Spinning a sustainable yarn: assessing the claims of Australian companies’ eco-initiatives

Payne, Alice Ruth (2012) Spinning a sustainable yarn: assessing the claims of Australian companies’ eco-initiatives. In 13th International Conference of ModaCult : Fashion Tales 2012, 7-9 June 2012, Università Cattolica of Milan, Milan. (Unpublished)


In Australia, few fashion brands have intervened in the design of their products or the systems around their product to tackle environmental pollution and waste. Instead, support of charities (whether social or environmental) has become conflated with sustainability in the eyes of the public.However, three established Australian brands recently put forward initiatives which explicitly tackle the pre-consumer or post-consumer waste associated with their products. In 2011, Billabong, one of the largest surfwear companies in the world, developed a collection of board shorts made from recycled bottles that are also recyclable at end of life. The initiative has been promoted in partnership with Bob Marley’s son Rohan Marley, and the graphics of the board shorts reference the Rastafarian colours and make use of Marley’s song lyrics. In this way, the company has tapped into an aspect of surf culture linked to environmental activism, in which the natural world is venerated. Two mid-market initiatives, by Metalicus and Country Road, each have a social outcome that arguably aligns to the values of their middle-class consumer base. Metalicus is spear-heading a campaign for Australian garment manufacturers to donate their pre consumer waste – fabric off-cuts – to charity Open Family Australia to be manufactured into quilts for the homeless. Country Road has partnered with the Australian Red Cross to implement a recycling scheme in which consumers donate their old Country Road garments in exchange for a Country Road gift voucher. Both strategies, while tackling waste, tell an altruistic story in which the disadvantaged can benefit from the consumption habits of the middle-class. To varying degrees, the initiative chosen by each company feeds into the stories they tell about themselves and about the consumers who purchase their clothing. However, how can we assess the impact of these schemes on waste management in real terms, or indeed the worth of each scheme in the wider context of the fashion system? This paper will assess the claims made by the companies and analyse their efficacy, suggesting that a more nuanced assessment of green claims is required, in which ‘green’ comes in many tonal variations.

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ID Code: 57021
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: sustainability, Australia, fashion, branding, fashion industry
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > DESIGN PRACTICE AND MANAGEMENT (120300) > Textile and Fashion Design (120306)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Deposited On: 10 Feb 2013 22:45
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2013 22:46

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