Published on 20/03/19
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 on this week in Melbourne (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. Farm To Hanger is the second of three manufacturers we’ll profile in this series about brands putting their environmental values right up there with their ethics.
Before embarking on a career in fashion, Anna-Louise Howard spent 25 years’ as an environmental landscape photographer. The devastation she witnessed to the earth and its populations was a key driver behind her determination that her brand Farm To Hanger would be zero-waste.
“I witnessed first-hand the damage being caused to the environment by many industries – including the fashion industry. Over time I began to realise that I was always at the wrong end of the photo, I was capturing the resulting pollution, the after effect. That’s when I decided to put the camera down and focus on making real change, says Anna-Louise.
After an earlier venture with another brand in 2013, Anna-Louise refocused on climate change, and on reducing industrial pollution and carbon emissions. She created Farm To Hanger in 2017, and now produces garments in a completely traceable, transparent and circular way.
As part of its commitment to social responsibility, Farm To Hanger only uses Australian products, manufacturing and people.
“After researching fabric processes and content sources we chose a specific, single origin cotton that is grown under best management practices in Queensland by a multi-generational farming family and made into sustainable fabric in Queensland and Victoria. As a vegan product that is resource efficient, it underpins our brand’s product traceability.”
“T-shirts are the single highest polluting garment in the world so I created a t-shirt that uses 75 per cent less water than average and is biodegradable with carbon offsets. It’s now a permanent product line and Farm To Hanger staple.”
Like many circular brands, Farm To Hanger’s business model is customer-driven. Customer feedback has led to new product lines of underwear, camisoles and dresses.
In May 2018 Farm To Hanger relocated to Daylesford in country Victoria (about 110 kilometres out of Melbourne) to build a 100 per cent sustainable off-grid apparel factory.
“It will be a solar passive building with solar roof panels, water tanks and off grid septic for zero emission, carbon positive manufacturing. When the new factory is complete it will be able to house 30 staff, surrounded by a permaculture garden and lunchtime yoga classes, self-sufficient, responsible manufacturing that has people’s wellness at its core.”
Anna-Louise says that her commitment to creating a culture of quality of life is only half of what it takes to create a circular fashion brand.
“Closing the loop on the ecological life cycle of the garments is imperative in avoiding industrial waste, pollution and consumer landfill.”
Farm To Hanger’s repair and recycle service extends the life-cycle of garments for customers. Other waste textiles are divided and used to create either charity toys for animal rescue shelters or composted back to soil to use on factory grounds.
This transparency has led other brands who use the same fabrics to send their textile waste to Farm To Hanger to be repurposed and turned into compost, reducing the collective footprint.
“I always set out to be circular. My biggest challenge is educating people about what this really means, what I’m doing and how that differs from other brands. In order to make real lasting change, we need the habits of the masses to shift from fast fashion to sustainable fashion and fashion brands to move to ethical and circular business models.”
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA®) is a proud media partner of the 2019 Australian Circular Fashion Conference, being held on March 21 in Melbourne.