THROUGHOUT Camille Reed’s career in the fashion industry, she found herself constantly astounded by the amount of waste associated with the production and consumption of clothing.
“Initially I learnt about the statistics on what’s happening in the Northern Hemisphere, and it’s just phenomenal – in a scary way,” she reflects. “Understanding the sheer volume of textile waste taken to landfill truly put it into perspective for me, and ultimately became the catalyst.”
Reflecting fondly on her time at Forever New, the textile designer found collaborating with colleagues on sustainable initiatives particularly informative. Through connecting with like-minded individuals in the business, it led to the introduction of ‘The Green Team’, which saw staff collaborate on implementing sustainable practices within the home and workplace. Camille found herself becoming more passionate about an industry-wide movement towards sustainable fashion practices, and went on to create Forever New’s first Sustainability Project. She soon realised that if other brands were to adopt similar strategies and collaborate, the entire fashion industry itself could change.
“(Other brands) could adapt the techniques that we are looking to achieve, but in a non-competitive nature. The mission was to bring about a new ‘social norm’ and establish another level of social credibility for all of the fashion retail companies. If the industry collaborated at the same time, we could really create that responsible change.”
Armed with a decade’s worth of fashion industry experience behind her, Camille has thought of plenty of innovative ways in which designers, manufacturers and shoppers can reduce their environmental impact by working together.
“There is nothing in the manufacturing process which is not re-do-able. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to prioritise strategies and outcomes,” she says.
Through hosting the very first Australian Circular Fashion Conference, Camille aims to offer such opportunities for the industry’s biggest retail businesses to collaborate and learn from one another. Held over one day on March 22nd in Sydney, the conference will be an extremely engaging event. It will play host to numerous acclaimed, industry professionals, insightful discussions and endless possibilities for attendees to network with key players. Not only with the apparel sector, but beyond. The focus, Camille highlights, is the afternoon of round table sessions, facilitated by a series of experts with diverse backgrounds and perspectives on the issues facing the fashion industry.
The event is an exclusive Australian first, industry-only event, focused on responsible fashion practice and supporting economic growth
“What this event is trying to do,” she explains, “is unify the thought process around responsible practice, and encourage attendees to become the brains trust.” In the round table discussions, companies will be able to share their perspective on how sustainable fashion practices could look for them in the Australian market, given we have a different culture to the Northern Hemisphere. Highlighting the exemplary success of Kathmandu’s initiative to work towards a zero waste to landfill target this year, Camille commented on her conversations with their head of sustainability: Kathmandu’s willingness to share information and collaborate will strengthen consciousness and profitability throughout the entire industry.
“The guys who are doing it, and doing it well, are excited to share their knowledge,” Camille says.
And what is driving the need to shift to more sustainable processes?
“We’re definitely witnessing a shift from the consumer’s point of view,” Camille explains. “Millennials are the biggest shopping market of the current time, and they are shopping in a completely different nature to what we were doing 8 or 9 years ago.”
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact caused by their purchase decisions
A number of recent studies indicate that as consumers are increasingly concerned about environmental, social and economic issues, they are more willing reflect these concerns in the way that they shop. Furthermore, Camille emphasises that 50% of Australian shoppers are aware of sustainability and are actively seeking more environmentally friendly products when browsing. “They’re looking to gain a unique connection from each piece they’re purchasing, delivered through by a ‘story’ behind the brand and why they’re buying from them,” Camille says.
The biggest change in the market, Camille suggests, is the power of international brands. Already aware that customer needs are changing, international brands have gained momentum in capturing this new millennial market. Having already taken a sizeable profit from Australian retailers, at $400 million per annum, this revenue could significantly rise.
“How to establish economic viability for the longevity of our local industry, means backing our local companies against the big players. We can do this by prominently addressing each brand’s core pillars and how they’re connecting with their customer. We have to take into account, long term, it’s the positive environmental impact we’re improving upon within 15 years’ time. That’s the underlying winner! Making business more responsible will address both these key points,” Camille emphasises.
From a business perspective, innovation is essential in aligning oneself with the increasing desire for sustainable adaptation. Implementing an improved and more sustainable business model could therefore offer an organisation increased efficiency and lower production costs.
Implementing a circular process is imperative for future prosperity in the fashion industry
“I do believe there’s cost saving advantages in a supply chain restructure when using recyclable methods,” Camille explains. “If you can recycle a fabric up to 7 or 8 times, with synthetic fabrics in particular, it could cost less overall to recycle and produce it; there are less materials and chemicals being used in the entire process.”
This shift presents an opportunity for businesses to develop new and improved products to maximise social value and environmental savings. Camille emphasises that this need to change can be a positive, innovative and exciting time, offering up the opportunity for businesses to redefine their foundations and capture this new market of conscious shoppers. “It is about going back to the grassroots of establishing some core values within the business and determining what their pillars look like. Are they aligned with a forward-thinking model? They need to encumber more social, environmental and community qualities. The responsible alignment of a business’s foundations will reflect in the bottom dollar. Customers will actively associate with these values being portrayed by coming into their stores because they’re seeking that connection.”
In a world in which our 2030 climatic outlook is incomprehensible, Camille highlights that businesses ought to play a leadership role in fostering these more sustainable consumption patterns. “The planet will not be as we know it right now. And what does that look like for future generations? That is the biggest catalyst for why this shift,” Camille emphasises.
“I love fashion, I don’t want to change or stop it, but how can we do it smarter? Let’s make it better!”.
Camille Reed is a traditionally a textile designer by trade, and the founder of The Studio by Mili and Australian Circular Fashion. Highlighting the potential efficiency of a circular textile process, Camille reproduces her original, stunning designs on sustainable fabrics. Her key point of difference is to provide education and awareness in the industry.