In the realm of fashion and design, ethics and sustainability can be overlooked in favour of an innovative cut or an inventive print. Though sustainability is something we know is important, it isn’t always at the forefront of our minds when buying a garment. Today, as part of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Clean Cut showcases ethical and sustainable Australian labels and designers as it launches in Australia.

Clean Cut was started by four Sydney-based professionals who dabble in fashion design, media and sustainability; designer Carlie Ballard, Kelly Elkin (of sleepwear label ALAS), Lisa Heinze (author of the book Sustainability with Style) and Yatu Widders-Hunt (eco-writer, blogger and media and communications specialist). The group felt that the Australian fashion scene was missing a crucial, sustainable element. “We could see what was happening in the industry locally and globally,’ says Ballard. “We realised we needed to celebrate the work of sustainable designers here in Australia. Then we realised that it was actually up to us to make this happen.”

It’s not all about philosophy, though. Clean Cut is hands on. It acts as a consultancy, examining and implementing practical, pragmatic solutions for any segment of the fashion industry that wants to improve its processes. “Clean Cut’s role is to offer realistic options to consumers and designers towards more sustainable and fair practices,” says Ballard.

There are already a few notable accreditations for sustainable fashion, “But for many grassroots companies, [of] which this industry has many, this is too costly, so it comes back to understanding their business model, the task at hand,” says Ballard. Those tasks range from fair labour rights, sustainable and ecological fabric and manufacturing, low and no-waste pattern making, encouraging traditional crafts and supporting livelihoods through the business of fashion.

By no means, though, do ethics get in the way of thoughtful design. In fact, design, and creating pieces of substance, becomes even more vital because consumers are not willing to buy simply out of goodwill, and designers still need to produce their designs as they want them to be. “It is important to show examples of beautiful labels that have responsible ethical practices ingrained in their business, all the while still focusing on the aesthetic element, in the hope that others follow suit,” says Ballard. Labels that are being showcased today include Kowtow (NZ), Desert Designs (Sydney), Rachael Cassar (Sydney), Lalesso (Kenya), Goodone (UK), The Social Studio (Melbourne), Bhalo (Perth) and Ovna Ovich (NZ).

“Sustainable designers should not be pigeon holed into being solely sustainable – they are designers and innovators in their own right, but it’s important to celebrate their hard work considering the ethical process from time to time.”

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