted before so I’m going to say pivoted again.
Yeah. I like that. That’s great. That is fantastic. All right. Also I’d like to talk about what is fashionable, sexy and good looking.
Great. Now I know.
All right. So we have got the results coming in now and clearly this is a room of people who are interested in clothing and using that clothing and making sure they get the most out of it. I can’t quite see the bottom of the screen, the recycled clothes, but I’m assuming that that’s there as well. And clearly there’s a healthy group of people who want to make sure that they repair, swap, borrow and re-use clothing. Because clothing is important. It’s a statement about who we are and what our values are as much as our personality or a tattoo. They tell the world who and what we are. So they are vitally important.
Well we are at the stage where I am about to start introducing people from the industry. We’ve got guests from Patagonia, from Nobody Denim, from Country Road and from Ownershift all of which you will have the opportunity to ask questions from and in the spirit of working together we thought it was fair that they have an opportunity to ask you a question. So on your screens do you have two tabs? Do you have a Q&A as well as the Slido tabs?
So what’s going to happen is I’m going to ask our guests to come out. We’ll be talking and you will have the ability to start asking Q&A questions or adding to the Q&A list that I will be able to put to the panel or individuals on the panel later in the webinar in the session. So that’s what we’ve got a choice of. We will be continuing the Slido questions but you’ll also have a chance to pop in a Q&A question and they will come up on the iPad and I will be able to have a look at those later on.
All right. To kick off with I am going to introduce a man who is very familiar with the world of making, creating and working with denim. His name is John Condilis. He’s from Nobody Denim. And will you give him a warm round of applause as he makes his way on to the stage.
It’s a very squeezy stage. Grab your microphone John.
John welcome. I’m not sure whether I should just let you say what Nobody Denim is or whether I should just fire a bunch of questions. What do you want to do?
Okay. Tell us about Nobody Denim, how it started, what it is, what it means.
So Nobody Denim. I guess the name itself is pretty self-explanatory. It’s never about us. It’s about I guess our ambassadors, our consumers, people that we work with. So it started back in ’99 but before that I’ve been in the denim industry for over 30 years. So I started I guess on a part time basis helping out my father back in 1988 probably before most of you guys were born. So helping him out working in the denim industry in the denim laundry.
So back then we were working with quite a few designers back in the early ‘90s right through to the late ‘90s where I guess the industry started falling apart due to tariff cuts. That’s when a lot of I guess loyalty was thrown out the door from a lot of the brands where they decided to go offshore. And they wouldn’t sit there and say ‘Right. We’re going to have a meeting with you and this is what’s going on’. It was pretty much they disappeared overnight. And I guess at that point in time myself, my father and my brother sat down and said ‘Well what are we going to do? What do we know and what are we really good at?’ And I guess that’s when the brand Nobody began.
And we sat down and I remember over a phone call with my brother trying to design the back pocket as a signature late at night.
What does Nobody mean? Why Nobody?
Because it’s not about us. It’s about you. It’s nobody but you. Nobody made for you. And it’s really taken that spin on the word nobody. We didn’t want to put a face to the brand.
Can I ask about tariffs? And this is going back to the ancient history of garment manufacture in Australia. How did garments keep going and what was the result of the loss of the tariffs in the ‘80s?
So back in the early ‘90s tariffs – as we all know protects the industry – was around 37% and today it’s 5%. And I guess that’s why the industry was thriving. As a service provider just one of the laundries back in the early ‘90s – there was five laundries in Melbourne and there are only two of us today – we were producing or servicing around 20,000 jeans a week. And that was through Target, Country Road, Dashay, Saba, Just Jeans, Portmans. They were all privately owned most of them back then. That was the difference. So it was a thriving industry. It was a very agile industry. But it was all about ensuring that consumer got it quickly with I guess less waste. Even at times with Kmart I remember when Tencel came out. I’m not sure if people do remember around Tencel.
Come on. You have to reveal who remembers Tencel? Okay. Good. You’re ageing yourself. Great. That’s great.
So the actual pioneer of Tencel who brought it in Australia was a brand called Dashay back in the late ‘80s. After that everyone jumped on board. They started producing the fabric here at Bradmill in Yarraville which is a denim plant and before you know it Kmart jumped on it. And I remember doing probably 5,000 garments a week of Tencel. We’d get the order. Within three weeks it had to be done. That’s how agile the industry was back then. So it was a lot closer to the market.
So we could design, build and have finished garments within a month?
It was possible back then. That’s how quick we responded.
Okay. So what’s the reality now in Australia in terms of the manufacture of garments?
Manufacturing in Australia or as brands bringing in product? I mean today I’ve set up my infrastructure. We’ve got the foundation set to we could potentially design a product and put it into market within four weeks. But as brands who manufacture overseas, do your planning, your fittings and all that it could take up to three months.
Okay. And so what has changed in those decades in terms of once the tariff’s gone what happens to the industry? What has happened and how do we rebuild? What do we do?
Skills are gone. That’s our biggest challenge. And how do we rebuild? It’s commitment. It’s not commitment from the actual manufacturers. It’s commitment from brands. Now being close to the consumer, it’s a total different skillset. Now you need to reintroduce I guess pattern makers, you need to introduce product developers, you need to introduce specialists and technicians. Now that takes time but it’s a huge investment from personnel but it actually does deliver a long term gain.
Okay. And in terms of denim I just find this interesting. Second hand American denim was seen as the trendiest sort of denim you could get. Where were those jeans from?
I guess if you go back to history you’re talking Levi’s back in the 1800s. It was a workwear’s jean. It was a cloth that was used on the railroads, the chain gangs. So you think about it. They were prison products and they were actually manufactured in the prisons. Now I’m not sure that people do remember back in the ‘80s the vintage shops, the Levi’s shops. Here in Australia I knew people who actually would bring in containers of Levi’s jeans and sell them out in the market or as second hand jeans. And they’d take it to the laundry, wash them and off they went. Vintage jeans.
The interesting thing about denim that it’s history of workwear is it was built to look used. A lot of people would buy new jeans. And who’s ever washed jeans in the hope they would look not new?
No one’s going to admit it. You’d put it through the washing machine ten or 15 times just so that you would lose that new look. Single worst pair of jeans I ever bought – I don’t mean to share this. It’s traumatic – it had a central stitch. It was bought for me by my mother. I was about 12. And it had a crease down the front and flares. So we ticked every box for the wrong thing and it screamed. It did say to the world I should not be letting mum choose.
Do you still have them?
No. I don’t have them. No. I couldn’t get rid of them quick enough. Okay. So tell me about Nobody Denim and how you work these days in terms of your work ethic and the team behind Nobody Denim and how they solve the problem of dealing with a world where it’s a much harder gig really?
Look it’s very competitive in today’s world of I guess denim, clothing, retail, across all channels. I guess Australia’s been a place where it’s been a launching ground for a lot of brands. If you think about the last five/ten years the amount of brands that have actually come into Australia because they see the appetite. As consumers, as Australians we’ve got a very strong appetite to try something new and take it on board and test it and measure it and take it from there.
