Designers Emily Miller Sharma (left) and Kate Sylvester (right) have launched Mindful Fashion New Zealand. Image by Babiche Martens.
Sustainability and ethical fashion have been increasingly hot topics of conversation over the past few years with designers feeling the pressure to be as transparent as possible. While many designers are doing the right thing with their supply chains, the very nature of how complicated supply chains can be and how difficult and expensive it can be for businesses to trace absolutely everything has made being 100% transparent pretty much impossible for many.
This is where new fashion initiative Mindful Fashion New Zealand is aiming to change things using the collective power of New Zealand designers together to share costs and information. One of the key issues is the cost of auditing each supplier to ensure ethical practices and as many local businesses use the same suppliers it makes sense for them to band together to share those costs and create a code of conduct to make sure everyone’s garments are being made fairly.
Mindful Fashion New Zealand is the brainchild of Emily Miller-Sharma, designer of Liam and general manager of RUBY and designer Kate Sylvester, who saw the need for New Zealand designers to come together to create change. Among the other brands and designers to sign up so far are Tanya Carlson, Juliette Hogan, Ingrid Starnes, Maggie Marilyn, Paris Georgia, Wynn Hamlyn, Twenty Seven Names, Kowtow, Nom*D, Nature Baby and Zambesi.
The patron of Mindful Fashion New Zealand is Dame Pieter Stewart, founder of New Zealand Fashion Week and someone who has championed local fashion for decades. She is aware, like the designers, of how important it is for fashion brands to be transparent about their supply chains, as now more than ever consumers are demanding to know where their clothes were made and that those workers were treated fairly.
Working together in this way means the designers can have more bargaining power when it comes to things like purchasing fabric and come up with ways to ensure the survival of the local clothing production industry. Fashion has typically been fairly secretive about things like suppliers as in a competitive industry everyone is trying to ensure their products get made in a timely fashion and they are staying ahead.
That approach clearly isn’t working though as fashion has become a fractured business and as a viewing of documentary The True Cost will tell you, fashion is one of the most polluting and exploitative industries globally. The intense media coverage of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 that killed 1134 garment workers brought to the forefront the endemic issues in the fashion industry that many have been working to fix since then. There are some very complex issues to solve though but with businesses working collectively there is a positive way forward that can benefit all.
This new initiative is an exciting step forward for New Zealand’s fashion industry and we will keep you up to date with how it moves forward.