Working with brands, retailers and individuals in Australia on strategy and training for sustainable and circular fashion is deeply rewarding and fun. Yet, when you zoom out to think about the big picture of climate change, equality and human flourishing, it can oftentimes feel like you are taking very small steps with no significant change. So, this year I have found it useful to reflect and review the year that’s been and to give myself a kick into action for 2020 (once I’ve had a much-needed rest!):

This year has seen sustainability, climate change and environmental issues hit the global headlines and in the fashion industry it’s been no different.

There was a whole range of actors and voices raising awareness of these issues, from the Extinction Rebellion activists at London Fashion Week (see image above) to the French president summoning global fashion brands to sign a joint sustainability ‘pact’. This year proved that transparency has finally became a major strategy and there was more awareness and discussions from brands, retailers and consumers about the damaging impacts of the fashion industry on people and planet.

In 2020, we will hopefully start to see some of this awareness and empathy translate into real action and implementation of change in business operations, supply chains and end-of-life pathways for clothing. For example, the innovations in materials and systems that we have seen emerging on the edges of the industry (from subscription-based business models to fibre recycling technologies) may finally start to gain mainstream traction.

There were several initiatives launched globally including the G7 Fashion Pact initiated by the French President mentioned above; the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion; and the UN Fashion Charter for Climate Action, recently signed by our very own industry body, the Australian Fashion Council (AFC).

In Australia, there is finally real engagement and interest in the end-of-life impacts of clothing and textiles. I was interviewed by the ABC on the key issues around recycling textiles here. In November, the NSW government hosted a stakeholder workshop in Sydney to explore circular textiles. In Melbourne, Deakin University hosted state government agencies, brands and the end-of-life sector (charity shops and commercial textile recyclers) to understand the barriers and opportunities around circular fashion and product stewardship for clothing. While both of these events were primarily mapping the problem, it shows a strong willingness from all of the stakeholders to start taking action and collaborating for change.

And at the national level, a Recycling Fund was launched by the Prime Minister for projects looking at new ideas around recycling plastics and textiles. So let’s wait and see what new innovations and ideas come from this national investment!

Cotton was in the news with heated discussions amongst industry players on organic cotton versus conventional cotton. The 2019 Preferred Fibres List from Textile Exchange once again showed the ongoing take-up by brands of regenerated cellulose fibres such as Tencel, a key fibre that has the potential to solve our over-reliance on fossil-fuel hungry polyester. From a trends perspective, linen was the ‘hot’ fibre of the year in Australia and I was interviewed for a Guardian piece about the sustainability attributes of this natural, ‘low-key lux’ fabric.

Brands are also starting to engage with circular economy principles and circular design. I worked with an Australian corporate group who own several brands on a circular design training for their design and product teams. We explored the technical and biological nutrient cycles of textiles and clothing (natural and synthetic fibres) and mapped the ‘inner loops’ of resale, repair and remanufacture.

In Australia, we had several new industry events launched including Legacy Summit in Sydney exploring responsible business in fashion; and Raw Assembly, a sustainable fabric trade fair in both Sydney and Melbourne. And Clare Press continued with the Wardrobe Crisis podcast, presenting another series of insightful interviews with leaders across the global sustainable fashion landscape.

Australian brands large and small are finally beginning to gain confidence and traction in their strategies and communications – a few notable examples include Elk, who released their first Transparency Report; and Country Road who launched the first fashion retail space in Australia to get a 5 Star Rating from the Green Building Council.

So all in all, its been a really fruitful and engaged year in the Australian sustainable fashion space and I feel super proud and privileged to be part of this amazing community and industry. But we must also remember that most of the improvements and changes we are seeing from industry and other stakeholders are primarily technological –  what we really need is a shift in mindsets and values that can support a new human relationship to the planet – particularly in these times of climate crisis and political indifference.

Onwards and upwards friends and I look forward to seeing what 2020 brings in this exciting and dynamic industry space!