But I guess why do we exist is probably the number one thing. As a brand and as values we’ve been about our communities and our people but it’s also around innovation and longevity and quality. So the key thing for us is creating a perfect fit. Now everyone talks about creating the perfect fit. And I was having a conversation with our staff a few days ago and I mapped it out and I said ‘Look at all these brands. Why are we so different?’ And they kept thinking about it and they couldn’t really point it out. And I said ‘I’ll tell you very easy’. I said ‘The touchpoints that we have on a product of our employees with the floor is probably 50 times more than what other brands have with factories overseas’. So creating the perfect fit is actually you’re engaged with the product. You’re engaged with your people. You’re engaged with your machinists, the laundry people. Because you’re always having ‘How do I improve things?’
The mindset is around continuous improvement and that’s been part of my I guess journey from day dot. My background is engineering. I’m a mechanical engineer. Know nothing about fashion. But how do I apply something to improve? And I love denim. Going to an out of uniform day at 15 years old I had my really thick cords that I bought out of Greece when I was there and people would look at me and go ‘What are you wearing?’ and the people would try to send me home. So I’ve always thought about how do I do things better and that was the approach. So our mindset as an organisation is really being in front working with to create a better product.
Now as we know if something fits well it empowers you. And that is really our purpose is creating the perfect fit that empowers confidence. So if you look like crap you’re not going to feel good are you?
Yeah that’s right. And the truth is they do make a difference to how we feel, how we see ourselves, how we behave. You’ve got a question for the audience. So I am going to throw this open now to the next Slido screen. I hope people’s phones haven’t gone to sleep. Which is John’s question how long do your jeans last? That’s a really interesting question. Less than six months? Five to ten years? One to two years or two to five years?
It’s your jeans. How long do your jeans last?
The ones that you have. How long do they last?
Yeah. That’s right. Well we’ll talk about how you can revisit those jeans.
Two to five.
Five to ten.
Do people have a grade of jeans which is going out jeans, round the home jeans, cleaning the gutter jeans and I won’t throw these out because they are my favourite jeans jeans?
I remember the fashion in the ‘80s and I realise I’m speaking to a group of people many of whom weren’t even born then. The fashion in the ‘80s was to have pre-slashed jeans. And then you had to wear long johns underneath because it was so cold and it didn’t work as a garment but people thought it was the coolest thing ever.
All right. So we really have the majority answer being – about half would say two to five, then five to ten coming in after that, then one to two. John what would you say?
I’m actually surprised to be honest.
I mean two to five years if you’re wearing them constantly, weekly, I think it’s a great result. Because it’s cotton. So it’s cotton. But I was expecting one to two majority but you’re obviously buying quality jeans that last that long which is a good sign.
Or they bought jeans before COVID and now they go ‘I’ll wear them again. They don’t fit. It will be a couple of years’. All right. We’re going to move on to the next question. John’s got a follow up question to that I think which is about – what is the next one? What do you do with your jeans when they’re no longer wearable? So do you throw away, give them away to someone else? It’s like I’m in a church and people go ‘I know what the correct answer is’. Sell, leave them in the wardrobe, donate them, make them into shorts. Yes. The cut-off denim jeans. Give them away to someone else. Okay.
That’s interesting as the results keep changing, going up and down depending on - - -
John can I ask do you have any cut-off denim shorts at all? Do you yourself own cut-off shorts?
Shorts. Jeans that were jeans and you cut them off?
Come on John. You must.
Frayed at the end?
No. I’ve done that a few times but I don’t do that now. I’m past that age group.
Okay. So there’s a statute of limitations when men can get away with wearing cut-off denim shorts. Okay.
That’s an important thing to know. All right. So we’ve got I’d say at least a third donate and then make them into shorts or something else coming in, and then leave them in my wardrobe. Now that is the truth of a lot of garments. What were you anticipating or are you just curious to see?
I was actually curious. I thought it would be interesting to see how many people throw them away. But maintaining them, keeping them or giving them to a better place it’s good to see. And I guess that’s the point around responsible purchasing. And that’s where we go when we’re talking about landfill. And I was just talking to a colleague of mine. I’m not sure if people know of BlockTexx. They take I guess waste, textile waste and turn it into small pellets and chemically break it down and they’re the first to do it in Australia. I was only talking to them about an hour or two ago. And I asked them the question ‘How much of the national waste per annum do you take?’ Currently he only takes 2%, 2% to 3% and he’s the only infrastructure at this point in time. Now he can scale and he can bring it up to 30% but there’s a lot of work that’s required. But it’s very possible.
So the way of actually reducing the amount of landfill of textile is longevity. So purchasing responsible, increasing the I guess quality of what you buy therefore can only result in increasing. So if you can increase the lifespan per annum by 20% you’re only going to reduce the amount of landfill by 20%. It’s just simple maths.
And that’s exactly what we have to do. As our State Government says we are going to reduce landfill. We don’t have any more big holes in the ground that we can fill with our waste.
John thank you so much. A round of applause for John please. He’s not going anywhere.
We have our second guest. It’s Amelia Crook. She’s the founder of Ownershift.com and will you please welcome Amelia to the stage.
Grab a chair. I don’t know exactly where you want to go.
Okay. I’ve just been told that the Slido takes a little bit longer to respond and I should slow down as those results make their way through the internet and down to underneath the museum. Amelia welcome.
Good. I was just testing the microphone and clearly it’s working. Tell us a little bit about Ownershift, how it started, how you got into it and what it does for the garment industry.
I would love to talk about that and it’s my favourite topic. Hello everybody. So Ownershift is a resale platform. It is the logistics and technology that enables brands to run takeback programs which means that brands can take back items that you no longer want for an incentive. You give it back to the brands, it comes to us, we wash it, we quality assess that item and then we list it for resale on a branded website for the brand. So a new owner can come and buy that item that you no longer want.
And this is a key element of a circular strategy for a brand to enable clothes to be at their highest use for as long as possible. It’s one of the top ways that a brand can have a sustainable impact. And this is happening overseas. America there is a company called Trove that manages Levi’s, Patagonia, Lululemon. They’re all running resale platforms. And so we’re bringing that here. I didn’t expect to be the person to do that. A little while ago, May last year, I started a TikTok account. I like many people was bored at home during the pandemic and I had found that I had misplaced my style after two years of wearing tracksuit pants at home. And this led to me asking TikTok for help. I just put it out there. I have misplaced my style and I don’t just want to go to a fast fashion brand and buy a new wardrobe. And I think I need help to work out what my own personal style is, what looks good on me, what I feel good in so I make better purchasing decisions. I wanted to become a more conscious shopper and I knew that I needed to learn what my personal style was again post-pandemic.
So I asked TikTok for help. I now have 130,000 followers on TikTok which is an unexpected delight. And they have helped me find my personal style. And I set myself the challenge at the start of that project to only buy second hand fashion or investment pieces that I knew I would wear for a long time. And I have stayed true to that. And during that process of learning about the second hand fashion market I came to understand that there was a gap in the market for a way to buy second hand items from the brands I know and love and trust, I know my size in, I know the quality. I just want to skip the peer to peer marketplaces and go directly to that brand and be able to buy from them.
Did you dance on TikTok to show - - -
I have once.
Really? Okay. And did sales go up as a result?
Sadly no. Yeah. My TikTok is not full of dancing or jokes. It is a very real account of a 43 year old woman trying to work out how to dress herself.
