Podcast 91, A.BCH'S COURTNEY HOLM - HOW TO BUILD A CIRCULAR FASHION LABEL

Courtney, photographed by Peter Ristevski for GT Magazine

Courtney, photographed by Peter Ristevski for GT Magazine

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EPISODE 91 FEATURES MELBOURNE DESIGNER COURTNEY HOLM

What does it take to make it as an independent designer working in this space? To cut through the noise to become a sustainable label people talk about? And buy?

Are hard work and dedication enough? 

Nope, says Courtney Holm, the Australian designer behind buzzy independent fashion label A.BCH. She argues that designers need to rethink the whole system. Holm is on a mission to revolutionise how we buy, wear and dispose of clothing.

In this interview we discuss the instinct to have a go yourself when you see something isn't being done, the importance of doing your homework and the usefulness of having a stubborn streak. And we bust the myth that size matters when it comes to being the change.

“It doesn’t matter what size [your business is]. That’s irrelevant,” says Courtney. “The reason I started the label was because I wasn’t seeing transparency and traceability happen, and I wanted to make it easy for the customer.”

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WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…

MINIMALISM Courtney loves black, white and grey, but her reliance on these colours has another dimension: sustainability. “We don’t want to ever have to throw fabric away…It won’t just be one style that I have in mind when I pick a fabric,” she says. “Usually simpler colours stand the test of time for longer.”

ARTICLE NUMBER The label’s product codes detail everything. If, for example, you fancy the Bolt Check Skirt (which is unisex, BTW) you can discover via the Article Number that it was made in-house, and: “We cut the fabric with minimal waste, construct the piece, press it and trim it for excess threads.” The fabric is 100% GOTS Organic Cotton Gauze. “Fibres are grown, spun and yarn dyed in Turkey where they are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) to meet strict environmental, toxicity and social standards. The yarns are delivered to Osaka, Japan where they are woven in world-class facilities. We purchase the final product through an Osaka based agency that source from a Japanese fabric wholesaler. Our goal is to work more directly with the weaver as we grow our minimum orders.” There’s a similar amount of info provided on the threads and buttons used, even the labels, and of course - the packaging.

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TRANSPARENCY “Transparency frames everything, because without that there os not need to improve, or to look within I’m not ever claiming to be perfect. There’s still a long way to go in different areas,” says Courtney.

ARKET is H&M’s transparent brand. Frankly, it’s nowhere near as detailed.

TRACKING ASSETS is essential if we’re going to recycle at scale.

TAKEBACK SCHEME A.BCH has already introduced this for the future. They haven’t had anything returned yet but when the time comes the plan is to first assess the garment, and see if it can be reused. “If not we’re saving it for cellulose recycling in the future - that’s still better than cutting it up and putting it in the ground,” says Courtney.

ETHICAL CLOTHING AUSTRALIA is an accreditation body. Find out more here. Courtney notes that the social side of sustainable fashion is just as important, to her, as the circular side of creating a truly sustainable and ethical fashion business. “How people are treated within our supply chain, from the grower of the fibre right up to the product being made is so important.”

FUN FACT: Only about 8 % of the fashion sold in Australian stores is made here.

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“I’M A STRONG BELIEVER IN THE IDEA THAT THE BEST DESIGNER IS ONE THAT IS CLOSELY CONNECTED TO HOW SOMETHING IS MADE. - COURTNEY HOLM

TECHNICAL VS. BIOLOGICAL NUTRIENTS To deep dive on this, we suggest you listen to William McDonough and Ellen MacArthur on the podcast. And read William’s definitive book, Cradle to Cradle.

NOVOTEX recycling facility. “Hong Kong may never reclaim its mantle as a textiles manufacturing powerhouse, but new developments suggest it has not shed all of its post-war industrial legacy either.

A new spinning mill – the first in almost half a century to be built in the former garment-making hub – will start churning out recycled yarn spun out of old, discarded clothes beginning this autumn.The 19,000 sq ft Tai Po facility, owned by local textiles firm Novetex, is also the city’s first textile ‘upcycling’ mill and when fully equipped, will be able to spin three tonnes of recycled fibre from roughly the same amount of textile waste daily, without affecting cost or quality.” via South China Morning Post

The FACEBOOK group Courtney mentions is called Sustainable Fashion Source Australia. Find it here

Pic via A.BCH

Pic via A.BCH




A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.

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Until next time,

Clare x