There is an almost-smug sense of satisfaction in knowing that your soft, embroidered shirt is made of 100% organic cotton and was produced locally to minimize impacts of product transportation.
A similar sense of gratification can be found in the knowledge that the Nepalese craftswoman who wove the scarf around your shoulders was paid fair wages to produce the handmade item in ethical working conditions.
To promote and deliver this degree of ethical consummation is the goal of the team behind the Fair@Square Fair Trade Fashion Show, with an ethos that encourages sustainable fashion design and consumption.
This month’s Fair@Square Fashion Show, held at Federation Square’s BMW Edge, was hosted by K is for Kani fashion blogger Connie Cao, and opened by Melbourne City Councillor Arron Wood who joked; “I’m the least fashionable person you’ll see up here tonight.”
In his opening address, Cr Wood reminded the audience of the importance of promoting sustainability in our daily lives.
“The way we purchase is a powerful message to send to manufacturers,” he said.
“It’s about taking small steps to a more sustainable future.”
The Fair@Square show, a conglomeration of sustainable fashion put together by stylist Julia-Louise Premoselli, showcased local designers who value eco-friendly design and ethical production practices.
“I think some people might have a negative connotation when it comes to ethical fashion, and I wanted to change that, and to show that there are brands that are both fabulous and eco friendly,” Julia-Louise explained.
“Eco-fashion doesn’t have to just be hemp pants and organic tee shirts, there’s a lot more to it!”
In a guest presentation, sustainable fashion guru and Swinburne lecturer Nerida Lennon noted that fashion is one of the most environmentally polluted industries in the world.
“It often feels like we’re swimming upstream and against the current, but environmental and social responsibility is worth taking a stand for,” she said.
Nerida also noted that independent Australian brands were leading the way in being both more innovative and responsible in their approach to sustainability.
The designers on show for the Fair@Square show were no exception, demonstrating a vast array of sustainable design. The runway opened with a floral bang; ‘50s-style Tropicana bikinis by Jets were paired with Melissa shoes and K is for Kani floral crowns.
Traditional folk prints on jumpsuits and dresses by Kissin Cussin followed, as well as long flowing organic cotton kaftans from Bacchara, and sleek separates in organic cotton from Sosume.
Bento delivered soft separates in hues of the desert, beige, khaki, peach and sheer animal-print blouses, while The Social Studio delivered printed separates with crafted clutches and accessories.
Men’s organic street-wear by FOLKE was paired with Proof wooden eyewear and innovative raincoats and bags made out of recycled garbage bags by Oiga! Design. Splashes of tie-dye were evident in Found menswear, the chemical-free cotton for which is sourced from Indian farmers.
Peacock and floral patterned sundresses by Pure Pod were a kitschy and ethical splash and bright, graphic leggings by Pins for Lydra showcased the designs of local artists. Fun, graphic-printed cotton dresses and skirts were on offer from New Model Beauty Queen; in vibrant hues of blue and pink, paired with Elgar & Lyle jewellery.
Accessories and jewellery designs by Andeol, Constance Roe and Ghost & Lola were scattered throughout the collections, as well as molten pieces by Mettle; a label which has unique jewellery crafted from recycled bomb shell metal and Lucite, by members of the local communites in Cambodia and Indonesia.
The show was a vibrant success and showcased how far the sustainable fashion industry continues to progress.
More than a “trendy” niche offering, Fair@Square Festival organizer Susanna Bevilacqua notes that sustainable fashion has grown in popularity among a younger demographic in the last few years.
“Consumers are much more aware of the environmental impacts these days,” she said.
“The Fair@Square festival has been received really well in Melbourne. I think sustainable design is certainly growing with the younger generation.”
Connie Cao agreed that supporting sustainable fashion was an important part of belonging to the fashion community and noted the benefits of shopping second hand.
“To know that you’re helping the environment by not letting things go to landfill and getting as much wear as possible out of clothing is really important,” she said.
Sustainable and responsible design practices are becoming a widely promoted and expected element of fashion. The more we progress into the 21st century, the more we, as collective consumers start to understand the impact our frivolous decisions may have.
As runway stylist Julia-Louise noted, with the evening drawing to a close: “Fashion is something we all wear, so it’s a way that we can all make a positive impact.”
Image by Camille Gower