Well there’s no reason why you can’t add 15 second dances into the middle of that to keep us entertained. You have been talking about the size of the industry. Give us some of the numbers on what you think is sitting in people’s wardrobes.
So the Business of Fashion which is sort of the Financial Review for the fashion industry they estimate that there’s $2.1 trillion worth of inventory sitting in wardrobes globally. So they got to that number by taking out items that probably couldn’t be resold like lingerie and swimwear, items that were just past their used by date and no one else would want them and they kept whittling down this global trillions of dollars number to the point where they thought this is the amount of stuff that’s sitting in people’s wardrobes that could be resold and that’s $2.1 trillion worth of inventory.
That is extraordinary and I actually don’t know how to write $2.1 trillion. There’s too many zeros in that. But it does say that there’s a lot or wardrobes full of clothing that could be repurposed. Why don’t people throw it out?
I think that’s a great question. What percentage of your wardrobe do you think you wear actively?
Actively? Under 50% probably.
So the average is 30% and most of us have 70% of our wardrobe just sitting there.
Okay. So it shows a strong behavioural kind of focus. There’s a sunk cost bias and the bias says that because I’ve spent money on this and sunk time or money into something I can’t let it go. Who has got an old mobile phone sitting in a drawer that still works that they don’t use anymore? Okay. Just a show of hands. Right. You’re probably never going to use the phone again but it did cost you $800 at the time and on that basis we don’t throw it out. We know that it would work for the planet if we could donate it but we spent the money and because it belongs to us we keep it. And the same thing applies to clothes apparently.
That’s right. And clothing fulfils a human need that is very complex. It obviously keeps us warm and dry and modest but it’s more than that. And we all know that intrinsically that the way we present ourselves in the world is very much a part of what clothes we put on our body and there’s an emotional attachment there. There is what we want the world to see about us. And so the clothes that we’ve chosen to buy are sitting in our wardrobes as reminders of past things that we wanted to project or moments in our history that are important to us or something that we want to fit into again that we have hopes for. I’ve certainly got a few of those jeans in my wardrobe. So it’s not as easy as I can wear 100% of my wardrobe all the time.
And it’s probably as big a change as people saying I am 100% vegan from this point on. That takes a huge conscious effort to say I’m going to change the way I live and eat and work and travel and use public transport. Any of these things require big behavioural changes. It’s a big push.
They do. And I think what’s interesting with clothing in particular and this is my personal experience is I get an organic box of food delivered to my doorstep once a week, I have my superannuation in an ethical fund. I was sort of ticking some boxes as being a good citizen of the world and was still pretty regularly shopping at fast fashion stores. And that cognitive dissonance there I wasn’t living my values through my clothing purchases and it wasn’t until the pandemic that I started to question that for myself. And that has obviously led to me being so passionate about it that I’m starting a business to help solve the problem. So it is I think one of the areas that because it is so complicated emotionally that we don’t want to look at in terms of ethics and sustainability. Because it’s hard enough to dress yourself and feel good about it let alone try and weave your values into that.
Most of the people who are on the panel today work in the industrial side of clothing and for most of us we don’t see that. We see the shopfront side and we go through the racks and we pick something but we don’t realise there’s giant factories, machines, people and workforces that make these garments. Can you explain reverse logistics and how it would work?
Reverse logistics? Yes. So reverse logistics is the act of getting items back from consumers. So if you no longer want something then how does that get back through a system and be able to be resold? And for us at Ownershift that means what packaging are we going to send to you so you can put your item in that bag and how sustainable is that packaging? What postal service are we going to use and what are their sustainability credentials? How are we going to wash that item? Is there a better way to do that that doesn’t use as much water and impact the planet or dry cleaning? And then photography and writing up the item to go back on to a website to be sold and then the forward logistics which we’re all used to of getting it back to the new owner.
So when you think about it postal services drop off a lot of items every day and there’s a lot of empty trucks going back to the depot. So how in a circular economy can we start using those empty trucks to enable this circular nature of fashion to find a better way to keep clothes at their highest use. So reverse logistics is a really important element of a circular economy.
And if you don’t think our lives are ruled by logistics every freeway, every highway is full of large trucks, some of them B-double trucks that we’re trying to overtake that are full of the items that we’re buying and using all day every day. And that’s why on the outskirts of most large urban centres giant buildings are being built for those trucks to pull in to, park, load and keep moving stuff around. So logistics is critical to this whole thing.
It really is.
Yeah. Have you got a question that you would have pre-prepared? Here’s one you prepared earlier?
Here is one I prepared earlier. I can’t remember the exact wording but it is what is the main thing preventing you from extending the useful life of your clothes that you no longer value?
I won’t rush this time. We’ll have plenty of time to look at the screen as people get a chance to answer the questions.
So I asked this question on TikTok and I was surprised at the consistency of the answer.
But you’re not going to tell us yet? You’re going to wait for that?
I’m not going to tell you yet.
But there was certainly an intent that was different from an action.
Okay. What’s the main thing preventing us? I doubt anyone else would value my stuff. I might use them again one day. Just in case. That’s the classic hoarder thing isn’t it? I’ve got to keep this. Someone wants a Rose Tattoo t-shirt. They really do.
It’s for those fancy dress parties that you’ve got to go to.
Well exactly. There’s that. It’s too hard to sell online. Okay. I have an emotional connection to those items.
I intend to do something but I’ll never get round to it. Yep.
An interesting stat about the it’s too hard to sell online. So the majority of resale is currently happening in peer to peer marketplaces and still eBay actually in Australia is the predominant marketplace still for fashion. But the Business of Fashion say that only 5% to 7% of total resaleable items are in circulation. So the current methods, the peer to peer marketplaces are not incentivising us enough to get items back into circulation. So that’s why we need a less difficult option.
And we have another little behavioural bias which is kind of an ownership bias which says if it belongs to me it’s worth more. So they’ve done experiments where people were given mugs at work and said ‘This is your mug. What would you value it as?’ And the minute people said it was theirs they over-valued the mug because it belonged to them. We do over-value stuff. It’s why the internet is full of material like rattan chairs or old furniture that belonged to you that you over-price and people go ‘It’s actually not worth that much money’. Very, very hard.
All right. So as the scores are coming in now we’ve got I might use them again one day so just in case. So the just in case theory, that I’ll keep them just in case, I can’t bear to actually throw them out. I want to do it but I never get around to it so I walk past the wardrobe. And that’s true isn’t it? Our wardrobe becomes like wallpaper where the pattern of the colours just sits there and we don’t reach in to change it. It’s too much effort to sell online. I would think the same thing because I’ve never done it before. So maybe it’s just breaking that barrier of realising that it isn’t actually that difficult.
It’s a bit of a faff. It still is. You’ve still got to take photos and go to the post office and deal with messages.
Okay. I have an emotional connection to those items. Yep. That white boxy shouldered ‘80s jacket that I went to one wedding in once.
Was it Scott and Charlene’s wedding?
No. I wore grey and pink I think to that one which was a colour combination thankfully that is lost in history hopefully. And I doubt anyone would value the items I no longer want. So there is also the thing of it was mine, it would not work for anyone else. Is that that idea?
Or I’ve worn it out.
Okay. So how does this compare with your question that you’ve asked TikTok?
