In 2016, there is always a vegetarian option; we practice living mindfully and would never dream of buying beauty products that have been tested on animals. But when it comes to couture, how much attention do we really pay?
In the wake of the fast-fashion revolution of recent times, approximately 80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased every year around the world - up more than 400 pr cent compared to a decade ago. It's little wonder that fashion has become the second-largest polluter in the world behind the oil industry.
"I don't even think it's just important, I think it's a necessity," explains Kit Willow of KitX. The designer has long been an advocate for sustainable, ethical practices, describing it as a must-do for contemporary designers. "I think, like any designer, if you've got a good idea and building blocks, choose materials that are honest and long-lasting that don't actually compromise the design - it actually enhances it."
When it comes to the KitX collection, this is apparent in every part of the process. "Most of the cost to the planet for [fashion's] resources comes from materials," she explains. To that end, Willow works exclusively with pesticide-free organic cotton and up-cycled nylon. For the dyeing process, she works with an Ayurvedic dye house in southern India using ancient, thousand year-old recipes consisting of flowers and herbs to make the rich, saturated hues in her collections. "They say there's a lot of healing properties within these plants," she describes. "Your skin is your most porous organ. Whatever you put on your skin ultimately gets absorbed as well - which is another reason perhaps to wear fabrics that are not chemically-treated."
For designer Kacey Devlin, a transparency to her Sydney-based production process is paramount. "We put the initials of every hand and every process the garment goes through on the tag as a way of acknowledging the efforts of all the people whose work goes into our garments," Devlin details. "Its not the designer and the fact that it gets sewn, it goes through a pattern-cutter, it goes through a pattern grader, it goes through seamstresses, through the person that hems the garment, through quality control and so I think if you can bring a level of honesty and authenticity to that process and acknowledging those people that make these pieces come to life, is really important. Especially using the skill that we have here in Australia is really important."
New York-based Australian designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin of Tome first began their enquiry into ethical manufacturing resources in the lead up to the launch of their first capsule for the White Shirt Project in 2014 - the proceeds of which support the Freedom For All foundation that fights human trafficking and slavery. "We now use [these resources] across all categories which has lead to the sourcing of sustainable and eco-friendly resources that we integrate more and more into the collection each season," explains Martin. "These include organic cottons for shirting, recycled cashmere for knitwear and up-cycled denim and leather that is reworked into new styles each season." Further to this, the duo works closely with their supply chain to ensure good working conditions. "We work local and we are currently sourcing women's collectives internationally to support artisan crafts. It is imperative that we spend direct time with any supply chain so that we can guarantee our clothes are ethically made."
So, as the consumer, with overwhelming choices and underwhelming access to information on most garments, how can you buy mindfully? "If anything I think the consumer's role is to buy better," suggests Kit Willow. "Not consume at rapid rates and discard fashion at rapid rates." Additionally, as Kacey Devlin suggests, simply read the label when you open a garment. "If you want to understand what you're buying into, see if the designer acknowledges where a garment is made, where the fabrics come from. Consumers are also responsible."