Ethical fashion: a smarter way forward

We connect with fashion experts to better understand the what and why of smarter fashion.

5 Oct 2017

Ethical fashion and sustainability: weighty words that many do not think of when fashion comes to mind. But as Professor Jimmy Choo and other fashion luminaries have made clear, these terms are heavily connected to the what, why and how of creating fashion for the real world today.

One of the biggest signs of how big of a focus in the industry is the very existence of organisation Ethical Clothing Australia, who in their own words are:

An accreditation body working collaboratively with local textile, clothing, and footwear (TCF) companies to ensure their Australian supply chains are transparent and legally compliant.
By supporting ECA accredited brands, you are strengthening the local industry and protecting the lives of Australian workers. These brands offer high-quality products and are committed to ensuring their onshore production is both transparent and ethical.

What does ethical fashion mean for me?

Professor Jimmy Choo with TAFE Queensland students
Professor Jimmy Choo believes in the importance of continuous learning and change in fashion.

If you’re only just starting out in the industry or are still mid-course, you might be asking yourself this question. In the simplest of terms, if you are setting up your own brand or are working for a major label, you need to carefully plan out the what, where and how of your entire business.

As highlighted above, you need to consider what materials you source, where you source them from, where you manufacture, who you employ, how you distribute. In other words, longevity in fashion is a walk in the park.

What about sustainability?

In some ways, this is really just a part of the broader ethical puzzle for today’s fashion industry. Sustainability applies to the overall sourcing, manufacturing, and distribution we mentioned before, but now you can throw in thinking how long clothes last physically and stylistically.

As we’ve discussed in the past, researchers have stumbled upon what they are dubbing ‘vegan leather’ – an entirely cow-free leather alternative made from the fungus typically used to make kombucha. Or in Professor Choo’s own case, there is the very Australian option of kangaroo leather – a tough and versatile leather option that is among Australia’s best fabrics as far as greener thinking is concerned.

Is this all possible?

To better understand the ins and outs of creating ethical fashion for the real world, we dug deep into the thinking of brands who are currently leading the way in this space. Many say that it involves matching ethos and action – in other words, you have to believe in the ethical approach and be willing to do what it takes to live up to it. 

This could be a matter of testing smaller collections to gauge what consumers truly want, potentially even making those pieces limited release or the basis for future slow fashion lines. Illiza Ho, the couture accessories brand of Professor Choo protegé Illiza Ho, focuses on high-end limited pieces that are designed to look good and to last. Part of making this work is the designer themselves watching over every element of sourcing and manufacturing, to better make sure that everything is up to scratch in terms of practices and end quality. 

Illiza Ho teaching TAFE Queensland students
Illiza talked through her experience and constant hunt for new design thinking.

What can I do to adapt?

Innovate for yourself – it is as simple and as potentially complex as that. Be an academic, entrepreneur, craftsperson and designer all in one. Professor Jimmy Choo (yes, that Jimmy Choo) and his protege are prime examples of this evolution – being ever versatile and always learning. Illiza has been all too happy to detail the many types of design and process she has studied and practiced on her own and under Professor Choo in order to build her name.

By the same token, designers of this ilk are also the type who have expanded their sustainable thinking and creative practice by being as hands on as possible (an idea we naturally love). They took the time to better understand the physical craft involved in bringing their ideas to life, which in turn allowed them to refine designs, better choose materials, and fully understand the manufacturing requirements. This is what creates staying power, both in terms of a commercial brand and quality ethical fashion.

You can achieve this too.


Whatever your grand goal is in the fashion industry, TAFE Queensland is here to help you achieve great in the studio, store and more.

© TAFE Queensland Brisbane 2018.
RTO 0275 | CRICOS 03020E.