So the majority of people on TikTok said ‘I’ve cleared out my wardrobe but I have a box of shame sitting somewhere in my house or in the boot of my car that is waiting to get donated.
Okay. Now do you think that people will take that to a charity bin because it is an anonymous donation and they can do it at 2:00 in the morning and no one will ever see them? Because if they do go to the post office, they have to wrap it, take a photo, they are responsible for those items. Is that hard for people do you think? A little bit harder?
I’m not sure about that but I do know that the charities have a waste problem not a high quality problem. So they are dealing with all the crap we don’t want.
Yes. That’s exactly right. And that crap gets bundled, has to be transported in terms of logistics, ends up overseas and much of it just ends up in landfill in some other part of the world. There’s no such thing as disposable and there’s no such thing as away anymore. You can’t just throw it away. Away is us. Away is here.
Thank you very much. A round of applause please for Amelia.
As we move on to guest number three his name is Dane O’Shanassy. He’s from Patagonia. And when I say he’s from Patagonia I don’t mean the country, I mean the brand. Will you please welcome Dane with a round of applause as he takes a seat. Thank you very much.
I’m going to scoot over this side of the stage this time as the panel fills up. So tell us about yourself and Patagonia and how long have Patagonia been in this space?
Well thanks for having us. I presume that’s on. My name’s Dane. Worked at Patagonia for about ten years. Patagonia is an outdoor apparel company that started 50 years ago nearly in California and it’s been making kind of outdoor clothing and other associated goods for about that time. Started as a blacksmith shop making pitons for climbers in the ‘60s. Our founder Yvon Chouinard was a climber and a surfer and put the office close to the beach so he could surf in winter and climb in summer.
The brand’s been here in Australia for about 15 years and whilst we make outdoor gear we’re probably here on the panel today because of the company’s reputation around footprint, environmental activism and a fairly unconventional business model.
So do you get a sense of guys thank you for catching up but we’ve been here for some time or not? How does Patagonia look at the world now when it looks at catching up and recycling and repurposing garments?
Well we’ve got a big reputation but we’ve had 50 years to develop it. And I would say it’s been 50 years of lots of small but important decisions that have positioned the company today to be probably viewed as a leader. But all of those qualities came over time, came through individual learnings of employees. And it started back in the ‘60s when Yvon who was a climber was making pitons for the climbs and as they’d go climbing and they’d hammer these pitons into the rock they’d damage the rock, they’d crack a bit out. And what he realised at the time was each climb was changing nature for the next person that came along and it was as very intimate I guess experience of as I pull my piton out and the next climber comes the cracks are widening and the experience is changing.
That led to one of the company’s first I guess innovations and decisions which was to switch to an aluminium chock as it is which can be inserted into a crack and pulled out again and re-used without damaging the rock. And back in I think it was 1972 what they had to do to make that change as a company that was selling iron pitons to aluminium chocks was make a huge investment that would have either put the company out of business at the time or – but in fact it didn’t. It was a decision accompanied by an essay that he put in the mail order catalogue which was how people ordered stuff who couldn’t go to the shops in those days explaining why we were doing that. And they changed the business overnight to something like 90% of the range changed within 12 months from iron pitons to aluminium chocks, which at a decision making level is very foundational. I don’t think it was viewed at the time with that sort of gravity but I think when we think back at that moment about making a decision that was good for the planet, ended up being good for business, but most importantly our customers understood why we decided to take that decision.
And these decisions cost don’t they? They’re not free. There is a cost behind the changes people are paying for a Patagonia product.
Absolutely. Not that long ago it was reported that Patagonia goods probably cost in the range of 30% more than our competitors to produce a very similar good with same end use, same look. They’re often for things you can’t see, from how much we pay people making it, the materials that we choose to use for either durability or recycle qualities. And certainly the other element for us is what do we do with the resulting success of the company and feeding that back into our own operations and then environmental philanthropy more widely.
So it’s a tricky question that will come back to the panel. It’s about we’re not advocating that people stop buying garments but it’s how they purchase.
Well back in 2011 we ran a pretty famous newspaper ad in the New York Times that said ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ with a photo of our most popular jacket at the time and it was really I think another one of those moments in the company’s history where we realised that we were part of the problem. And we weren’t necessarily saying don’t buy any jacket ever again and walk around in the nude. We were certainly asking people to be more considerate of their purchases. And really that ad was accompanied by a pretty long small print article at the bottom which explained those values and explained why we were asking people to don’t buy it. It’s like consider it. Consider do you have something that would also work in this format that you’re looking to buy for. The result again was a great success for the company. Huge amount of new customers came to the brand I think because of that action. And it’s again drawing back to your question from the start. It’s these decisions that we’ve taken along the way that have built our confidence to continue to take more and our customers along the way have supported and rewarded us.
There’s a bunch of technical problems that have to be solved aren’t there for Patagonia from reverse logistics, from remaking of the textiles, that sort of thing. Can you talk about some of the issues? As you say a bunch of problems had to be solved.
Absolutely. And it’s not my remit but certainly we’ve been a pioneer in recycled plastic bottles being turned into garment fibres. Much of what we do we try to be a supporter of innovation at the pointy end, give a market to things that might otherwise not be able to get off the ground. All of that comes with some cost and I think we have really tried to position the business as a premium price offering not just because of those innovations. One of our key design principles is design something to last a long time. To keep it out of landfill is probably the number one thing you can do when making a sustainable piece of clothing. So quality has always been a real cornerstone of the company’s perspective on how we make our products. And we broaden out of clothing into food, into impact investing in other ways that we can use the company’s influence and resources to try and solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.
Tell us about a multi-use garment.
Pretty simple. If you buy a raincoat can you wear it on a rainy day, take it to the ski fields, take it on a surf check, take it on a mountain climb? You’d be surprised at how well other brands can do a good job of marketing you the same product with a very small different feature. Yvon our founder has his own little scorecard for every one of our products and multifunctionality is one of the really important features that we test.
We solve some of those dilemmas through scale. So we have one collection for every Patagonia territory around the world that we share from. So there’s very little room for us to say Australia needs a slightly pink and purple for our collection this year. So what would normally lead us which is fashion or consumer trends or preferences often isn’t available to us in how we make our products so we had to look for other things and other drivers and values within our customers as a way to build a business.
That has resulted in some really favourable outcomes. Typically the lifecycle of our products are much longer than our competitors. We might have the same product, same colourway in our range for years, not seasons, and that allows us to buy deeper in raw materials, have deeper relationships with our makers around the world and certainly for our customers who recognise our silhouettes and our look, something which is a little bit more timeless and can live around in the wardrobe a little bit longer.
And tell us about single use garments. Traditionally when people talk about the rental market what are they talking about there?
It’s a big topic of conversation at Patagonia at the moment which is is rental a big feature of our future? Typically we haven’t. We’ve been focused on repair first. Let’s make sure that we can keep gear in play as long as possible. Recycling. So when the goods are at the end of their life can it be sent off for upcycling or returned to some sort of useful supply chain? And reimagining those things as well. What are some things that we haven’t thought of? Rental I think in our world, our outdoor kind of more technical pursuits has typically been leaning to things like going to the snow. And people have been renting snow jackets, pants and skis for decades so it’s not a new space. Typically it’s highly durable, cheaper price points because you’re buying a lot of it kind of stuff.
