Skip to main content

Local Fashion Industry Welcomes Ethical Clothing Australia to Brisbane!

Event

Local Fashion Industry Welcomes Ethical Clothing Australia to Brisbane!

A starry winter evening was the backdrop for “Impact and Purpose: A night in Brisbane with Ethical Clothing Australia” – an invitation-only event for local industry and the official launch of Ethical Clothing Australia’s partnership with Fashion Queensland.  

Founded by fashion journalist and event producer Laura Churchill, Fashion Queensland has always focused on supporting and promoting the state’s vibrant local garment industry. As Ethical Clothing Australia’s accreditation program continues to expand around the country, this partnership was natural fit!  

ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 16
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 12
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 20
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 4
All images by Caroline Attwood

Nearly 30 guests from the local textile, clothing, and footwear industries, including accredited businesses, emerging designers, manufacturers, established labels, retailers, and representatives from the TCF Union, joined the Ethical Clothing Australia team and Fashion Queensland’s Laura Churchill at West End art gallery Vacant Assembly.   

Among the guests were Michelle McClure from MCC Manufacturing and Barbara Spooner from Ethical Edge Collective and brand Birds on Bikes, who were attending their first event as newly accredited businesses. Barbara and Michelle were guests at the first Brisbane Pop-Up at Practice Studios in February as prospective businesses – four months later it was wonderful to have them at this event as representatives of a growing number of accredited businesses in Queensland!  

ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 15
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 6
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 18 copy
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 10
All images by Caroline Attwood

A deep commitment to ethical practices

In the opening conversation between Laura Churchill and Ethical Clothing Australia’s National Manager Rachel Reilly, Rachel looked back at the 23-year history and purpose of the organisation 

“Ethical Clothing Australia is an accreditation body that, since the year 2000, has been committed to protecting and upholding the labour rights of garment workers,” she said.  

“We all know that supply chains in the fashion industry can be very complex. This can create conditions where workers – particularly those who are vulnerable like outworkers, who sew in their homes and are contracted as part of a supply chain – are vulnerable to poor working conditions or exploitation. Ethical Clothing Australia is a collaborative, multi-stakeholder approach between the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Union and industry that is designed to address these issues in a way that is human-centred, on the ground and supportive.”  

With an audience of designers, small business owners and sole traders, Rachel was also quick to point out that the program is open to businesses of all sizes and at all stages – whether they are just starting out or established and whether they are a sole trader who manufactures themselves or a designer who contracts out to skilled garment workers.   

“It’s a powerful choice when a sole trader, a designer or a business owner commits to local and ethical manufacturing.   

“Sole traders are eligible as they themselves are workers and deserve support and access to the subject matter expertise of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union. 

“Designers and businesses are eligible for accreditation if they have in-house operations such as a machinist or if they outsource for the manufacture of textile, clothing or footwear through a local supply chain in Australia.”  

“It’s a powerful choice when a sole trader, a designer or a business owner commits to local and ethical manufacturing.”

— Rachel Reilly, Ethical Clothing Australia

“By going through the audit process and becoming accredited, a business is not only making a commitment to ethics,” she continued. “They are also building the strongest foundation for themselves because they have ensured they are compliant with all aspects of the TCFAI Award and other relevant Australian workplace legislation.  

“The program can also support scaling up and growth, making sure they are able to do so in line with the relevant laws.” 

ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 7
L-R: Rachel Reilly, National Manager at Ethical Clothing Australia in conversation with Laura Churchill, Founder of Fashion Queensland. 

Rachel also touched on why Brisbane and Queensland are an important focus for Ethical Clothing Australia right now. 

“From our own Queensland accredited businesses to Fashion Queensland’s community of over 350 designers, many of whom are manufacturing locally, we know there is a thriving industry of designers, makers and manufacturers here,” she said. 

“We see a real opportunity to grow in this state. Even just from a couple of chats here tonight, I can see there’s such a deep commitment to ethical practices,” she went on. “The response for tonight speaks for itself!” 

The conversation also did not shy away from the realities of making clothes in Australia. 

“We’re stagnant right now in terms of capability and skills,” Rachel said when Laura asked what she thought was the major challenge facing the local industry. “We’re heading upwards and everyone in this room is a part of that, but it is still a challenge for everyone when it comes to skills and capabilities.” 

She also pointed out that Ethical Clothing Australia not only has their focus on supporting Queensland fashion, but also on contributing to a robust local garment industry – sharing that the organisation is advocating to the Queensland government to encourage investment back into the local industry for the benefit of designers, brands and manufacturers. 

“The Queensland government actually has an extraordinary procurement policy,” she explained. “One that preferences procuring from local manufacturers and brands. 

“Now we need to keep pushing government to use that enormous buying power to invest in the local TCF industry, because with that investment comes confidence, innovation and growth of those capabilities.” 

ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 9

“I wanted to make it as transparent as possible for my customers”

The insightful conversations continued with Chamani Weerasekara from accredited brand CHAMANI speaking with Louisa Ramsay, Ethical Clothing Australia’s Accreditation Program Team Leader, to share her real-world experience of the accreditation process – the benefits and the challenges!  

“I was so naive when I started this brand,” said Chamani. “At the beginning I didn’t realise that even in Australia there are people who aren’t getting paid properly. 

“The green washing and the ethical washing are really confusing for consumers, so by getting accredited I wanted to make it as transparent as possible for my customers.” 

Reflecting on how it felt to start the process and begin to understand what would be involved, she laughingly said: “It can be super overwhelming when you get that first email!  

“But very quickly I was put at ease because the whole team is so contactable – they helped me every step of the way. 

“And because I have now gone through the audit every year, it has gotten so much easier!” 

ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 2
L-R: Chamani Weerasekara from accredited brand CHAMANI in conversation with Louisa Ramsay, Ethical Clothing Australia’s Accreditation Program Team Leader

“At the beginning I didn’t realise that even in Australia there are people who aren't getting paid properly.”

— Chamani Weerasekara from accredited brand CHAMANI
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 19
ECA FQ JUNE CA CREATIVE 11

These honest conversations and the community feel of the event led to lots of great questions from the audience and insightful conversations happening around the room – all part of an amazing showing of Brisbane’s innovative, supportive and collaborative fashion and manufacturing community! 

With lots planned between Fashion Queensland and Ethical Clothing Australia for the second half of the year, we look forward to connecting with the local fashion industry in Queensland again and welcoming more businesses to the Ethical Clothing Australia accredited business community!  

Want to learn more about accreditation or talking to one of our advisors? You can take the next steps by taking our online eligibility quiz or you can email our team directly info@ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au. 

 And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay up to date with our events and latest news!  

Ethical Clothing Australia would like to thank Fashion Queensland, Vacant Assembly and Hope St Cafe for their help with this event.