I was horrified by the Australian bushfires in 2019 and 2020. I continue to be shocked and saddened by the devastating effects of climate change on our world.
We need to start creating change in our everyday. Every little bit helps.
Fashion is the worst
We are part of an environmentally disastrous sector. The fashion industry is responsible for over 8% of the world’s overall carbon emissions; more than the aviation and shipping industries combined.
Here are some alarming stats.
- From theguardian.com: Australians buy an average of 27kg of textiles each year (including leather and homewares) and then discard 23kg into landfill, mostly synthetic fibre. The amount of textiles Australians consume annually is double the global average of 13kg a person.
- And we’re not alone! UK consumers buy more than one million tons of clothing annually. Around 50% ends up in landfill, while the other half is recycled or sold in vintage and/or charity shops.
- In the US market, consumption is significantly higher, where annual waste of clothes is around 23.5 million tons each year, 10% are qualified for resale and the rest (90%) ends up in a landfill or given to charity.
What can local brands do about it?
According to the UN Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development, sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. They identify three pillars for sustainability: economic, environmental and social.For now, there’s no common definition as to what constitutes sustainable fashion but the Ethical Fashion Forum has shared 10 criteria for what qualifies as ethical fashion, addressing those three pillars of sustainability:
- Countering fast, cheap fashion, and damaging patterns of fashion consumption
- Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
- Supporting sustainable livelihoods
- Addressing toxic pesticide & chemical use
- Using and/or developing eco-friendly fabrics and components
- Minimising water use
- Recycling and addressing energy efficiency and waste
- Developing or promoting sustainability standards for fashion
- Resources, training and/or awareness raising initiatives
- Animal rights
Whew, a lot to work on. Sustainable fashion ultimately means creating clothes, shoes, accessories and other textiles without damaging the many facets of our environment, or negatively affecting people’s lives.
In 2020 Hills & West’s driving motivation is improvement.
As a brand, we have committed to improving our sustainable practices and reducing our environmental footprint – from the way we work, collaborate, communicate and educate, to the interns we host each year and the coffees in KeepCups. We are passionate and more determined than ever to live and breathe our mission and be better versions of ourselves.
Our brand plan addresses sustainability throughout the entire product life cycle of our goods (design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing, sales) as well as their afterlife (use, reuse, repair, remake, recycling, and up-cycling).
As consumers, we have a responsibility too: the fashion manufacturer shares responsibility for sustainability with the wearer. That means we all need to change our consumption and use behaviours (including caring and washing). Together we can work towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly future.
Hills & West’s goals for 2020 and beyond
We are advocates of slow fashion through manufacturing processes and beyond. We built our lifestyle accessories brand on an ethos of timeless, multi-purpose, trans-seasonality that stands the test of time.
Each product is individually designed and handcrafted with quality materials. They are durable, purposeful pieces made to last a lifetime. But that’s not enough. We need to be striving, constantly, for improvement, focused on a more sustainable future.
Creating awareness for consumers about the importance of supporting sustainable brands is also important when you’re advocating for change. These are the steps we will take in 2020
- Environmentally responsible packaging and distribution
Goal: 100% of packaging to be recyclable or biodegradable by 2021
- Use packaging made of recycled materials
- Use compostable paper like corn-starch packing, mushroom packaging and seaweed packaging.
- Encourage customers to use less packaging and reduce waste. If they ask for packaging, educating them on how to properly distribute the waste via recycling or compost etc
- Review our distribution and look to services like DHL’s GoGreen Climate Neutral Service
Currently we use recyclable packaging for about 75% of our pieces. We still use bubble wrap but we’re looking for an alternative that is 100% environmentally friendly.
2. Product waste management
Goal: 10% zero leather waste by the end of 2020
- Use as much of our leather cut-offs or unused materials for smaller up-cycled collections, for packaging or giving to charitable causes for reuse.
3. Carbon offset for travel
Goal: 100% offset carbon footprint
- Consider alternatives – If the same goals can be met via video conferencing, we don’t travel. It’s a greener alternative!
- Contribute to carbon offset where travel is a must – we offset by contributing to an offset program or an organisation that plants trees. Anything that can offset the damage we create. We will be looking for reputable organisations to partner with.
