Published on 25/03/19
Circular fashion includes innovative recycling practices and new techniques to minimise and reduce waste in the textile, clothing and footwear supply chains. And while Ethical Clothing Australia’s (ECA) accreditation program is focussed on labour rights, we are right behind the work being undertaken to improve circular fashion. With the 2019 Australian Circular Fashion Conference being held in Melbourne last week (21 March), it’s a great time to celebrate some of the ECA-accredited manufacturers who are prioritising environmental sustainability alongside ethical production in their businesses. Arnsdorf is the finalof three manufacturers we’ll profile in this series about brands putting their environmental values right up there with their ethics.
Jade Sarita Arnott founded Arnsdorf in 2006, but disillusionment with mainstream fashion’s modus operandi prompted her to take a four-year break. When she relaunched in 2017, ethics and environmental sustainability were front and centre.
When Jade Sarita Arnott of Arnsdorf founded her label in 2006, longevity, natural fibres and organic fibres were important, but her production was outsourced to factories where environmental and labour practices were not particularly transparent, and garments were sold wholesale to premium boutiques around the world.
Growing disillusionment with “the current fashion system” prompted her to take a break and completely rethink her approach.
“I felt a growing sense of uneasiness around the way the fashion industry was set up. The lack of transparency; the outsourcing of production and ethics; the alienation of women; the environmental trauma and never-ending oversupply and waste,” says Jade.
“Shortly after making the decision to cease production in 2012, the Rana Plaza collapse occurred. This was a seminal moment when I decided if I was ever going to re-enter the fashion industry, it would be with complete control and visibility over my supply chain.”
When the label relaunched in 2017, it was with those same core elements – longevity, natural fibres and organic fibres – but in a whole new way.
“This time around, the business is vertically integrated. Everything is produced in house at our own Arnsdorf factory, with the exception of denim, and sold directly to customers through our own sales channels. We reveal the process, materials and costs that go into making every piece as part of our mission to bring a new wave of transparency to fashion and e-commerce.”
Jade has done away with traditional seasons and the prolonged cycles of waste that follow. Now, Arnsdorf releases considered trans-seasonal collections. It produces limited runs of each item, and releases pieces individually as they’re created. It doesn’t hold excessive amounts of inventory, and never goes on sale. It also offers free tailoring and repairs.
“It’s really heartening seeing so many people engaged in these conversations and understanding the urgency for us all to act now. Our intention is to support our clients build a purposeful wardrobe and encourage them to have long term relationships with garments of value. To reinforce this idea, we offer free repairs and tailoring.”
At her Collingwood-based factory, Jade employs seven people: Gemma, production manager; Olivia, operations and communications manager; Michael, cutter; and machinists Annie, Thi, Thi Ca and Kahn. They’ve recently moved to a bigger, 300-square-metre space; an open, light-filled environment where everyone works alongside each other.
Having her own factory means that Jade can ensure the people who make Arnsdorf’s clothes are treated well. It also gives her ultimate control over her production cycle and materials.
“By having our own factory and by employing our machinists directly, we are able to respond to demand swiftly. We can produce for the demand as opposed to over producing product that might not sell. We produce styles in small batch manufacturing and regularly do top ups on styles that are close to selling out.”
She finds ensuring her offcuts don’t go to waste one of the most challenging aspects in closing the loop on Arnsdorf’s practices.
“We explore repurposing the offcuts into other products. We recently collaborated with a local shoe makerwhere they produced slides made from the offcuts of our silk velvet used for our Dawn Jumpsuit. We also explore zero waste pattern cutting techniques in some garments and the rest of our offcuts are donated to a creative arts therapy practice.”
Jade encourages other brands looking to improve their environmental footprints to get started as soon as possible.
Even small steps towards becoming circular can make a big impact. Start one step at a time and build on this; it’s an ongoing process of refinement and evolution.”
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA®) was a proud media partner of the 2019 Australian Circular Fashion Conference, held on March 21 in Melbourne.