The Australian Circular Fashion Conference to become the next sustainable "peak body"

London - Awareness concerning the overall impact the global fashion industry has on the planet is growing - especially in Australia, where public and media knowledge on sustainability has risen significantly over the past 15 months. Half of the Australian female population is consciously aware of the eco-friendly and ethical brands, paving the way for positive change. Now, a new intiative is set to showcase the knowledge and expertise of leading professional and consultants in the field of circular and sustainable practices with the fashion industry: The Australian Circular Fashion Conference.

"We're bringing together the sharpest minds in responsible fashion, to help Australia's largest fashion retail companies develop responsible practice and to build a stronger local industry," says Camille Reed, the founder of Australia's first sustainable fashion conference. Taking place in Syndey on March 22, the conference aims to educate attendees to the exisiting solutions available to their sustainable issues, while instigating conversations concerning circular models and textile recycling among some of the largest and most influential comapnies in the Australian fashion industry.

Key speakers set to attend the conference include Patrick Duffy, cofounder of the Global Fashion Exchange and the Ethical Fashion Forum, Yianni Giovanoglou, Trend Specialist AU and NZ at WGSN, Andrew Sellick, Head of Environment and Sustainablilty at the Australia Post, and Clara Vuletich, an honorary research specialist at Mistra. With more than 280 business leaders set to attend, the conference will provide them with the tools needed to move towards a circular mode. As Reed, a textile designer and conscious fashion advisor gears up for the inaurgual event, FashionUnited takes a moment to speak with her about the Australian Circular Fashion Conference.

FashionUnited: In your opinion, what is the current stance on sustainable fashion in Australia

Camille Reed: “The conversation has definitely been growing at a significant pace for the past 12 to 15 months, as the social movement from the Northern Hemisphere has definitely spread to Australia. There is a small network within the fashion community which has a strong will to deliver the message concerning sustainable shopping habits to consumers. We have a number of independent online platforms reporting on better ways to shop and smarter ways to adapt how they perceive and interact with fashion. ‘Good On You’ reported that close to 50% consumers are actively aware and consciously browsing for ethical and sustainable apparel - whether or not the industry is actually doing anything about it is another thing. A huge network of local industry professionals are pro-sustainable practices.”

Where did the idea to create the Australian Circular Fashion Conference first come from?

“The idea goes back to the first time I learned about textile waste and the havoc it caused on the environment when I was a textile designer. It grew in small steps, firstly by wanting to help the company I was working with for in Melbourne at the time, Forever New, introduce various methods of sustainability via several initiatives. Then, not long after I left the company to move to Sydney, I came in contact with a business in Melbourne’s West which sold recycled fabrics. At the time my goal as a textile designer was to utilize these unique fabrics and print my designs on them. During my exploration of recycled fabrics, I began conducting more research into what was available on the market and who’s doing what in Australia. One morning my partner suggested to me - why don’t you create an event and bring like-minded people together? The idea just grew from there.”

The Australian Circular Fashion Conference to become the next sustainable "peak body"

Why do you think the time is right to host an event looking at circular fashion in Australia?

“Timing is always a tricky one to gauge and although we say timing is everything, this was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It’s the discussions, it’s the positive reply when cold calling, it’s the receptive and open nature of business leaders. People have been extremely open to receive information, that’s when you know the time is right - if it had been difficult getting the message out there, then it could never have happened this year. Many big businesses, small-medium players, and experts within the industry are excited about collaborating, confident about change and most importantly wanting to ask questions with the outlook of creating positive change over time.”

“Australia is extremely forward thinking as well - we have a number of academics working on sustainable solutions in the background. Given the conversation concerning circular fashion is in the early stages of growing awareness and education from both sides - business and consumer - we aim to run the conference for the next 4 to 5 years, because the scalability technology is able to provide to complex questions and complex tasks will be far greater even within the next 18 months.”

How did people respond to your idea for the launch the first Australian Circular Fashion Conference?

