How far would you go for fair trade fashion?
Author: Billy Pringle
Two Australian women have just finished a 3500km trek across Southeast Asia to find people who are creating fashion in positive and sustainable ways. On their 10-month journey, Megan O’Malley and Gab Murphy met with over 50 different brands and producers in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos who work with locals to create ethically and sustainably made clothing, jewellery and textiles.
The self-described “dorks from Melbourne” started the Walk Sew Good project in order to empower people to make more informed decisions about their fashion purchases, and to try and change the narrative surrounding clothing manufacturing in an area that is often only associated with sweatshop labour in the minds of many Australians.
The fashion industry is the second largest industrial polluter in the world, after the oil industry, and accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. Not only are the synthetic fibres favoured by fast fashion brands extremely energy intensive to produce (nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make polyester fibre) the majority of our clothing ends up in landfill. In Australia, 85% of the textiles we buy go to landfill each year.
When the production and manufacturing of our clothing is invisible to us, so too is the impact, so Megan and Gab sought to change the conversation.
“There are so many negative stories coming out about the fashion industry from this region, and it can leave people disempowered. They hear the story, think it’s sad but don’t know what to do about it and keep shopping as usual” Megan said.
“We decided to interview people along the way and share positive stories. We wanted to empower people with other options and show them just how great these alternatives can be.”
Megan and Gab have used their platform to promote the many producers that they met in order to help them reach a wider audience and to raise awareness of the alternatives to fast fashion.
Not only are these producers helping to provide opportunities and employment for their local communities, they are also promoting sustainable practices. Koky Saly came to Australia as a refugee from the Cambodian civil war when he was a child. As an adult he returned to Cambodia and, with the help of his sister, founded Beekeeper Parade to help fund education initiatives in his home town. Beekeeper uses donated and discarded textiles to make their products, and have upcycled three tonnes of clothing and fashion waste so far.
For those of us who shy away from 3500km hikes, there are, thankfully, some sustainable options closer to home. The Trading Circle is a Sydney-based registered charity organisation and retailer that seeks to empower women in developing countries by providing opportunities for them to earn a just and reliable income under safe working conditions.
Founded in 1995, The Trading Circle works with communities in Thailand and the Philippines to provide a marketplace for their unique artisan products.
“Around 85% of sweatshop workers are women and girls, so by working with women in developing countries we’re not only helping them raise themselves out of poverty with dignity and respect, we’re also working to interrupt an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage” said Communications Manager Katie Buddle.
“Giving girls and women access to an education and a sustainable income, and fostering the power to ‘trade’ their way out of poverty is one of our main goals at The Trading Circle.”
The Trading Circle shop is in Summer Hill in Sydney’s Inner West, and sells a variety of homewares, children’s toys, bags and accessories.
- Keep an eye out for retailers of fair trade goods and support ethical manufacturing whenever possible
- Find out where your fashion comes from. Walk Sew Good has some useful tips about which questions to ask here
- Check out the great second-hand options in your local op-shop
- If you’re shopping for new, go for fewer items of the best quality you can afford and avoid fashion trends that are likely to go out of style quickly
Subscribe to Positive Environment News.
Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.
- Bin the (tea) bag »
- Trading trash for a hot cuppa »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - Small changes with big impact »
- The light at the end of the tunnel is made with LEDs »
- A Walk Sew Good it's still being talked about »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - Choosing progress over perfection with Lush »
- The great story behind Lousy Ink »
- Kenyan business Ocean Sole is flipping the flop from waste to art »
- Everyday Enviro with Elise - Parliament on King »
- Disused and dirty swamp transformed into vibrant wetlands in the heart of suburbia »
- Mexico City is bartering its recyclable waste for food »
- Beach cleanup leads to turtle comeback »
- Nestlé to go fully reusable and recyclable by 2025 »
- Woolworths, Coles remove plastic bags from stores ahead of schedule »
- Planet Ark and Bingo aim for the top with a bold new vision »
- The bush stone-curlews are back in town »
- The Swedish fitness craze that's good for you and the environment »
- RMIT develops new proton battery prototype »
- Guilt free tea-bags, frozen food and paper drinking straws »
- Planet Ark's flagship recycling info service is getting a makeover »
- Italian sheepdogs become little penguin protectors »
- Paper or plastic? »
- Woolcool turns waste wool into insulation wonder »
- An innovative solution to the problem of ocean pollution »
- Indigenous women helping to conserve glowing turtles »
- Taking sustainable fashion to new heights »
- HP's plastic recycling program is turning Haitian pollution into printer cartridges »
- Cleaning up the Cove »
- A year in review - Australian natives made some great comebacks in 2017 »
- Marine plastic pollution: a personal perspective »
- Plastics inspiration: reasons for hope »
- Reconnaissance to protect the Great Barrier Reef »
- Flying Dutch claim victory for the 7th time in the World Solar Challenge »
- Top Australian sustainability award winners announced »
- Doing well by doing good: a recipe for sustain-ability »
- Revolutionary eco-friendly furniture the way of the future »
- The calming effect of contact with nature »
- Aussie innovators compete for the climate on the world stage »
- The Australian second-hand economy is booming »
- Fighting waste with Fortunate Food »
- Southern states are bankrolling businesses in the War on Waste »
- What do Smiths, Kathmandu and Jurlique have in common? »
- Facing down fast fashion with up-cycled clothes »
- Decades of community action brings a disappearing frogmouth back from the brink »
- Picky plants: Growing green in difficult environments »
- How indoor plants can give city-slickers a literal breath of fresh air »
- Island sanctuary brings hope to dwindling quokka population »
- 1.5 million people, 12 hours, 66 million trees: India's commitment to The Paris Agreement »
- ABC's War on Waste creates unprecedented demand for sustainable coffee cups »
- 81-Year-Old Lebanese woman inspires a nation to recycle »
- Green Clean for Sydney's Opera House »
- Australia's First Rescued Food Supermarket is a Win-win for the Planet and Those in Need. »
- New London Levy to Halve 'Lethal' Pollution »
- How A Music Festival Convinced 1400 To Take Their Rubbish Home »
- Access to Nature Should be a Human Right - Report »
- Sending Packages Using Green Logistics »
- Tetra Pak Sets Industry Benchmark with Science Based Target Approval »
- Launch of Positive Environment News »