Carol Sae-Yang
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Well Made Clothing

Well Made Clothing

AUSSIE FASHION ECO–CRUSADERS

The global garment industry has spun itself into a tangled yarn of modern moral dilemmas in recent years. On the upside, awareness about the true cost of ‘fast fashion’ is rapidly growing and long gone are the days when ethical consumer choices revolved around hemp concoctions spruiked by stoners at local markets. There’s never been a better time to reconcile your style with a sense of social and environmental responsibility.

But getting customers to convert commercially is still a challenge. We’re embracing the pre-loved seconds market to swoop upon vintage and designer labels offered at more democratic prices, in turn giving clothing and accessories longer lifespans, but we need to brush up on ethical brands and start supporting them whole-heartedly. 

Sustainability in fashion is a mighty broad term. The fashion-industry supply chain is so complex – from seed to fibre (beyond organic materials, should all designers concede to the Stella McCartney model: no leather, no fur, no feathers and no animal skins?), to factory (and the fair wages battle), to retail floors (can you create an entirely eco-friendly fit-out?). So it’s difficult for a fashion label to be absolutely perfect in every way and produce 100% ethically made clothing. 

Clare Press and her book Rise and Resist

Clare Press and her book Rise and Resist

Instead of getting caught up in the infinite details, pick your priorities. For example, start with the materials. It's a myth that ‘natural’ fibres are ‘sustainable’ fibres. Natural fibres just mean that they originated from cellulose or plants, but often the growing of it, or process required to turn it into an actual fabric is riddled with chemicals and nasty non-environmentally friendly practices. So look out for organic fibres, recycled fibres or fabrics produced using a closed loop system. Just as you do in the supermarket aisle, start reading swing tags and research your labels online. Many brands now have a web page dedicated to their ethical practices. 

My go-to resource is Clare Press, the presenter of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast and Australian Vogue's Sustainability Editor-at-Large. Her second book, Wardrobe Crisis, How We Went From Sunday Best To Fast Fashion, is currently sitting on my bedside table. It explores the history and ethics behind what we wear. Press examines the entire fashion eco-system, from sweatshops to haute couture, unearthing the roots of today’s buy-and-discard culture, albeit with sassy banter, insider goss, sprinklings of humour and pressing facts (no pun intended).  

Below are three Aussie businesses that get my ethical tick, offering clothing I WANT to wear:

 

01 . Well Made Clothes

Well Made Clothes is an online platform stocking a mix of small and large brands from Australia, New Zealand and beyond. Labels include: Veja, Limb, Elk, Dress Up, Nobody Denim, Penny Sage, Kowtow, Levi’s and Fillipa K, amongst others.

You can hop onto their Values page and tick what core principles appeal to you when it comes to making a smart purchase: handcrafted, vegan, transparent, local, minimal waste, gender equality, fair and sustainable (click-on’s even allow you to learn what each of these terms actually mean). Instantly, a customised page appears with labels that adhere to your selected ideals and it’s time to shop. Alternatively, you can search by designer.

My casual picks for Summer:

This wide-legged  Carlie Ballard  jumpsuit ($229), is made from hand-woven cotton. And like all in the range, it was produced using fair labour practices. On hot days you can simply accessorise it with a bold straw hat and bright bikini top underneath. It’s so versatile that a singlet or tee can be worn under the straps, so don’t be deterred by the exposed back when it comes to wearing a bra. Or dare to bare and expose a gorgeous bra underneath. The rule: strictly no sports bras (something less chunky).

This wide-legged Carlie Ballard jumpsuit ($229), is made from hand-woven cotton. And like all in the range, it was produced using fair labour practices. On hot days you can simply accessorise it with a bold straw hat and bright bikini top underneath. It’s so versatile that a singlet or tee can be worn under the straps, so don’t be deterred by the exposed back when it comes to wearing a bra. Or dare to bare and expose a gorgeous bra underneath. The rule: strictly no sports bras (something less chunky).

VEJA  is a French sneaker company that uses organic cotton and leather which has been tanned with low levels of chemicals and water for its footwear uppers. It also uses wild rubber from the Amazonian rainforest for its soles. With their signature side ‘V’ on the side of each shoe, they’re a sure ‘peace out’ accessory. White will go with everything, but always save the scuffed pair for weekends only. You can’t go wrong with these V10 – sneakers in black & white ($195).

