OUR JOURNEY TO MINDFUL FASHION NEW ZEALAND
Kate Sylvester has always been committed to sustainable business and we take a considered and kind approach to everything that we do. We are focused on making small runs of high-quality clothing that our customers love for a lifetime, not a season and we believe the true value of clothing is in its design, how it was made and how long it will last.
Late last year Kate Sylvester received a letter of notification that we were being assessed in 2019 as part of the Tearfund Ethical Fashion Report. We had followed this report over the past few years and were always mystified that global, fast fashion brands were scoring high grades where as small boutique NZ designer businesses were generally scoring quite poorly.
When we reviewed the assessment criteria Tearfund has in regards to supply chain transparency right back to a raw materials level (where cotton is grown, silk worms are farmed etc.) through to manufacturing, we realized that our local designer clothing industry has a number of challenges to overcome.
When making product in New Zealand, we currently lack an official auditing system for our local manufacturing partners, instead we rely on personal relationships, regular visits and local labour laws. Another major challenge is that as boutique businesses buying small amounts of fabric to make limited garment runs, we don’t have the buying power or influence that fast fashion multinationals have to demand full disclosure from suppliers.
With these frustrating roadblocks to overcome we decided to begin to tackle these challenges constructively, and started talking to other local brands facing similar challenges to try and find a solution collectively. Out of this challenge began Mindful Fashion New Zealand. By not participating in Tearfund’s 2019 Ethical Fashion Report we understood that we will score poorly, however we feel we have more to gain long term by using our resources to tackle some of our locally specific challenges head on and strengthen our local industry for the better.
From the platform of Mindful Fashion New Zealand we can launch positive sustainability projects and a support network for ethical and sustainable production practices that will build the bricks and mortar strength our industry needs to survive.
Please see below Mindful Fashion’s proposed 2019 agenda.
MINDFUL FASHION’S 2019 AGENDA
1) Collectively conduct a local fabric supplier and New Zealand garment manufacturing industry scoping project to get a better understanding of the current best practices and areas of risk in our industry.
2) Create an independent auditing programme appropriate to our unique local production industry.
2) Share costs of auditing local manufacturing partners and fabric agents in New Zealand.
3) Members receive discounted rates for offshore auditing.
4) Hold training seminars on sustainable and ethical production and fabric options.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF MINDFUL FASHION
- Create relevant, useful and measurable benchmarks for ethical and sustainable production practices to ensure that New Zealand designers can confidently say their product has been made ethically.
- Act as a united industry body to be able to work with Government to ensure the industry is supported effectively.
- Potential to push for development of a greater variety of sustainable fabrics.
- Support the training of new and established local makers.
- Potential for collective purchasing power with fabric suppliers.
- Potential for global marketing of our industry collective leading the way to change for good.
- Continue to support Made in New Zealand and the future of our industry.
SUPPORT FOR MINDFUL FASHION NEW ZEALAND
“Tearfund is very supportive of Mindful Fashion and its aims. Brands that are manufacturing in New Zealand face a unique set of challenges to uphold sustainable and ethical standards in our small, boutique context. Seeing players in the designer clothing industry join forces to create solutions for some of the bigger challenges is encouraging. As the initiative says, it’s by working together that the industry will have a stronger voice and create change. Mindful Fashion sets a very positive example to other industry players in NZ and around the world. We commend their efforts!”
Claire Hart, Education & Advocacy Manager, Tearfund.
“At SBN we are delighted to support the creation of Mindful Fashion NZ, founded by SBN members Kate Sylvester and Emily Miller-Sharma from Ruby. The fashion industry faces severe challenges globally due to its inattention to and poor performance on issues of clothing waste, emissions, chemical pollution and the conditions of its workers. Against that backdrop, we see enormous promise in this group of leading NZ fashion designers to articulate a meaningful vision of sustainability for small NZ fashion companies. We wish them good luck, grand ambition and a positive reception for their initiative.”
Rachel Brown, CEO, Sustainable Business Network.
"Sustainability is on everyone’s lips these days – it is a huge and ongoing subject that affects absolutely everybody on the planet. Mindful Fashion is a natural evolution as the industry makes the necessary move away from a take, make and dispose model. I commend Kate Sylvester and RUBY for spearheading this initiative and encourage the industry to collectively set reasonable and effective sustainability benchmarks relevant to the NZ Industry for suppliers to work towards.”
Dame Pieter Stewart, Founder of New Zealand Fashion Week & Patron of Mindful Fashion New Zealand.
New Zealand Herald Viva Magazine - https://bit.ly/2U1cdZa
Open letter to Designers - https://bit.ly/2ULkrlk
Newshub - https://bit.ly/2JLcLyq
Radio New Zealand - https://bit.ly/2Ofmb42
FashionNZ - https://bit.ly/2UW1Vac
Britomart - https://bit.ly/2YrlZmZ