So we’ve been exploring what could or would the market look like that has a more discerning shopper? You can spend a lot of money on a ski jacket. If you don’t know there’s a lot of technical features in materials and trims that make the process more enjoyable for a high end user. What’s the market for that? We’re not sure. And certainly we’re really inspired by platforms here and around the world that are making products more accessible. I think that peer to peer piece is really exciting. And we can see it for people who want to hire a dress for a wedding. There’s some really I guess low hanging fruit gaps in the market and I’m really intrigued to see what comes next. What changes in this space the way things changed not all that ago with Airbnb and housing and Uber and taxis and cars?
That’s right. It’s about access not necessarily ownership. We’ve got a question. You’ve got a question I should say for the audience so let’s go to the next Slido question. And this is Dane’s question. How much more would you pay for a new item of clothing if you knew it would be repaired for free and taken back by the brand at the end of its life? So we open the question now for people to guesstimate how much more they would pay. And Dane has got a history to this question. I think it’s been put to the market before in different forms but we’ll wait to see what our live and our studio audience say and our home audience. How much more would you pay for a new item of clothing if you could take it back and get it repaired for free?
So far no one is saying that they’re not willing to pay extra because that’s the room that we’re in. No one’s brave enough to say no.
25% more is the lead at the moment.
15%. 50% more and 5% more. It’s like the second cheapest wine on a menu isn’t it. I’ll go the second cheapest champagne.
It’s the safe option isn’t it.
Yeah. I don’t look too cheap.
It’s anonymous right so you can say ‘I’m not willing to pay extra’.
And we are influenced by other people and the numbers that are put before us.
All right. I think we have probably landed on the result which is about 25% more. Now I don’t know if Patagonia has done some high level kind of focus group research sort of stuff but how does that compare?
Well we have and it was a bit of a loaded question because 25% more is what we have seen through our research that people are willing to pay for goods that have high environmental, social, ethical value. When we looked and applied that across the whole market – and we worked with a firm who helped us look beyond just clothing – the cohort back in 2008 that was willing to pay that extra was only 8% of the population. Ten years on however though that had grown, doubled in fact to 16%. And further to that those who are making these considerations – not necessarily making absolute decisions every time – grew that number to over 50%.
What we have seen through that just because I think it would be interesting for this audience today is that the younger the demographic the bigger the engagement with these values and the bigger the cohort. And I share that to those working or part of our industry because I think if you sit around the boardroom or you sit around the table and talk about new customer acquisition and you talk about business development youth always top of mind for fashion brands. And certainly it's the consumers and I guess the high discretionary income cohort of tomorrow. So it’s not just the right thing to do anymore. It’s now becoming a really big business opportunity for brands who can harness that well.
That’s great news to hear and hopefully this becomes one of the tipping points like EVs and sustainable timber, it becomes normal, it becomes a thing, a social norm.
Ladies and gentlemen will you thank Dane once more with a round of applause as we get our final guest who is in the wings here. This is Eloise Bishop from Country Road. A big round of applause as Eloise winds her way past the TV screen and finds – take this microphone.
Testing, testing, 123. There you go. Eloise tell us a little bit about yourself and your position at the Country Road Group and the David Jones Group and so on and so forth.
Thank you. Hi everybody. I’ve been listening in the sidelines to the conversation. It’s great that we’re having this conversation here. So I’m really keen to see what comes out of it. I work for Country Road Group which is Country Road, Witchery, Mimco, Trenery and Politix and also the David Jones department store. And I lead their sustainability program. So we’re part of Woolworths Holdings in South Africa which is a listed company over there and has very high standards of sustainability and ethics. So we have a consistent strategy around sustainability and then my team works with the businesses to make those goals and ambitions come to life in ways that are relevant for each of the businesses.
So when you’re talking about circularity they mean very different things to David Jones and then the Country Road Group who make their own product. So I guess that’s kind of the background to what we do. But circularity is a very big focus for us right now particularly on the products that we make and with the brand partners that we work with on the David Jones side and also the systems that we’re looking to introduce and partner with to keep those products in the use phase for as long as possible.
Circularity sounds like a great idea and we all want someone else to do it but there’s a bunch of logistical problems we have to solve to get there. Tell us about certification and green washing and the issue of is this really what I’m buying.
Certification is I guess the antidote to green washing so where you can produce goods that have been independently certified by a third party that says ‘Yes the materials that you’ve used in these really are what you’re saying’. So an example would be organic cotton where you can have a GOTS certified fibre that you can then take through to the customer and the customer understands that you really have sourced that organic cotton and it’s been given that independent stamp.
When we’re talking about circularity and products that are potentially using recycled materials in some way the industry hasn’t yet evolved to the point where we’ve got a great deal of certification. The industry’s certainly starting but that’s something from a consumer point of view that we’re really keen to explore as well. Because for us to be able to confidently produce those products and give the customer a level of assurance that what they’re buying is what the business is saying we really would like to see that certification part of the industry sort of start to evolve as the consumer interest demands those products as well.
And it’s an unfortunate truth that there’s big money in green washing of course if you can piggyback on the work that other people have done. I remember that – does anyone remember Lonely Planet, the books, the travel books, Lonely Planet? One of their biggest issues was if they gave a good review to a restaurant, say the Golden Lotus in a particular city, 15 new Golden Lotuses would open up overnight in order to kind of grab that market.
So how do we solve that kind of certification truth telling? I think there’s plenty of industries that have to deal with this sort of stuff.
Yeah. Well the Textile Exchange is certainly one that we work with at a fibre level. They look at a number of different fibres. So as a kind of comparison the cotton that we source or the leather we would work with various certification bodies that exist for those fibres. I think when you’re looking at recycled materials there are a number of sort of recycled standards that exist but I think that they’re perhaps not as well recognised either by the industry to know where to go but I think from a customer point of view the more that we can be asked those questions by our customers from business it helps to put that pressure on to drive that uptake of the standards and use them properly.
And tell us about take back, the take back policy, how that works or how that’s being explored at the moment.
So we have had for a long time take back schemes where you can bring product back into our stores and we can pass that on to different partners that we have, charity partners. So Country Road has had a ten year partnership with Fashion Trade where they take the product back and sell it in a Red Cross store. And equally Witchery works with Fitted for Work. So they’re able to give both new and customer donated product to women who are looking for employment opportunities who might be financially disadvantaged or recently have come out of the prison system.
So there are a number of those sorts of schemes but what we’re really sort of focused on at the moment, we’re really interested, is some of the newer business models that are coming up that are really transforming the industry. So where you’ve got the resale and rental platforms that are coming up and more of those disruptors to the industry where we need to really think about how we start to evolve in response to that. So we have a number of partnerships with Glam Corner. So through the Country Road brand you can rent your wardrobe on a subscription base. And then for David Jones we partner with Glam Corner more on an event sort of styling service. So you can go in to a David Jones store in the Elizabeth Street store and you can pick out an outfit and have it styled and rent it for a special occasion.