- Choose eco-friendly suppliers of transport and accommodation who have been officially recognized for their eco-friendly efforts. We’re guided by The SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), an annual review of sustainability across several industries and The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), the international accreditation body for sustainable travel, which provides certification to hotels and other accommodation providers with sustainable operations.
4. Defending fair wages, working conditions and workers’ rights
Goal: To remain 100% fair
We want to follow as many of the worldwide sustainable fashion initiatives as possible.
The Ethical Fashion Initiative is part of the UN ‘Leave no one behind’ mantra, which connects artisans from developing worlds with top international brands. The aim is to radically reform the fashion industry by guaranteeing good working conditions, a liveable wage, and minimal impact on the environment.
By sourcing manufacturers in Sydney, we are doing our best to live that mantra, providing liveable wages and improving eco-footprints.
5. Supporting local communities and improving lives globally including disadvantaged children
Goal: Support local artisans by remaining 100% Australian made. Continue to give back, supporting the less fortunate overseas, including charities that help disadvantaged children.
Setting up the label has always been as much about an ethos of giving back, as creating fashionable lifestyle accessories.
We support local Australian businesses and stand against fast fashion and exploitation of developing-country workers.
We are part of FAID, a new, collaborative destination, helping consumers think twice about how and where they shop. Established in The Rocks, with views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, FAID is home to some of the most exciting, emerging Australian fashion and accessory brands. Thoughtfully curated and staffed by the designers themselves, FAID invites visitors to learn, touch and explore.
We will continue to mentor and inspire other businesses to do things differently and champion home-grown and local. We will continue to offer internships for designers or makers looking to start their own brand.
Traveling through Nepal in 2014 and meeting Goma at the Rainbow Children Home in Pokhara was a huge impetus behind setting up Hills & West. This orphanage has been keeping children safe and educated since 2007 and continues to help local communities affected by natural disasters. Every day they carry out such amazing acts of kindness, having such a big impact on the children, working with so little. Please read about all the wonderful work they do.
I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to create my own label, and I want to help others follow their hearts. Each year I donate 10% of my profits to help children around the world get an education and edge that little bit closer to realising their dreams.
We support children through Kiwanis Australia as well. It’s a global organisation of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time through sponsored activities and programs. Kiwanis comprises 600,000 members in 70 nations and geographic areas that serve children and communities worldwide.
Beyond the 10% of proceeds, we do individual fundraisers and other activities. For example you can see Aisha every second Sunday a month at Bunnings in Artarmon selling sausage sandwiches for Kiwanis.
When I started Hills & West, one of the non-negotiables for me was to create a 100% hand-made product – in Australia – using the highest quality materials.
Today, each of my collections is designed and handmade in Australia. All of my products combine the expertise of local leather makers with my design training from Arsutoria School in Italy.
In our first year we were very happy to be accepted for the ‘Australian Made’ trademark. This signifies that our pieces have been manufactured locally to meet high Australian standards; and importantly, we are just a phone call away for customers. We are avid supporters of local businesses and homegrown products and want to keep these skills and traditions local.
Australian-made products are up there with the best in the world, and we are so excited to be a part of this proud community. When you buy Australian-made goods you’re not only supporting local jobs and our economy, you’re getting great value and making a great investment.
Say no to fast fashion
The fashion industry has seen a giant spike in mass production, dramatically decreasing handmade quality products, and leaving little room for the smaller local maker, so many of whom have had to close down as big brands take their production offshore.
We believe that one really good product is infinitely better than 100 mass-produced ones plucked off the assembly line. Making in Australia lets us control the things that are most precious to us: creating exceptional pieces that make our team and our customers happy. It also gives us the opportunity to work and collaborate with other talented creatives for a diverse range of pieces centric to needs and interests of the consumer, and not a national sales trend plan.
We work with two gorgeous makers, our original maker in Redfern and a more recent recruit in Roselands. What is made at Hills & West is a reflection of our values and that’s something you don’t get from mass-produced goods.
From the beginning, our mission has been simple – do what we love, create exceptional affordable pieces and delight people along the way.
Minimalism, function and form… forever!
Hills & West team