January 2021

A roadmap to reimagining the fashion industry

A roadmap to reimagining  the fashion industry

In April 2020, Conquest Ink gathered two peers for a discussion around COVID-19 lockdown and what it means for Australian designers. This passionate and rigorous discussion inspired us to collaborate and secure a grant with Creative Victoria to reimagine the local fashion industry with a COVID-19 landscape lens.

Conquest Ink collaborates with experts in field and on this occasion, we were delighted to join forces with fashion industry strategist and Director of amme, Alida Milani, and Conquest Ink brand strategist, Clare Miles.

Our reason for conducting this body of work included:

  • Genuine concern for the future of Australian fashion designers and makers given COVID restrictions and trade relations with China;
  • Feedback from myriad creative friends in the fashion industry with genuine and clear concerns about local support and sustainability; and
  • A desire to work together to solve a complex problem and create lasting positive change.

Our belief was many people were voicing the same problems, and we needed to create a space to listen to both the problems and potential solutions from the people who knew best – the designers and makers with significant experience in the industry.

Our mission was to explore the issues surrounding local fashion manufacturing and to canvas industry led solutions. The research was designed to provide a fresh outside perspective looking in. We listened to the critical wisdom of the voices in the clothing and textiles industry, and this culminated into a roadmap of potential solutions for the sector.

Unearthing wisdom within

Together we conducted interviews with 32 industry thought leaders, designers, educators and manufacturers. In speaking with such a diverse group of people, we discovered that in order to have a thriving Victorian fashion manufacturing industry we need to build a Victorian led national collaborative framework to address the economic, social, environmental and political factors that have negatively shaped the clothing and textile industry during the last few decades.

The interview process unearthed that the clothing and textiles industry sits at the heart of broader economic and political challenges being faced by Australia. Its complexity ranges from employment to education, technology and innovation, supply chains, sovereign capacity, agriculture and manufacturing.

During the initial stages of the research, we identified more problems than answers, but we soon identified patterns and key themes enabling us to uncover solutions.

We recognised a pathway to recovery and linking areas of focus together demands a cohesive and three-pronged approach where change is required by industry, designers/brands, manufacturers and consumers.

Key recommendations included:

  1. Industry: the unification of a Dream Team is needed to develop a roadmap for a thriving circular economy;
  2. Designers/brands and manufacturers: with a long term commitment and a collaborative approach, let’s build responsible production operations that considers lifecycle thinking and transparency; and
  3. Consumers: we need to educate consumers and inspire them to engage and ‘consume’ textiles in a more meaningful, satisfying and sustainable way.

Big picture change demands a growth mindset

Following eight months of research and design thinking sessions, in November 2020 we proudly delivered an online event to industry at Melbourne Fashion Week to discuss the findings of the white paper titled ‘Reimagining the local fashion industry: A Victorian Perspective’.

While this scope of work does not provide all the answers, it serves as a compass from which to understand all the different perspectives and guide industry conversations. The recommendations reveal further areas to explore and provides a deeper understanding of the enablers and opportunities for a more circular system within the creative ecosystem in Victoria, Australia.

Following a deep dive into the industry, our top line recommendations included:

  • Forging a long term commitment from Government during the next 10 years for the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) industry;
  • Tri-sector approach to investment via Government, corporate and philanthropists/investors.
  • Cash investment into a 10 year plan that builds upon what we do well;
  • Alignment with agricultural innovation, advanced manufacturing and a circular economy approach;
  • Dedicated Government commitment to local procurement;
  • Big brand commitment to a percentage of manufacturing onshore; and
  • Media support and consumer awareness for all of the above.

Facta non verba: Deeds not words

The response to the report was positive. Key stakeholders agreed it was a breath of fresh air to address the problems head on and there was a shared desire to see the recommendations actioned. While there was some feedback that we focused too much on what’s not working in the space, we recognise that (like climate change) until we fully understand the problem, we are unlikely to find nor create solutions.

We don’t want this report to remain buried in desk drawers. Instead, our team has started and continues conversations with the Australian Fashion Council, Creative Victoria and key industry stakeholders on how we can collectively create lasting change, and we are proud to be playing a small role with an army of committed change makers in the industry.

While we continue work on the big picture, we also recognise the small steps every Australian can make as consumers. We have agreed to walk our talk and to buy less mass produced items destined for landfill and to purchase cherished garments made with love by local designers. This includes wonderful brands including le stripe, A.BCH, Arnsdorf and Elk who were truly inspiring when sharing their stories during the research phase, and clearly have immense creativity to offer the Australian economy and consumers alike.

Please download a copy of the full report below.

Reimagining Local Fashion Manufacturing
By Sanna Conquest
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