From Farm To Frock
Updated: Feb 10
Yes. Imagine if we had a complete Australian garment value chain.
I have my eye on a gorgeous, purple, merino wool wrap dress from an online shop in Hobart.
The merino wool is Tasmanian as is the frock design and assembly.
But the scouring, dyeing and spinning of said merino all happens overseas.
So my soft, biodegradable garment made from local renewable fibres will have had 2 overseas trips before I frock up with some strappy tan leather wedges or navy over-the-knee suede boots.
Plus, even with free frock shipping from Hobart, I won’t get much change out of $350.
So I'd want to get many, many hours of wear and take tremendous care of this garment. And I would wish it was grown, designed and made completely in Australia.
LET'S WHIP OVER TO ROMA
Italy, not Queensland.
About 6 weeks ago, the creative director of Gucci, Alessandro Michele, announced that Gucci was slashing the number of fashion shows it holds each year from five to two. And declared the fashion calendar obsolete.
Thanks to COVID-19, international fashion shows have been stopped in their tracks with shows scheduled for June and July cancelled, and the September fashion weeks in doubt. COVID-19 has forced Gucci to more closely scrutinise the haute couture business and its impact on the planet.
Michele makes the link between fashion shows and the problem of sustainability :
“Above all, we understand we went way too far. Our reckless actions have burned the house we live in. We conceived of ourselves as separated from nature, we felt cunning and almighty.”
One could argue that sustainability is already built-in to luxury fashion because those products are not disposable, the quality is long-lasting, and they are often passed down through generations.
But ultimately, sustainable transformation is a far more complex and multifaceted task than reducing the number of shows and the number of collections ; or hoping that the garment is properly cared for and treasured.
It is the transformation of materials, design, development, production, organizational processes and implementation of new business models that drives sustainability to ensure operation.
BACK TO MY MERINO FROCK
The pandemic has highlighted some drawbacks of globalisation not really seen since WWII.
Many channels have become more difficult to traverse, or have closed down altogether.
These global supply chain issues present a way for AU to add serious value to our world class fibre.
So investment in local and modern wool processing plants represents a significant opportunity.
Free from the constraints of long transit times, global geopolitics and fluctuations in the US dollar, a local SHEEP to SHELF or FARM to FROCK industry can have better control over product quality and a tighter, more resilient supply chain.
Local production will mean a more globally potent Australian Sheep Sustainability Framework - from renewable power, efficient water management and meeting high environmental standards ; to ensuring the regional skilled workforce is employed under and protected by Fair Work Laws.
More than this, we could protect processing and fibre technology IP and licence production models to processors in other countries.
Australia could have a hand in improving the health and livelihoods of impoverished workers in other countries and ease the burden of wool processing on our global ecology.
I also think the completeness of the 'human Australian' and the interlocking of unique local skills would add much to the provenance story : breeding, farming, shearing, classing, freighting; then process engineering, colour and fibre chemistry, material science, production, quality, fashion design , tailoring, machining, merchandising and retailing.
It means that perhaps the arts could be valued as much as STEM in our recent university fee changes.
Surely there is power in the multiple proportions that we could generate from bringing these disciplines together.
And so for Brand Australia, a longer, more beautiful and truly Australian provenance story would more than justify the already premium ticketed price.
And for that, the fine purveyors of the fetching purple frock can keep the change.