Shopping ethically can sometimes be a challenge – it’s not always easy to find clothing that’s kind to the planet and marries with your own personal style and aesthetic.
Public Figure, a new luxury fashion site founded by Sydneysider Bella Zito, aims to solve that problem with a tightly curated range of local and international labels that balance sustainable manufacturing principles with high-end style.
“The idea was sparked from my own personal shopping experience,” says Zito. “I'd wanted to only buy from labels that operated sustainably and transparently, but found it almost impossible to locate those that were also nailing the design, cut, fabrication and aesthetic that I was looking for in one place.”
Public Figure exists to “find a balance between luxury and sustainability”.
On the website you’ll find a number of transparent and ethical labels, which aren’t always easy to purchase locally. Australian fashion label Van Der Kooij, for example, isn’t widely represented in physical retail stores. It hand makes all its garments in Melbourne in limited-edition runs, and offsets emissions through Carbon Neutral Australia’s Plant-A-Tree program.
What criteria does Zito use to ensure each label is above board when it comes to ethical production and sustainability? “I look at the label's factory conditions and processes as well as which fabrics are used,” she says. “Rather than putting hyper-stringent rules in place and expecting perfection at every turn, Public Figure looks at each label's ethical and sustainable merits individually. For example, [Australian label] Autark uses 100 per cent natural fibres and deadstock materials where possible to minimise waste.”
LA’s Lacausa, meanwhile, ensures its garments are produced in factories with fair wages and healthy working conditions. Jewellery studio Young Frankk, which specialises in chunky on-trend chain pieces, designs and makes its jewellery in LA from recycled, locally made materials and uses plastic-free packaging. You’ll find both on Public Figure, as well as Velvet Canyon, Maison Essentiele and Peony Swim.
“It was important to me to create a singular platform for those brands – somewhere customers can access contemporary fashion while being sure that their investment is supporting their values,” Zito says. “Transparency is very important.”
Also available on the site is a range of towels Zito designed in collaboration with Australian abstract artist Anisah Nasir – there are 12 designs representing each zodiac sign. Oritex, an India-based apparel producer committed to using organic products and materials, manufactured the towels for Public Figure.
Zito is not dogmatic. She’s refreshingly honest about the fact there are still gaps in ethically made, sustainably minded fashion. But she believes the pursuit of something better – fashion that’s kinder to the people who produce it, and to the environment – is important.
“In the end, it’s not about doing everything perfectly. It’s about being open with your endeavours and always trying to improve.”