So they’re the sorts of things we’re doing and also resale is obviously really important as well. We have a partnership with Blue Spinach for the David Jones business looking at resale at the luxury end, mainly accessories. So that’s something that we are doing online and once the Sydney Elizabeth Street store is up and running we’d look to eventually have pop ups and those sorts of things. So we’re sort of exploring all of this area but we understand that it’s quite transformative for the industry. And we’ve been having conversations back stage about how the industry is really evolving since the pandemic as well and this is certainly a huge space that the industry needs to get its head around.
Technical issues with my brain here. We’ve got questions coming in from the audience and you have a question for them first. So just so that we’ve all got time to actually speak to the audience with their questions I’m going to throw to Eloise’s question. When you’re done with a garment what situation is most common for you? It’s in good condition. You don’t want to wear it anymore for a number of reasons. Or the garment is damaged and can’t be worn? Bang. 50/50. Okay. Here we go. It’s a race.
The garment is damaged and can’t be worn. But wait a minute. It’s in good condition. Maybe I do want to wear it. It’s coming back. No. I’ve told you I can’t wear it again. What are you talking about? It looks fine. What about this? It’s a red wine stain. No one will see it.
Wow. It is actually a race between these two. Could watch this all day.
Actually this sounds like myself and my wife shouting at each other basically.
It’s fine. I can’t wear this. What are you talking about? You wore it to that party. That was 23 years ago. Still looks good. Shut up.
Okay. So it’s very hard to know when to stop because the results are still coming in.
I think it reinforces the point that was discussed earlier. I think Amelia you mentioned the 30% of what we’ve got is what we actually wear and I think these statistics really reflect that. It’s just what we then do with it. So if we’re not wearing it anymore I guess the evolution of that is where does it go. And I know I’ve got three different piles in my house that never seem to go anywhere. There’s the damaged stuff that I need to send off to apparel. There’s the stuff that I will never sell on eBay and then the stuff to be donated to St Kilda Mums. And they just sit there and keep growing and hopefully a magic fairy will one day arrive and whisk them away. But yeah I think this really does show that there is huge potential from a rental, resale and just to sort of transform our own thinking of how we access clothing. I think particularly younger generations I don’t think necessarily see ownership in the same way that perhaps I did when I was younger and I think businesses need to be savvy in order to kind of adapt to that change in customer expectation and sentiment.
I’m going to now start throwing questions that the audience have been giving me throughout the session to the group. So grab your microphones and I’ll throw it open to the panel to say how do we overcome the costs of repair versus buying new? There are different costs involved. How do we overcome that cost of repair versus buying new?
Choose a brand that repairs goods for free.
Do you know any?
Well yeah I won’t say that here. But what I would say is repairing isn’t really that radical. You’ve only got to think back a couple of years, perhaps your parents, perhaps your grandparents, where everything was repaired. This idea of planned obsolescence, this idea of throw it away and get another one is quite a modern concept. So I’d hope it’s not going to take much for us to kind of reconnect with both the idea of it and then the entrepreneurial spirit of human beings will see that market and as we’re seeing even today and elsewhere people will start repairing stuff. You see repair cafes popping up repairing all sorts of stuff in small towns and I think that’s very true for garments as well.
I think the UK is actually ahead on this in terms of the entrepreneurial spirit. There’s a couple of businesses that come to mind. One is a service where someone will come on a moped and pick up the thing that you need repaired and take it to a local tailor and then bring it back to you which is really cool. And another one that is an education piece, so teaching people how to repair their clothes. It’s not a sewing course. It’s a repair course. And they’ve been doing really interesting things with upcycling as well. So I think we will find a way. Services will start appearing like Ownershift and others that will start filling these gaps.
I think the other thing is also as it becomes a norm it needs to be scalable. When a laundromat opened up I’m sure the cost of actually going and laundering your product was quite high. But as more and more people used it the actual cost of repairing or laundering will come down. You just need that right balance.
And short of the magic fairy that will come down and fix everything do you think the Federal Government has a role in this? And ideally what would you ask of a Federal Government in terms of leading the way? What do we need to do?
I’m happy to start with that one. A few of us on this panel are involved with a textile product stewardship project that the Australian Fashion Council is leading and really trying to unpack what this means. So if you think about other commodities like glass or cardboard, there’s existing infrastructure, sorting logistics and then manufacturing to re-use that waste material to create new goods. So for the textile space it’s fairly limited. There are a couple of amazing small scale initiatives that are happening using textile waste that is used in carpet underlays and other things but by and large most of what is damaged is going to landfill. So how do we design product in the first instance to be re-used in some way? So when you’re picking fibres do you pick mono fibres that can be then broken down and re-spun into new fibre, and how do you design for disassembly?
So there’s this group that’s sort of looking at what are all the different pieces that need to be considered for us to create a product stewardship scheme around textile recycling and that’s a big gap I think for all of us in the industry that are challenged because this capability is available offshore but none of us really want to be sending our product around the world to have that fulfilled. So I think a lot of things have been considered post-COVID relating to manufacturing particularly with the disruption to supply chains. And this is something that’s got a bit of focus at the moment that we’re hopeful will gain some momentum and industry people can come together and find some solutions together.
Just letting everyone know I’m also on the board of AFC, Australian Fashion Council, and in the audience we have our CEO Layla just sitting out there taking a photo as we speak right now. It’s been the mission and as a voice even pre-COVID addressing with Government around waste. And Layla’s been a powerful force where she’s actually created some great relationships with the Federal Government of listening and beginning to act. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us but it's a starting point and it’s just keep chipping away at that big brick wall and breaking each brick at a time. And I think that’s what we need to keep doing. And as a group just raising our voices and being strong, to keep driving change. And like I said this has been happening for years.
Just throwing in sustainability. That word has been around for 30, 40, 50 years. It’s not new. What does it mean today to be a sustainable business? It’s a little bit different to what it was 30 years ago but all those regulations, those policies, the way of actually approaching things, looking after your environment, your people hasn’t changed. It’s just louder today.
Okay. There’s a question about how do we reach teenagers with sustainability messages given that they are a giant part of the market?
I’d argue that they’re the ones we don’t need to reach.
Okay. Okay. They’re already ahead of the game?
Yep. All the research I’ve read has shown that the younger the demographic like you were saying earlier the more engaged they are with sustainable options. If you go to Depop then it’s full of young people selling their clothes. However I think there is also a flipside to that of the power of Instagram and influencers on young people and the drive to get the look. And that needs to be balanced. So I don’t know if there is - - -
Sorry. Let me rephrase the question. Am I still allowed to blame young people for a lot of stuff?
Not anymore. No.
Okay. All right. This one’s strange. Well actually it raises the issue of class. Do we think that buying older clothes perpetuates class structures by not giving people access to high quality clothes at an affordable price? Do you think there’s a class thing now or not?
Possibly. I think one thing that from a consumer point of view I consider is that I can buy more expensive brands second hand than I would buy first hand.
I’d just add to that. I think you’ve only got to look at the vintage markets, the explosion in the last ten, 20 years. People are recognising value in older goods, in quality brands and quality unto itself. So new doesn’t always mean better. I think the bigger challenge is probably the fast fashion and the commoditisation of a look and the disposable nature being make it as poor quality to get the price as low as possible is possibly a bigger problem.
