Published on 15/09/19
Whilst the interest in ethical fashion continues to rise and the voice of the ethical consumer grows louder, there remains a large portion of the community unaware of the vast non-compliance within the Australian textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) manufacturing industry. Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA®) works to solve non-compliance issues as a third-party accreditation body that audits TCF businesses’ supply chains to ensure they are meeting their legal obligations with respect to their workers’ rights, wages, entitlements and conditions. Labels such as A.BCH are helping to achieve this by actively seeking out and committing to accreditation by ECA. ECA spoke to Founder and Designer Courtney Holm to discuss her ECA accreditation and the values she has instilled into the A.BCH brand.
A.BCH is an independent fashion label based in Melbourne that employs circular design principles – a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emissions and energy leakage are minimised and the full lifecycle of each garment is considered. Since its launch in 2017, A.BCH has manufactured locally in Melbourne, citing much greater control over production quality, minimised wastage and the ability to maintain adaptive timelines as the main motivations. Becoming accredited with ECA was always part of A.BCH’s business plan, with the label’s accreditation completed in April 2018.
Business owner and Designer Courtney Holm says having close working relationships is highly beneficial to the business, as it gives her more agility to update fits and sizing based on customer feedback, while also keeping her connected to the relationship between the design and manufacture of a garment. Working closely with local makers and manufacturers that have been subject to ECA’s compliance checks offers peace of mind that the people in her supply chain are receiving their pay, entitlements and working in safe conditions – in line with Australian law. A.BCH’s ECA accreditation and the rigorous process of compliance auditing also helps identify risks and blind spots throughout her supply chain.
“Without transparency, we cannot possibly hold ourselves accountable to doing the right thing all the time, or to improve and raise our standards as we grow. I see it as not only important, but essential for all businesses who make things,” Courtney says.
Being involved with their makers in a very real and direct way is something the label takes pride in – communicating this back to their customers is part of the brand’s ethos. Courtney says that while A.BCH customers care about ethical and environmental commitment and actions, this isn’t the only reason for the label’s success. A passion for and dedication to creating good design is just as important – garments should equally be beautiful and desirable. “Good design considers the entire lifecycle of a product in its inception, ensuring it is responsibly made and solves a problem. There is no point in creating the most sustainable garment in the world if no-one wants to wear it,” she says.
The label experienced an exciting year of growth last year, doubling its business in less than a year and adding to its small team. It has received various accolades in this period too, including a nomination for the Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Awards, an inclusion as a finalist in the coveted BT Emerging Fashion Designer Award 2019 and the recipient of a Creators Fund grant from Creative Victoria to undertake studies in zero waste, technology and customisation.
Courtney cites ECA as a huge support in answering questions as her business grows and promoting the label to customers who may be searching for ethical, Australian made garments.