This week is Fashion Revolution week and LuLu Manna is proud to be a part of the revolution. We thought what better week for us to share a blog about how local businesses are Paddling madly to stay afloat in a sea of fast fashion….
How do you combat a worldwide trend/problem when you are a small industry with fewer and fewer resources behind you? As more and more large international online retailers spread their reach into the relatively small Australian market, local manufacturers and designers struggle to maintain their presence. Ever more availability and marketing increases fast fashion’s appeal to both time-poor working women, and young women and teenagers focused on having the latest item for their ever-increasing wardrobes.
A building “slow fashion” movement is taking shape, but convincing consumers to invest more in quality items of clothing instead of the cheaper options is not easy. Concerns about ethical supply chains arose after the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh five years ago, and some consumers now research and shop accordingly, but they are in the minority. Price is the main stumbling block for most people, and Australian manufacturers are up against the ability of firms who manufacture offshore to supply their clothes more cheaply, even with freight and customs duty factored in.
One of the reasons that drove me to create Lulu Manna was my belief in the maintenance of a local industry. Designers like myself are conscious that we have already lost around 60,000 people (and their valuable expertise) from our local textile manufacturing industry. Once those skills leave the industry, they are almost impossible to regain. Local manufacturing also provides work for a little-regarded sector of the workforce – migrant women, who bring skills to Australia or learn them here from their community base. We are helping to power the economy, not only by developing our own small businesses, but also by contracting other small businesses to do our garment construction.
The pastime of high street and boutique shopping can be both relaxing and exciting, as the tactile sensation of holding and trying on garments in pursuit of deciding on a purchase heightens the experience. Newer upmarket shopping spaces and smaller artisan marketplaces are encouraging a trend to shop in store for items like homewares and it would be great to see urban planners and shopping centre designers working with the fashion industry to develop these opportunities for fashion shopping a.s well
Education would seem to be the key to changing consumer attitudes, both in terms of sustainability and quality over quantity, but is it the only way to stem the rising tide of fast fashion? Promoting unique designs, which don’t necessarily follow every fly-by-night trend, is one way to tempt those customers who don’t want to look like everyone else walking down the street. Television programs like the ABC’s “The War On Waste” are also helpful to illustrate the problems associated with disposable fashion, but the industry needs to find other ways to demonstrate the benefits of investing time, research and a few extra dollars as part of our shopping habits, as well as the joy of both hunting for and trying on that marvellous item in your local boutique.