“The positive engagement couldn’t have been any better! As the planning and formulation for the event developed and grew, it became easier to engage with those who I thought would be integral to the event. There was a huge advantage to utilizing some of the experts' names had on board from the very start as well. Everyone at the moment is eager to learn more, to ask questions, to find out how they can take the next step. The conference is providing an outlet for people to interact with and feel as though they’re able to explore solutions. In all honesty, we have a journey ahead and those around me understand that we’re taking the first step. Given the conference is an industry-only event directed at business leaders and decision makers, the ability to attract a niche market of the retail fashion world has been exciting.”

How easy and/or difficult was it for you to get people on board for the conference?

“Fortunately it was a relatively easy process to secure key speakers to attend. It became a meet and greet scenario, having great conversations concerning sustainability and being able to collaborate to help the wider industry. It just so happened that a number of the first handful of people I met were just the right personalities and working within the right space to be able to share what I was looking for. Of course, there were some who I had pinpointed as ‘must haves’ and valued their experience from hear-say and on paper. However, it turns out they weren’t able to commit, or provide their time. You can’t always fine point your timing with everyone, but it broadens the opportunity to engage with more people in the search for greater knowledge.”

What makes the Australian Circular Fashion Conference unique to other sustainable fashion conferences?

“We’re targeting a similar audience to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, as an industry-only event, however, the point of difference is within the engagement and the collaboration through the roundtable discussions happening on the day. This is where the magic happens, I believe we’ll be able to formulate greater educative techniques and reach business leaders on a deeper level by having one-on-one discussions. Attendees will be encouraged to leave their ego’s at the front door and come in with an open mind, looking to get involved - participation is a must. Having local experts involved is significant as opposed to international speakers, and attendees will not be spoken at from a stage or by a panel, they’ll be included on the same level.”

The Australian Circular Fashion Conference to become the next sustainable "peak body"

“There are a few other factors which make the Australian fashion summit unique - we have a uniquely different cultural approach to fashion, many large international retailers have to research and understand our customer demographic before they can enter the market. By starting this event and having it run annually in conjunction with the newly formed industry peak body, we’ll be a strong international contender in the global movement to influence and inspire change.”

What do you hope to achieve with Australian Circular Fashion Conference's debut event?

“The success of the event is important for the right reasons, helping local economy, supporting local industry, improving business values and personally my biggest goal - setting the right path which looks after the environment. Recognition of the importance of sustainability in the industry is the primary goal and to open up the conversation. This is the first step and we can build serious partnerships between brand leaders and the significant industry partners around resource recovery. By understanding this we can leverage a strong first world position to allow consumer demand to change old habits, look to establish new facilities in Australia to enable waste recollection and recycling, develop policy changes and potential collaborative agreements for a better fashion future.”

What impact do you hope the Australian Circular Fashion Conference will have on the Australian fashion industry?

“Taking into account the number complex tasks to identify in the production of apparel, the initial impact we can hope to expect comes from the brands looking to external resources and acknowledging their participation is a fantastic move in the right direction. If we can increase our market share for the consumers to engage with their local brands again, then we’re onto a good thing. Customers will quickly pick up on brand’s reposting their goals and values. The local industry supporting and enabling the facilitation of waste recovery will have to work hard alongside the brands. Having already generated the conversation, I’m pretty confident even the smallest change within a month around mindset will be a fantastic step forward.”

How do you foresee the Australian Circular Fashion Conference growing in the future?

“The sky’s the limit, from where I’m standing. The conference wi ll be held in Melbourne next year and the call to connect with a number of organizations (and amazingly internationally) has been very promising. Innovation and technology are evolving very quickly. China has already thrown the industry several curveballs in their mission to curve environmental impact, and they’re moving at a rapid rate to change manufacturing, which is where we are looking to partner with universities and alike which will be essential in the next conference. The Australian Circular Fashion Conference will rise to become an influential, industry peak body which provides sustainable and smart business solutions around business metrics, economic structure, business planning, integrating technology, partnerships and not so much an environmental climate change body.”

Photos: The Australian Circular Fashion Conference


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