By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
In a world where fashion excess and hyper consumption dominate the scene, Eco Fashion Week Australia – the largest fashion week in the world – offers a breath of fresh air. Offering runway shows as well as several seminars with the aim of educating the public about the importance of fast fashion, this is the biggest fashion week in the world, in term of length and events.
The mastermind behind this inspirational initiative is artist, designer and earth ambassador for Green Embassy, Zuhal Kuvan-Mills. This year, she invited a variety of experts from the world of sustainable fashion to share their competence and delve into the discourse of creating a circular model for the future of couture. The distinguished speakers included: Julia Leu (Mayor to Douglas Shire Council), Bridgette Gower (Sea Shepherd) upcycling designer Sylvia Calvo and many more.
As part of EFWA’s commitment to support home-grown Australian talent, fledgeling designers were acknowledged with the Anita Moon Awards of Excellence. These prizes have been established in loving memory of Zuhal Kuvan-Mill’s close friend, artist, and environment protector Anita Moon, who was a strong supporter of sustainability, protecting our nature and Eco fashions.
The winners were Regina Bochat for Best Australian Student Designer Award, Tayla Parnham for Best Australian Emerging Designer Award- Fabric By Nature, Pearlita Orongan for Best Australian home sustainable garment Award, and Australian Made Design Award went to Livie Rose Designs.
Another exceptional feature on the eco-fashion week schedule was the EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn Wilson and Dalija Vlahov, which demonstrated how a variety of men’s shirts can be upcycled into stunning garments. The Challenge truly illustrated how we can Reduce, Reuse and Recycle clothes that would otherwise go to a landfill.
I was proud to attend this event on behalf of Eluxe Magazine, and I gave a few speeches and even presented a piece of my artwork, created from recycled materials. Given the vast number of wonderful designers showing during EFW, it was very hard for me to distill them all into one article, but in my opinion, here are 10 of the best designs from Eco Fashion Week Australia.
Eco Fashion Week Australia Highlights
Green Embassy is Australia’s first internationally recognised organic fashion label, founded by artist Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, the founder of EFWA. The brand focuses on minimalist designs with a modern twist, using alpaca, merino, silk and recycled natural fibres. The latest collection is the sublime Ngoolark Series, inspired by the plight of the Carnaby Cockatoo. It epitomises the designer’s background as a veterinary surgeon and an animal science lecturer. As she explains: “I love all animals, and my passion for protecting the environment and wildlife became my artistic concept.”
This eco couture brand distinguishes itself for the timeless and exclusive flair that evokes the Hollywood Golden era. Founder Cheryl Creed is an Aboriginal Woman who welds her cultural heritage with the love for assimilated fashion. “The story behind my fashion stems from the they way my parents raised me and the family values, I saw the waste happening in Western society and I love the word ‘reclaimed,’ this is a beautiful word to describe my brand,” she says.
Jude Taylor’s artwork is a celebration of the wildflowers and landscapes of Western Australia as expressed through striking hand-coloured linocut prints. Her inspiration is female empowerment and the environment. “Western Australian women love to connect to the great natural heritage that we are so lucky to be part of. So for me, it’s been a very organic process that has been customer driven from the beginning, since I love giving women the opportunity to celebrate the flowers that they love through their clothing,” she states.
Curtin Springs creates delightful paper jewellery in Central Australia that eulogises the traditions and artisanal skills of the Aboriginals in the region. The Conner Collection and The Dawn Collection offer simple, minimalist accessories that are add an eco-statement to any outfit.
Ngali brings together a talented group of emerging, inspiring and gifted indigenous artists who showcase their talents through the mediums of painting, photography and artistic creation. The pieces presented at EFWA are an ode to the traditional Aboriginal custodians of the lands and pay respects to the culture of the First Nations of Australia.
Classic Couture Vintage & Bridal use traditional techniques to create stunning pieces for future brides. Designer Merrin Glasgow says the inspiration behind her eclectic garments are past epochs, such as the Elizabethan, Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelite and Regency eras. She works with predominantly natural fabrics and re-purpose existing garments to continue the life of the fabrics.
This remarkable designer from Barcelona uses upcycled coffee bags for her sophisticated designs. She adds intricate prints and details to upscale this raw fabric. Her key approach is one of continuous experimentation: “When you try to apply new techniques you look at things from a different perspective and new ideas and inspiration come to mind. You need to have an open mind, and be willing to try new things out,” she says.
This Perth-based fashion brand finds inspiration in Nordic values and conscious design. The designs of Skylark The Label pay homage to the beauty of nature, with a splash of au courant grace. Founder and designer Sheridan Joyce feels strongly about sustainable fashion, and this is evident in her pieces that interlock various upcycled patterns and fabrics.
Betty Spoke brings her pieces to life in a Scottish studio that uses quality materials and supports local industries. The ethical designer and founder of the brand strongly believes that people can make a global change through fashion. As she says: “Fashion is not a trivial pastime, but part of everybody’s everyday. We are experiencing an exciting time where people are recognising that their purchases shape a global market.”
Designer Tayla Parnham of Fabric of Nature upcycles fabrics into interesting shapes and designs, including topographic maps that look at landscapes from a different perspective. This emerging Australian designer aims to change the way clothing is perceived and consumed, whilst maintaining its function.