VEJA is a French sneaker company that uses organic cotton and leather which has been tanned with low levels of chemicals and water for its footwear uppers. It also uses wild rubber from the Amazonian rainforest for its soles. With their signature side ‘V’ on the side of each shoe, they’re a sure ‘peace out’ accessory. White will go with everything, but always save the scuffed pair for weekends only. You can’t go wrong with these V10 – sneakers in black & white ($195).

I’m loving these cropped, high-waisted, stone-washed Levi’s (Mom Jeans – Brenda $139.95) from the  Levi's WaterLess  range. Their tapered ankle means they’ll look hawt with a slinky party heel or a daytime sneaker. The rule: always tuck in the tops as the waist is so high and the upper thigh region is slightly loose, or you’ll look boxy with an undefined waist. They’re so comfy, I guarantee you won’t take them off. How did we ever wear skinny hipsters for all those years?

I’m loving these cropped, high-waisted, stone-washed Levi’s (Mom Jeans – Brenda $139.95) from the Levi's WaterLess range. Their tapered ankle means they’ll look hawt with a slinky party heel or a daytime sneaker. The rule: always tuck in the tops as the waist is so high and the upper thigh region is slightly loose, or you’ll look boxy with an undefined waist. They’re so comfy, I guarantee you won’t take them off. How did we ever wear skinny hipsters for all those years?

 

02 . kitx

KITX was founded by Kit Willow, an industry legend who’s passionate about ethically sourced materials, developing eco-fabrics and treating workers fairly. Since Willow launched KITX as an ethical and sustainable designer brand in 2015, it has garnered stockists including Selfridges and Browns in London, David Jones in Australia and the luxury e-tailers Moda Operandi and Farfetch. 

Willow’s fluid, often slinky modern goddess designs are created from certified organic, renewable natural and recycled ‘man-made’ fibres, as well as non-hazardous working materials to ensure they’re not damaging the environment. You can even find zips made from recycled bottles, buttons from vegetable ivory and recycled bullet casings and corsetry Lycra made from plastic rubbish extracted from the ocean on her designs. But let’s not digress from the end finishes: macramé lace, handkerchief hems, nubby linens, silk dyed via the ancient Indian bandhani method and bold colour choices like golden saffron and deep sea teal.

My party season picks:

This festive red  Galaxy smock waist dress  ($695) is made from 100% silk and is printed with a constellation of intricate bandhani dots (a tie-dye process perfected by hand). With an asymmetrical hemline that rises at the rear, capped sleeves beautifully rouched across the shoulders and an elasticised belt exposed at the back of the waist, it’s perfect for a luncheon or an evening soirée (simply pull your hair up loosely, dangle a long statement eating in one lobe and add a dash of scarlet lippy).

This festive red Galaxy smock waist dress ($695) is made from 100% silk and is printed with a constellation of intricate bandhani dots (a tie-dye process perfected by hand). With an asymmetrical hemline that rises at the rear, capped sleeves beautifully rouched across the shoulders and an elasticised belt exposed at the back of the waist, it’s perfect for a luncheon or an evening soirée (simply pull your hair up loosely, dangle a long statement eating in one lobe and add a dash of scarlet lippy).

This high-necked silk  Earth Data trumpet blouse  ($395) with extended trumpet sleeves is ideally paired with slim-fit silk pants. But you can also dress it down for a more casual spin with tapered jeans and a flat or heeled sandal. Whilst it’s ticked in here, it looks even more ravishing hanging out, but just remember to keep the leg very fitted. Refreshingly cool in every sense of the word, it’s a timeless winner that works in both Summer or Winter (just drape a jacket over your shoulders).

This high-necked silk Earth Data trumpet blouse ($395) with extended trumpet sleeves is ideally paired with slim-fit silk pants. But you can also dress it down for a more casual spin with tapered jeans and a flat or heeled sandal. Whilst it’s ticked in here, it looks even more ravishing hanging out, but just remember to keep the leg very fitted. Refreshingly cool in every sense of the word, it’s a timeless winner that works in both Summer or Winter (just drape a jacket over your shoulders).

Shine like a goddess in this   Muse Moment circle skirt    ( $449) and   Muse Moment triangle top    ( $209).   Perfect for a cocktail or black tie affair, it commands golden accessories. For a festive finish, coral or turquoise jewellery accents would suit perfectly. Create ample looks by pairing the skirt with a simple black singlet tucked in and a well-loved denim jacket, or hang the shirt over pencil-slim jeans or black pants. Hair below shoulders should be worn up to show off the sleeves.

