Recently the Fashion Industry has been in the media spotlight for unfair trade practices in manufacturing overseas. In Australia and overseas many people within the Industry are trying to put in place measures to educate buyers, support and encourage our local labels and bring in reforms to stop such unethical practices.
Phoebes Garland from Garland & Garland Fashion + Features Writer at www.fashionexposedonline.com.au talks to Maz about the issues, some solutions and how you can make a difference to the Australian Fashion Industry.
MM: Can you give us an idea what your role at Fashion Initiative involves?
PG: I founded Fashion Initiative this year, as I was realising there was a big gap in the market for having an informative consumer site written by someone who works in the fashion industry, and I am a strong believer in credibility. Fashion Initiative covers luxury, products, events, fashion, and the business of fashion.
I also write for Fashion Exposed Online every month, which goes to over 40,000 people in the fashion industry and my husband and I run a fashion agency, Garland & Garland Fashion, as well as being a mother so I wear a few hats. We have had an enormous interest and support in the site and I am quite overwhelmed with the support, particularly from some very big esteemed players in the industry.
MM: Recently some fashion labels that have been introduced to the Australian market have been involved in less than what would otherwise be described as ‘Australian standards’ work place practices overseas, can you tell us about this?
PG: It is not so much the smaller fashion individual labels, but mainly some of the large chain stores and volume vertical operators who are chasing lower prices and sourcing from countries such as Bangladesh. Sadly the Bangladesh government has no protection for workers and seem to be very lax on safety standards. There are a lot of people working in buildings which are not only not safe, but also working producing large volumes of garments in some cases made as little as $1.00 a day in less than desirable conditions. However, this is also not just immune to the fashion industry. Whilst the Bangladesh people rely on garment manufacturing which is a big part of the economy over there, they do not want people to abolish Made in Bangladesh, but simply for these companies to pay more to ensure safe and adequate conditions.
MM: How can buyers of fashion garments in Australia avoid making poor choices that encourage the abuse of human rights in foreign factories?
PG: It is very hard for consumers to know where garments are being made and under what conditions, however consumers can put pressure on the fashion labels they are buying to ensure the factories are safe for workers and in decent working conditions. Being informed and asking the questions to fashion labels is one step in the right direction. Consumer awareness is a must, as it’s ultimately the consumers who are driving the lower prices. Selling on low price and discounting has got to stop.
MM: Are there local options in fashion that are affordable and available to the middle market in Australia? If so can you tell us about some labels?
PG: We encourage consumers to buy from independent retailers as much as possible. There are a lot of labels which tick the box above, which offer value for money and are available in the independent fashion boutiques which are supporting small business. The labels we represent, Holmes & Fallon, LD & Co knitwear, Parkhurst, David Barry Kesta Coats, Black Pepper, Georgia & Dean, Picadilly & Adam Jacobs, all have a unique place in the market and tick these boxes. If we can’t see the ‘value for money’ in labels we simply don’t represent them. At the end of the day we have to represent labels which sell and offer that unique point of difference, value for money and which are commercial.
MM: How do you see the future of the fashion industry in Australia?
PG: It’s definitely a challenging industry with all the international chain stores coming and with less and less smaller independent retailers, courtesy of higher rents and tough trading conditions. There are also some very good labels out there and we are all fighting for the same dollar, however there is still money to be made, with exceptional product but you have to be business savvy. Our label Holmes & Fallon has listened to our feedback, both good and bad and is consequently reaping the rewards in sales. It’s a label which is just ticking all the boxes for consumers and retailers. Ultimately the key is knowing your customer in this difficult retail climate and ensuring you have a unique product offering, which offers value for money at retail (i.e: a product that sells at full RRP which the consumer is happy to buy without blinking twice about the price and loves) and can turn over quickly.
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