Published on 18/03/19
Circular fashion includes innovative recycling practices to reduce residual waste in 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 coming up in Melbourne this week (21 March), it’s a great time to profile some of the ECA-accredited manufacturers and what they are doing to improve their environmental sustainability, alongside their ethical production. Citizen Wolf is one example of an accredited business that is putting their environmental values up-there with their ethics.
Former colleagues in an ad agency Zoltan Csaki and Eric Phu founded their Sydney-based circular label, Citizen Wolf, in 2016. Ethical and environmentally sustainable practices have been front and centre from the get-go.
The pair met at the ad agency back in 2003. Zoltan was working on the creative side, and Eric was on the business side. Years later, and both back in Sydney after time overseas, they met up again and had one of those conversations that turns into a seminal life moment.
“Eric is short. He’d been in Hong Kong where it was easy to get anything tailored; when we caught up, he complained that here in Australia unless he wanted to wear a fancy suit the experience of shopping sucked for someone like him. By that time, I’d already launched a menswear label, so I knew enough about making clothes to take it somewhere. I thought he was making a really interesting point, and nobody else seemed to be tackling the problem of tailoring for casual clothes,” says Zoltan.
The pair set out to present a new option to the market and came up with their own digital tailoring algorithm, which they call Magic Fit, for their “smarter casual” brand, Citizen Wolf. It asks online customers to enter simple biometric data that everyone knows: height, weight and date of birth, to help to generate the right fit. Then, customers select their fabric type and colour from an online palette.
Right now Citizen Wolf is focusing on t-shirts and long sleeves, but the business is working on expanding its range. Every garment is made to order. Zoltan and Eric take a strong ethical stance on all aspects of production and say zero waste is non-negotiable.
“Australia is the second largest consumer of textiles per capita in the world. Sadly, almost all of it ends up in landfill. Worse, the majority of these textiles are blended non-biodegradable polyester which will pollute for centuries,” says Zoltan.
“That’s why we never source petroleum derived yarns or blends and only use naturally biodegradable fibres such as cotton, wool, linen and hemp. Wherever possible, we also source deadstock.”
When they started out, they couldn’t find a factory that was willing to be as vigilant with its ethical and environmental practices as they needed it to be – so they had to create their own.
“Disappointingly, we found that many in the industry don’t want to change. In the beginning, we kept hitting walls. People said we were crazy; that it couldn’t be done the way we wanted to do it. So, we had to create our own factory.”
Zoltan and Eric have just moved production from out the back of their original Darlinghurst shop to a dedicated 200-square-metre space in St Peters. Here, four full time staff perform every stage of Citizen Wolf garment manufacturing, from washing and cutting through to sewing and dispatch. It’s been a lot of work, but now that it’s happened, the pair are reaping the benefits.
“Over time, we’ve been able to improve our delivery time from four weeks to 10 days on an order; by the end of this year it will be five days,” says Zoltan.
At Citizen Wolf clothing is made on demand, so there’s no unsold inventory going to landfill. Even still, the business produces hundreds of kilograms of cutting scraps every month.In most factories this would just get thrown out, but we’re working hard on becoming a zero-waste company. This means making sure our waste streams up and is recycled into new products. There’s an end-of-life stewardship component to what we’re doing, and that feels good – it’s the right thing to do.”
To make garments last longer, all fabric is pre-shrunk before cutting to ensure they’re stable, and they offer free repairs for life.
“We’ve noticed that when people are involved in the creation of their garments, they have a deeper emotional connection. When you love something; you use it more. You wear it more.”
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA®) is a proud media partner of the 2019 Australian Circular Fashion Conference, being held on March 21 in Melbourne.
Zoltan Csaki of Citizen Wolf has written an article that will feature in the ACFC magazine, to be distributed at the conference.