Where there's a wool, there's a way

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2012, 12:00am


Whether it's the influence of Hollywood royalty such as Leonardo DiCaprio championing sustainability or just the workings of our collective consciousness, the green agenda has become increasingly serious in the fashion industry in recent years.

Many would consider this an oxymoron. Fast fashion has also been making headlines in recent years and even high fashion has had to work hard to keep up. We hear of garment factory pollutants, tonnes of wasted throwaway clothes and an ever passionate inclination towards 'retail therapy'. A friend recently gave me a tote bag with the words 'Shopping is cheaper than therapy' printed in large letters. As a psychology major, I was mildly offended, although still amused. As a fashion editor, I had to agree (although it really depends on what you like to buy).

Can fashion ever really be green? The message is to consume less, consume locally and not spend frivolously. But what is fashion without a bit of frivolity?

There are alternatives for diehard shoppers, or, at least, compromises. Christina Dean, founder of Hong Kong-based NGO Redress, launched an annual ethical fashion design competition which has garnered impressive support from the community and industry. There have been clothes swaps across the city that minimise garment waste and give people that 'new clothes' fix. Even the ubiquitous king of fast fashion, Swedish retail giant H&M, has an organic fabric range.

One of the most high-profile initiatives is Woolmark's collaboration with Vivienne Westwood. This partnership has the British designer using the finest Australian merino wool in her knitted pieces, seen at her latest Gold catwalk show in Paris. Westwood is as well known for her political campaigning (see her activeresisitance.co.uk website) as for her wild creations, so perhaps it's no surprise that she's taken on a bigger role in supporting the use of wool, a notably versatile and sustainable natural fibre.

Woolmark is part of the Australian Wool Innovation, a company owned by more than 29,000 wool growers whose aim is to enhance the sustainability and profitability of the industry.

The renewable merino wool that Westwood uses has not been as popular with younger consumers, born in an era of disposable fashion, as it was for previous generations. Biodegradable, natural, durable and (some claim) carbon neutral, it's a fibre that Westwood has committed to.

For Woolmark, it has beena major coup securing such a celebrated designer. And although it seems counterintuitive to business growth, Westwood has become a vocal proponent of the 'buy less and make it last' dictum.