Shine like a goddess in this Muse Moment circle skirt ($449) and Muse Moment triangle top ($209). Perfect for a cocktail or black tie affair, it commands golden accessories. For a festive finish, coral or turquoise jewellery accents would suit perfectly. Create ample looks by pairing the skirt with a simple black singlet tucked in and a well-loved denim jacket, or hang the shirt over pencil-slim jeans or black pants. Hair below shoulders should be worn up to show off the sleeves.

 

03 . ginger and smart

Cult favourite, Ginger and Smart, is proof alone that ethical clothing can be commercially successful. It designs for spirited women whose distinctive style is an expression of their individuality. A sense of cool confidence and discovery underpins the brand’s playful yet polished aesthetic where prints (both floral and geometric) and bold monochromatic shades enliven their offering.

The label strives to create beautifully considered timeless pieces that are designed to be worn many times with the aim to mix and match separates from seasons past with the present.  Accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, the label sources eco-friendly textiles such as organic cotton, silk, wool and modal and is dedicated to socially responsible production. Where possible, it sources fabrics that are recyclable and biodegradable and minimises the use of harmful chemicals and excessive water usage and waste in the production of its garments and milling of its fabrications. Their website’s shop pages also describe the eco-friendly attributes of very listed separate. Bravo!

My ‘forever’ picks:

Loving this oversized nutmeg  Merge Jacket  ($669) – a clever neutral alternative to navy or black. Given its length, it’s a great go-to for those more comfortable covering up a pear-shaped figure and the structured, wide shoulder balances any ‘bottom-heavy’ concerns. Given its length, this style is far better suited to medium height to tall women. Trans-seasonal, it also works with both pants and jeans (either open with a V-neck tee underneath or belted as pictured). Breaking up the block colouring, the printed  Converge Skirt  ($459) has a comfy elasticised waist. Cut on the bias, it avoids ‘panty line’ issues.

Loving this oversized nutmeg Merge Jacket ($669) – a clever neutral alternative to navy or black. Given its length, it’s a great go-to for those more comfortable covering up a pear-shaped figure and the structured, wide shoulder balances any ‘bottom-heavy’ concerns. Given its length, this style is far better suited to medium height to tall women. Trans-seasonal, it also works with both pants and jeans (either open with a V-neck tee underneath or belted as pictured). Breaking up the block colouring, the printed Converge Skirt ($459) has a comfy elasticised waist. Cut on the bias, it avoids ‘panty line’ issues.

This bias cut  Junction Gown  ($799) made from satin back viscose epitomises my shopping mantra ‘choose well, make it last’ as it’s such a dateless piece. So beautiful is its flowing cape that the only accessory you’ll need is a glowing tan. Cleverly, the back tail falls just below your bottom, so whilst it’s form-fitting out front, it covers any rear insecurities. Its stature is Oscar-worthy, but worn with a flat sandal, it’s perfect for a daytime lunch too. I’d be swinging a bold pair of earrings or a bold cocktail ring with this number to add a little movie star magic. Lastly, it’s best accessorised with a clutch to keep shoulders strap free.

This bias cut Junction Gown ($799) made from satin back viscose epitomises my shopping mantra ‘choose well, make it last’ as it’s such a dateless piece. So beautiful is its flowing cape that the only accessory you’ll need is a glowing tan. Cleverly, the back tail falls just below your bottom, so whilst it’s form-fitting out front, it covers any rear insecurities. Its stature is Oscar-worthy, but worn with a flat sandal, it’s perfect for a daytime lunch too. I’d be swinging a bold pair of earrings or a bold cocktail ring with this number to add a little movie star magic. Lastly, it’s best accessorised with a clutch to keep shoulders strap free.

The dusty peach asymmetric  Speculate top  ($899) and  Speculate skirt  ($1,599) are both crafted from a fine tulle, appliqued with rows of chiffon gradating in size and fullness like an exquisitely light mille-feuille pastry. Both form part of the brand’s demi-couture collection which includes a small and limited release that focuses on slow fashion. These long-lasting garments are designed in high quality fabrications with meticulous finishes. Better still, you can pair the top with slim black satin pants and wear the skirt with a cream or black satin cami, stretching your look and dollar even further.

The dusty peach asymmetric Speculate top ($899) and Speculate skirt ($1,599) are both crafted from a fine tulle, appliqued with rows of chiffon gradating in size and fullness like an exquisitely light mille-feuille pastry. Both form part of the brand’s demi-couture collection which includes a small and limited release that focuses on slow fashion. These long-lasting garments are designed in high quality fabrications with meticulous finishes. Better still, you can pair the top with slim black satin pants and wear the skirt with a cream or black satin cami, stretching your look and dollar even further.