People have been asking about the back end of fashion in other words in the same way that if people knew how food was prepared they may change their eating habits. Do you think if they knew more about how clothes are prepared they would change their buying habits?
It’s an educational piece. I’ll tell a story about two/three years ago we actually launched a global pilot project around traceability. Now we worked closely with an Australian cotton grower out of northern New South Wales and what they developed through the ginning process was a traceability component that was scannable. So we were the first to launch that globally two years ago which creates I guess that transparency in the supply chain one, and then it also educates and validates that what you’re buying is true and authentic. And I think that’s an important thing from a quality point of view. What we do know from quality and longevity that the Australian cotton has a longer staple piece which means it’s a better cotton, it ends up being a better fibre which creates durability and a better long term product. People don’t know about that.
So through a project like that people become educated and understand what technology – Dane you were talking about what your product delivers around the outer wear. People need to be aware of what that does deliver.
I’d just add to that who makes our clothes. Patagonia a number of years ago embarked on a Fair Trade certification journey and that was during my time at the company. We’re now one of the world’s biggest Fair Trade certified apparel companies which isn’t something that I guess we talk about enough. But I remember our first season when we had four styles and it was our first season of giving this a go. And it’s a bit of a revealing process to come to terms with the offshoring nature of getting your clothes made in a country where people are prepared to pay less.
And I remember we made a film when we launched this thing and we really had committed to just pushing this and entrenching this in our business. And coming up close through that process of seeing the film and making the film it evoked a lot of emotion in me and it really made me ask more about who’s making my clothes not just what are they made of. And I think that connection at a human level is a really important first step. I think we can all understand how pollution might be affecting the world over the long term but it can be startling to see children making clothes and working 18 hours a day so we can get a couple of cents off the price of goods in the western world.
Yes. It’s the problem of stuff from nowhere. It’s just there on the shelf ready for you. Yeah. This is a question about what do we do with end of life clothing? And no matter how clever we get with textiles there will come a time when that clothing is at the end of life. What does the panel think about what should happen with end of life options for clothing?
Are there some things that will end up in landfill? What do we think?
I could just talk to a project that I’ve heard about recently. I mean I think it depends on what you’re making your clothing from in the first place because organic materials can combust. You could feed them to worms. You could put them in your compost and those sorts of things. So I think we need to get a bit more mindful about what fibres we’re choosing because yes of course it is all going to come to end of life at some point. But then the counter argument is if you’ve got a brilliant polyester jacket that’s going to serve you 50 years as well is that better than ten hard wearing cotton ones? So everything will come to end of life but I think fibre selection is really important to consider.
What are we trying to solve here? I mean are we working out what we do with the end of life product? So do we just keep building that? Are we just going to build our stockpile of end of life or are we going to go back to the design phase? Talking what Eloise said about fibres, consider fibres, what does that mean to its end of life? And I think the design process needs to be considered first upfront before the end of life because I don’t think we’ll solve that problem.
Yeah. I would agree. I think the one thing I would say though is this is a transformational conversation we’re having that’s going to take time and at the end of the day and that’s obviously one of our priorities as an organisation is that we still need to focus on building a recycling industry for textiles. I couldn’t agree more that ultimately we want the solution for circularity to live in design, to sustainable choice, to sustainable fabrics. But at end of the day we are going to get and continue to get material coming to the end of its life and at the moment nationally the recycling rate for textiles is extremely low, less than 10%. So I think it’s still really important that we do focus some investment and some consideration for recycling so that we can take those textiles back to something and hopefully see them find their way back into a productive use back into the economy.
I agree. However we have to come from both ends. And I think our biggest challenge is the R&D process and capability and investment. Locally I don’t think enough is being done because it’s not a mandate where either Governments or industry have to do something about it. But we’re all talking about recycling but we’re not really fixing the initial problem. So I think coming from both ends is just as important.
I always think about hearing how things get turned into playground matting so when the kids fall off they don’t break a leg and I just wonder when we’re going to run out of playgrounds for all of the stuff that’s seemingly getting recycled to.
Yes. That’s right. You’re falling on dad’s old denim shorts there kids. Enjoy.
So someone said why can’t we just leave stuff in the wardrobe? Isn’t it better than landfill? I guess that’s a question about is that in fact pre-landfill or is that temporary storage?
Well the most sustainable thing you could possibly do is wear the clothes that are already in your wardrobe. So I think for me working out how to use the clothes that you have, working out your personal style, putting in the time to understand what works, what doesn’t, what can work together is a good investment from a sustainability perspective and then you’re a better shopper at the other end of that. But I fear that it is just storage until you get around to cleaning out your wardrobe.
I’m just thinking about at home. My wardrobe was this big. Now my wife’s taken over and it’s about that big at the moment. So who’s the boss?
Well it is a major cultural change isn’t it? Yeah. That’s right. Okay. And you have three things that you just keep wearing in rotation.
Exactly. So who’s more sustainable?
Well I don’t know. My wife doesn’t ask me anymore does this – she asked me once and I probably said it looks fine which is the wrong answer by the way. You look great. No. That’s the wrong answer. Okay. So that’s why she has to call other people or ask my daughter.
In terms of regulation and lobbying what should the industry do, what should the community do, what should consumers do to see if we can push the message up so to speak? I mean the work that you’re doing Amelia is pushing the message out electronically worldwide. How do we get the message up to Federal and State Governments?
Is there a win, win, win golden kind of blue sky situation where we reopen a factory, it used to make cars, it’s been reorganised, it’s now making garments and it employs thousands of people?
The answer is yes. It’s required a taskforce. So there’s enough people out there in industry, Government who are very well aware. There is constant communication happening today. It’s non‑stop and it’s at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds and mandates and journey. So it’s a matter of when and how the taskforces develop to make it happen. I think people are wanting – the appetite is there. It’s just how do we put it together and how quick can we put it together?
So it’s not people taking to the streets necessarily? I’m trying to think of other ways that people have brought about change in society whether it’s been petitions, whether it’s lobby groups, whether it’s a public awareness campaign.
The question is who’s leading who? Is there a commitment by industry as a group or as a peak body? It just can’t be all of Government. They are helping where possible but industry need to be there to support it and commit. And maybe there’s not enough of that or maybe we’re not sure what that looks like yet. So it needs to again go both ways. There is constant communication, there is constant research being done. There’s a constant voice, constant message happening every day. But what’s the next step? Who’s going to lead this? Someone’s waiting for someone to actually take that lead.
I would say people can purchase products from brands that are the leaders. They can actually reward the brands or the retailers who are doing those things because giving them your custom will show them that they’re doing the right thing. When Governments see success they’ll want to further that success I think. But in my experience not just with our brand, I think with any brand, there’s thousands of great brands big and small trying new and good things. And the more we recognise that I think as people and consumers hopefully the more important those things become to us, our networks and those people around us.
And a really good way to work that out there’s an app called Good on You. They’re Australian based and this audience is probably very aware of it but if you’re not you can download that app and then look up the brands that you’re shopping from and there’s a score card that is very transparent about the ethics and sustainability credentials of that brand. So it’s a really good thing just to check first before you make a purchase. But having said that I think consumers have done this job. Particularly post-COVID the research is showing that there’s a tipping point and we’ve hit it in terms of consumer demand for more sustainable options. There’s definitely confusion in the market about which options are the most sustainable and it is time for industry to step up and look at different business models, look at ways to evolve the fashion industry which at its core the fashion industry’s DNA is to look ahead, predict the future, make beautiful things happen. And there’s a real opportunity for us to do that in to a more sustainable future. Because if you’re still using fossil fuels, cheap labour and bad practices you don’t have a future. We don’t have a future. So it is time to start exploring those options to evolve for industry.
