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Not wasting any fashion – Mel’s tips for a zero waste wardrobe

15/09/2016 2:19 PM

Melinda Tually has been the Australian and New Zealand coordinator of Fashion Revolution since its inception in 2013 and also provides expert advice on responsible retail strategy and sourcing through her consultancy Ndless: The New Normal. 1 Degree interviewed Mel to hear more about her story and tips on how we can all become more zero waste with our clothing.

What got you into this space?

After time spent in the corporate as well as film and television industries, I became a retailer of Fair Trade and sustainably produced gifts and homewares and the interest and passion grew from there. During my time as a retailer, I saw great change happening in the fashion industry and I became more and more interested in what was happening in this space. While I was at an industry conference in London, the founders of Fashion Revolution, Carry and Orsola presented their idea to a small group of attendees and inspired, I put my hand up to run the movement in Australia and New Zealand.

What was the reception like when you first brought Fashion Revolution to Australia?

The first campaign had a mixed reception – there was great excitement and lots of people interested, but it was also a new type of conversation for brands so we worked hard to get everyone on board. It helped that we had a focus on producers and a positive platform for change that empowered consumers in a new way, so traction built really quickly through our hashtag: #whomademyclothes. We ended up kicking off the first campaign with 55 countries and trending #1 on social media which was totally unexpected.

What is your favourite part about what you do?

The best part is helping to create change. It feels great every time someone comes up to you after an event or reaches out on social media and tells you they had no idea about the issues in the industry but since learning of them, have altered their behaviour to be more considered in their approach to what and how they buy. Knowledge is king and it’s essentially free, which I find very empowering, so the more you share the more impact you can have. I hope that by sharing stories of impact and demonstrating how effective a large tribe can be, each of us as individuals can see the power we have to influence change. For that change to become Business As Usual is the goal.

What are some tips for people who would like to make more environmental clothing purchases or reduce their clothing waste? 

  • Research what fibres are kinder than others, there are benchmarks such as this one by Made-By.
  • Support local labels who have transparent supply chains or accreditations such as Ethical Clothing Australia (which accredits local manufacturing) or GOTS organic and Fairtrade cotton.
  • Commit to getting #30wears out of your clothes. This is a movement in itself now! Doing so, avoids ending up with clothes gathering moth balls at the bottom of your wardrobe.
  • Buy fewer, higher quality items that will last longer. Care for them properly – care labels serve a purpose! The only reason we shrink our clothes or let the dyes run is because we have not cared for them the way we need to. If we want our clothes to have long lives we need to look after them. Just like we do with other items we value.
  • Follow Fashion Revolution on our twitter, facebook or instagram for updates or to get involved yourself.
  • Research and follow socials sites that have lots of info, a good example is Ecouterre.
  • Reach out to the brand if you want to know more – you’ll be surprised what you can find out through engaging in a positive dialogue with them.
  • Think of renting that Black Tie dress instead of buying once to wear once. There’s now a bunch of businesses in Australia modelled on Rent the Runway which rent the latest designs and accessories
  • Dispose of pre-loved clothing thoughtfully instead of sending it to landfill – see if it can have more life another way. Local charities divert 300,000 tonnes of clothing per year from landfill and rely on sales of second hand clothing so never throw your threads, always donate to those in need.

What’s your number one tip to help us be more zero waste with our clothing? 

Remind ourselves of the time and resources taken to produce our clothes – from the water to the transport to the hours of labour – doing so makes us realise the long journey they’ve taken and changes the way we value them.

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What does an ideal fashion future look like for you?

We’d be buying fashion made from natural fibres with little to no toxic chemicals and any components like buttons easily removable for re-use. That way they could be composted and biodegrade without harm.

There would be a zero waste and cradle-to-cradle approach to design resulting in less wastage and conservation of resources, every high street would have drop off points for responsible recycling and re-use of pre-loved clothing and there would be repair labs on every high street (check out the services by Nudie and Patagoniaas well as lease-based models (like MUD jeans) being common place.