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ARBORETUM APPAREL IS AN
ECO-FASHION BOUTIQUE IN
WHICH IS PIONEERING ‘FASHION
MILES’ – WE SPOKE WITH CO-
STOREOWNER ANDREA BARRETT
ABOUT THE CONCEPT.
q. What was the inspiration behind ‘fashion miles’?
a. The concept isn’t dissimilar to ‘food miles’. Here in the US and
many other parts of the world, people are becoming more aware of
where their food comes from and what it has to go through.
q. Aside from reducing pollution, what are some of the other
benefits of sourcing clothes locally?
a. It provides the consumer with total transparency. It also helps
support local commerce and independent designers.
q. Has the idea caught on in any other places you know of?
a. So far Arboretum seems to be leading the way with this concept.
Our store is one of the only boutiques that does not stock any
collection made in China... where the work conditions for labourers
are highly questionable and there is next to zero environmental
concern within factories.
q. What are your tips to people in other parts of the world who are
interested in trying ‘fashion miles’?
a. You have to continually ask questions from those that you do
business with... Where is this made? Do they have fair labour
practices? Is it possible to make it here? And demand much more
from your retailers – let them know how you feel [about ethical
shopping]. Also, look for local designers and host an event just for
them to raise awareness in your city for independent ‘artists’ who
are living and creating right in your own town!
t’s not for nothing that they say fashion is a superficial industry. For
who would guess, amid the bright lights and luxurious surroundings
of a fashion show, the sort of destructive means that can go into
creating a collection. For the majority of clothes made from cotton –
about 40 per cent – that translates to 25 per cent of the pesticides
sprayed in the world each year. Then there is the process of treating and dying
fabrics with harmful chemicals, not to mention the vast distances clothes are
transported, adding to the build-up of greenhouse g ases in the atmosphere. It
kind of makes it easier, handing over your credit card for a new garment,
when you don’t see the hidden cost charged to the earth.
While international designers like Stella McCartney – famous for her
anti-fur and leather stance – have added greatly to the rise of sustainable
design, it still accounts for a tiny fraction of the industry. Increasingly, it
is up to consumers to seek out ethical alternatives.
One boutique in Healdsburg, a small town in northern
California, is leading the way with its ‘fashion miles’ concept.
Arboretum Apparel adapted the philosophy from ‘food miles’,
which measures the distance products travel between production
and consumption. “The less distance, the less fossil fuels it uses to g et there,”
says Arboretum’s Andrea Barrett. “We make it a priority to buy apparel that is
made within the US first and foremost.” (See Fashion Miles, right.)
Keeping track of ‘fashion miles’ is more difficult in Australia, since
manufacturing has largely moved off shore. Lisa Gorman, designer and
founder of leading Australian label Gorman, says this means it’s often better
to produce clothes in Asia, where the majority of organic cotton is grown.
“Producing the clothing there doesn’t really increase the ‘fashion miles’ at
all,” she says. “If anything, it might reduce it, because otherwise you’d have to
send the fabric to a manufacturer somewhere else.”
Gorman has built its brand on sustainable practices, with its organic line
accounting for 20 per cent of the label. “We definitely have people seek us
out because they want to buy consciously,” Lisa says. Still, these consumers
are in the minority. “There’s a lot of people who don’t care,” Lisa says. “I
think because the pesticides and chemicals and fossil fuels that go into
creating textiles just seem so removed from their daily life.”
If the lack of demand for eco-fashion signals indifference, then West
Australians are among the most guilty of this. Without a strong sustainable
fashion scene, the impetus is on young designers to sew in a new direction. In
2009, Andrea Wolf won the inaugural eco-design award for Student Runway
at the Perth Fashion Festival (PFF). She went on to launch her label in 2010,
using a range of organic and recycled fabrics. “I just think the way we’ve been
moving in this really large-scale, industrial style of manufacturing can’t go on
forever,” she says. “There will come a point when the land can’t be reg enerated.”
But eco-fashion isn’t a term Andrea wants to be affixed with: “For me, ethics
should just be a part of the label. Not something advertised as a benefit.”
At PFF 2010, fashion student Alissia Gomez, from Polytechnic West, won
the eco-design award with a patchwork dress made entirely from recycled
textiles (“Most of the fabric I use is found either on e-bay or at op-shops”).
While eco-fashion is still a relatively small movement in Australia, she says the
vintag e trend makes it easy to buy ethically. “Vintag e is pretty fashionable at
the moment,” she says. “People sometimes have trouble finding pieces that fit
well – but if you’re prepared to make some alterations, or use the old fabric to
create something new, that can turn into something really interesting.”
Still, it doesn’t matter how eco-friendly a garment may be, if the owner wears
it twice before losing interest, it’s a wasteful purchase. Having a clear fashion
conscience requires looking further into the future than what’s on-trend this
season. “There’s enough fast-fashion out there,” says Lisa Gorman. “You’re
not meant to have several thousand items in your wardrobe. It’s best to get a
few good pieces that will last several years. That is the most sustainable option.”
LEFT Lisa Gorman (top) is
an ethical leader; Gorman
Organic trench. BELOW
NY Fashion Week shots
(top) and Esthetica at
London Fashion Week.
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