So if you had a choice of Mike, Ken and Brooke saying I’m not going to buy AGL but I will buy Just Jeans or something similar is it a billionaire that will change this? Is it a technical – will they invent a new natural fibre that is unbreakable? Is it technology? Is it angel money so to speak? What do we think will change?
I’ll take some angel money.
I think there’s a real need for an education campaign and I’m not just talking about customers but I think for the industry to kind of transform our thinking around how we actually value products. Not just the products we have but the value of products that are on the market and as Dale says how we choose to purchase from brands that are doing the right thing. Because I don’t think we inherently understand what is going on behind the scenes, how resources are becoming finite, how climate change is impacting the ability to grow virgin raw materials and the supply chain issues that we’re all grappling with around transparency, modern slavery, living wage. It is so hugely complex and I think we walk into a shop and we transact with something on the shelf and we don’t think about it anymore. So I think that there’s a real opportunity for us to consider how we educate people about how to value and appreciate the resources that we have and treat them accordingly. And it’s probably only two generations back from where we are now. It’s not that distant into our past when we had this mindset. We’ve just lost our way a bit.
And it can become mainstream. I bang on about this at the office a fair bit so any colleagues out there I apologise. But I can remember a time when organic food was down the funny smelling health food aisle and you had to go hunting for it. And now when you walk into the major shopping chains it’s the first thing you see at the front. So I think change can happen and I think when the education takes place, and not an education which is like ‘You should do’ telling people how they should live, but connect the reality of our choices to the consequences, I think humans will inherently make the right choice when presented with that information.
If I could just add my two cents worth. I think all of this is 100% right. At the end of the day to shift an industry, to shift a transformation like this it involves everybody, it involves changes in consumer behaviours, it involves changes in infrastructure, it involves businesses coming on board. The thing I’ll say as the token Government fellow over the side of the stage here is Government has a tendency to act slowly and that’s because as much as we’ve got four fantastic market leaders up here saying let’s agitate for change there’s another four or five in the background saying it’s a free market, leave us alone and let us make our own decisions. So what I’m saying there is we cannot under-value enough the importance of having brands, recognised big brands at the table that are pushing for this change.
Government feels much more comfortable in taking big interventionalist steps when they feel like the industry is there, it’s ready, it wants the support and it’s coming along for the journey. So I guess from my perspective whilst we’re still in the baby steps territory it is excellent to hear sort of leading brands pushing this agenda and encouraging us to come along and keep pushing as well.
Look I haven’t been able to get through all of the questions here but I think we’re sort of getting towards the end of the session so I’m going to ask everyone, and I’m going to start at the end and work our way along, just to say what is the take out message that you would like to share with the room and our audience at home today?
I had prepared my question and I have completely forgotten it.
All right. Do you want us to start with someone else?
I can start because I didn’t prepare but I can give you a genuine response to that question. I think it’s all in the title of this talk. Purchasing power for the planet talks about what we can achieve together. So it can often feel as an individual what can I do, what difference am I making? But I think in the modern world we’re more connected than ever. We’ve got friends around the world connected at the tap of a finger. So when I think we act in unison and we kind of can develop a collective response to our biggest problems I hope we can make some really positive change. So I’d leave you with a call to action but also just a cheer to go forward and really play your bit in influencing those around you.
Are we back to you Eloise?
I’m still going. Yep.
You’re still going? Okay.
I’ll go next. So everything I’m wearing today is second hand. I think the stigma around second hand is changing and it’s sustainable clothing is not just brown sacks of linen. We can be fashionable. Here I am saying I’m fashionable after announcing to the world that I’d misplaced my style. But we can wear clothes that we like and still be okay with the choices we’re making for the planet. So I would encourage people to check second hand first, #secondfirst. You may still end up buying something new particularly if you’re looking for a performance jacket to go to the snow. But just checking Depop, Vestiaire Collective, the op shop, Facebook Marketplace. There are really easy options now to buy second hand fashion and just having a quick check before you buy something new could be a great way to get a bargain.
Okay. I would encourage you all to think about the brands that you shop and ask questions that relate to your values and the things that you think are important because they do listen and those questions help drive transformation within those businesses as well. So I would encourage you to consider that.
That was similar to mine.
Now you have to invent your own.
I know. Considered purchasing. I think that needs to be top of mind. When we started the brand it was always at the forefront how long do your pair of jeans have to last? I don’t want to hear that you’ve got to come back in two years. It fell apart. We’re getting people that have had it for ten years, five years. So having that considered approach around your wardrobe staples. We’ve got personalities. We’ve got characteristics. It’s us. So what you purchase is to be with you for a long time. So consider that.
Are they because the jeans are so tight they can’t get them off?
Right. Okay. We may have one more final Slido slide. And I’m not actually sure if we do or not for the audience. I’m just checking to see whether we do. And what is one action you will commit to doing when you leave this event? And I think this is just an open ended basically commitment. So if people can activate their phones one more time.
This is what we call social proof ladies and gentlemen. We commit to stuff that we commit to in public when others can actually see the commitment.
Do more research.
Voting Greens. Not that we’re political. Buying less.
Now they’re shouting at us.
Follow Amelia on TikTok.
Yes. Ethical brand selection. Join the AFC.
A bunch of people are going to join the Australian Film Commission and then go ‘Whoops’. Okay. Take clothes in to repair. Conscious buying. That’s it. Buy less new. Do more research.
Second hand first. Second first.
Fixing my broken clothes. Okay. One person wants their clothes fixed. Okay.
Consider the purchase. Check the credentials. Buy less.
Be conscious, learn to repair.
Boy we sound like someone’s grandad don’t we? You should learn to repair stuff.
Donate to buy one. That’s interesting. Wow. You whittle down your wardrobe and - - -
Okay. One step forward, two steps back. Okay.
Buy Patagucci. Did someone say Patagucci?
Yes. This handbag was made from 15,000 – okay. Keep op shopping. Second hand first. Use second hand first. Donate some of my 70%. That’s right.
All right ladies and gentlemen you have just taken part in a social proof experiment. You have committed to these things and in your heart of hearts you know you must go out and spread the message. Could you please thank all of the panellists today for being here.
It says thanks for participating on Slido. As a final request there is a short survey to provide your feedback on our event. I’m not sure if that’s on your phones there but they’d love you to fill out that short survey if you can. And I would like to thank Sustainability Victoria as well. Is there a final message you would like to say on parting?
Thank you. I would just like to say thank you to everyone that came both in person and of course online. I was watching sort of the numbers on the Slido poll and it looked like sort of 100 plus were participating so that’s excellent. And indeed thank you to all of our panellists not just for being here but for their clear commitment, the great things they’re doing in their business and the leadership that they’re showing just by being here. So thank you very much panellists.
Thank you everyone and thank you panel.
I think we are officially at the end.
[End of transcript]