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The Federal Government has invested $1 million in the Australian fashion industry

IMAGE VIA ARNSDORF

WORDS BY MAKI MORITA

The funding will be used to support and promote our local fashion industry.

Australia is home to a unique and endlessly talented fashion industry, making our brands increasingly sought after by both local and international shoppers. Leila Naja Hibri, the CEO of the Australian Fashion Council (AFC), knows this better than most.

“Our Australian heritage, our ethnic diversity, and our creativity, which is a little out of the box – it’s different from what other countries bring to the table,” she explains. Despite the talent we have to offer, however, there hasn’t been a way of easily identifying an Australian brand or a means of presenting our story in a holistic way when it comes to fashion.


Keep up to date with ethical designers over at our Fashion section. 


But never fear, as the opportunity to do so has recently been taken up by the AFC. Thanks to a $1 million grant from 2021’s federal budget, the AFC is working on developing a trademark that will certify Australian fashion. It’s a victorious win for the local fashion industry, as it will support and recognise our creatives and brands.

Edwina McCann, AFC Board Co-Chair and Editorial Director of Vogue, Vogue Living and GQ Australia, says that “This is the most significant federal funding in support of our Australian designers and remaining local manufacturing community in decades… it will not only generate jobs and support small businesses, but assist our unique fashion industry to export an image and wares which reflect our desirable Australian lifestyle to the world.”

This generous grant has been allocated to the AFC thanks to Australia’s Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER), which stated in a media release that it encourages “The design and development of an Australian fashion certification trademark, promoting and endorsing the high quality of locally designed and produced products to key overseas markets”.

The funding will also be used to create an industry roadmap for the next 10 years, as well as a local and global campaign promoting Australian fashion. The industry has come out of a difficult year and is well-deserving of this path towards recovery. COVID-19 had an overwhelmingly negative impact on local labels, with the worst-hit companies reporting an average of a 56 per cent drop in online sales and a 86 per cent drop in in-store consumer sales. Businesses struggled to keep casual employees, and the abundance of excess stock presented major challenges.

Now that we’re tentatively emerging out of the pandemic, businesses are rethinking their models and reaching for exciting new possibilities. Addressing sustainability is a key issue in our fashion sphere, with more Australian brands making environmentally conscious choices. Brands like Country Road have been making significant changes to their choice of fabrics and manufacturing practices, while smaller labels like Jillian Boustred and Nobody Denim have championed local production and ethical practice from the get-go.

Brands that are designed and made in Australia have increased in popularity, as the benefits of using domestic supply chains became especially prominent during the pandemic. Last year’s economic shutdown highlighted Australia’s dependency on manufactured goods from overseas, and the vulnerable position this puts many Australian businesses in. Manufacturing in Australia means fewer transport costs, less environmental impact and boosting local industries, so it’s a win-win situation on multiple fronts.

These efforts to look after our environment are laudable, but they’re nothing new. First Nations people on this land have been applying sustainable practices for more than 60,000 years. For Aboriginal designers, caring for country is integral to their practice.

Respecting this and acknowledging what First Nations people have to offer is vital to further developing the branding of Australian fashion. The culture of First Nations people sets us apart from many other countries, and by listening and learning, our industry can be made richer and more dynamic.

The Australian fashion industry is evolving, and creatives are rethinking what our future might look like. The AFC’s trademark will present the distinctive qualities of our forward-thinking style within the global arena, creating further opportunities for local designers and craftspeople.

Leila explains that “the trademark will aim to position Australian fashion as a brand in its own right”, highlighting the unique style our homegrown talent has to offer. Further details about the initiative are set to be released in the coming weeks.

To find out more about the great work the Australian Fashion Council do, head here.

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