Thursday, April 24, 2014


Photo: The Clean Cut team with Founder/Editor of Peppermint Magazine Kelly Sheenan, me (Siggi McCarthy) and my colleague at Ethical Clothing Australia Rebekka Carey-Smith. 

The Clean Cut Designer Showcase was part of this year's Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Sydney. You can read more about the sustainable fashion event here. Below is an interview I did with one of the lovely Clean Cut founders, Carlie Ballard.  

Could you please give me a little background on the Clean Cut team? What brought the girls together?

The 4 of us who started Clean Cut are all Sydney-based and really felt the void of a sustainable presence in the Australian fashion scene. We could see what was happening in the industry locally and globally and soon realised that we needed to create a meeting point and a presence to celebrate the work of sustainable designers here in Australia. It quickly became apparent that it was actually up to us to make this happen. I (Carlie Ballard) called on 3 girls I had worked with over the past few years - Kelly Elkin from ALAS the label, Lisa Heinze Author of newly published book Sustainability with Style and Yatu Widders-Hunt published eco writer, blogger at Thinking Fashion and media and communications expert. After our first meeting there was no turning back and we were planning the vision for our organisation from day 1.

What criteria did you consider when selecting designers to showcase at the event?

For the event we had a fairly strong idea of the labels we wanted to represent. We knew we needed to showcase the labels with a strong brand experience. And we also wanted to ensure we represented many of the different mediums sustainable designers are working with in this space. The Clean Cut showcase is about celebrating the steps designers are taking toward a fairer and more sustainable fashion future so we didn’t want to be purist with our choices.

Our industry has many bodies including Fair Trade Labelling Organisation (FLO), GOTS Certification, Made-By and Ethical Clothing Australia to name the major ones, so we sought a few labels with these credentials. But for many grassroots companies (which this industry has many) this is too costly, so it comes back to understanding their business model, the task at hand, such as ensuring fair labour rights, sustainable and ecological fabric choices and manufacturing, low and no waste pattern-making and empowering co-operatives to harness the beauty of traditional crafts and sustaining livelihoods through business.  

What makes Clean Cut different from other sustainable fashion runway shows? 

From Day 1, we knew that if we (sustainable fashion) were going to create waves and be included in the wider fashion community there could be no compromise on aesthetic, quality or style. We also knew that we needed to promote sustainable fashion outside of the sustainable fashion bubble, and be inclusive to the wider fashion industry. We saw this as the only option to make real change. We had to put on a production that was MBFW ready. The best models, beautiful space, leading stylists to ensure sustainable fashion stood tall next to the other MBFW shows during the week.

You are developing an online directory that will eventually act as a ‘guide to the sustainable fashion world.’ Could you please explain this in a bit more detail?  

Yes, we’re really excited about this. We are calling it a ‘Style Guide’. It’s basically a go to directory so consumers can easily find the labels across the globe that are actively working in this space. This is where much of the problem lies, the outlets for many sustainable designers are limited and hard for consumers to get their hands on. So this will be great for consumers to shop based on their values. Our mission is to bring back the value in clothing, start getting people to make more considered fashion purchases, buy quality not quantity. Our clothing choices are very defining so it’s important that the social and environmental impact behind their manufacture are taken into consideration too.

What are your thoughts on the current Australian fashion landscape, with regard to the sustainable design sector?

I’m excited! Changing the face of the fashion industry was and is never going to be a speedy task. When I started in this space back in 2007 everything that I entered into Google lead me to the northern hemisphere. There were definitely brands working in this space in Australia but they were limited. Today there are new design led brands popping up all the time that are working with beautiful natural fibres and harnessing the talents of artisans and importantly ensuring that fair working conditions are ingrained into the core of the business. It’s definitely exciting to see well known labels such as Ginger and Smart, Scanlan Theodore and Manning Cartell become Ethical Clothing Australia accredited. Sustainable fashion is growing, and pressure is definitely building for all labels to start to take steps in the right direction. It’s the future of the fashion industry so it’s only a matter of time.

How do you think we can promote further sustainable and ethical design within the local industry?

Definitely by having the Clean Cut Designer Showcase each year to celebrate exciting labels in this space, but we also have lots of plans to educate at the grassroots level. Students are completely aware of sustainability now, so it’s really important that the emerging designers are incorporating sustainable and ethical practices into their businesses. Also, Clean Cut is excited to be an industry body to make change and assist designers with creating a more sustainable and transparent supply chain.

Thank you Carlie! 
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