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The New Guard – Emma Dutton on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion

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For Fashion and Textiles Merchandising student, Emma Dutton, fashion and eco-sustainability go hand-in-hand. Studying at the Kangan Institute Centre of Fashion in Richmond, Melbourne, she is focused on many facets of the fashion industry: from design formulation, to marketing, to learning about advances in technology within the industry.

After building upon her keen interest in fashion, Emma recognised the effects the fashion industry has on the environment, including but not limited to overproduction, over-consumption, exploitation of workers and the exhaustion of our natural resources due to the various production processes involved. “What most people don’t realise is how by spending money more carefully and by spending more money on one piece of clothing, you’re actually saving in the long run- not just money, but saving the planet and the wellbeing of factory workers. When you’re purchasing something, there’s so much more to what you’re buying than just a piece of clothing.” Emma also believes that buying items of clothing that last longer and learning how to repair garments are two significant actions people can take towards supporting eco-sustainability in the fashion industry.

California based clothing company, Patagonia, is one example of a clothing company taking a step in the right direction in terms of the recycle and re-use of clothing, whilst also improving the state of sustainable consumption and production. Patagonia donate 1% of their sales to environmental causes and invite customers to pledge to reduce what they buy, repair what they can, reuse and recycle. Another more locally-based company doing its part for both the environment and people in disadvantaged situations is ‘The Social Studio,’ a creative space in Melbourne that gives training and employment opportunities in fashion to young refugees. All of their clothing is ethically made using local, recycled material and is affordable, fun and fashionable.

As well as supporting ethical manufacturing and production, Emma recently adopted a vegan diet after being vegetarian for a number of years. In addition to the issue of ethical treatment of animals in the meat, egg and dairy industries, the livestock sector alone is responsible for 18% of Greenhouse gas emissions in the world- a figure that can be greatly reduced by simply cutting down on our consumption of meat. “If you are wanting to try and make changes but you’re finding it hard, find someone who will do it with you. My friend and I had both just moved to Melbourne from different states and we helped each other to find new vegan places to eat, we share recipes… just having someone there to support you can make it really fun and so much easier!”

Emma is still yet to decide what area of the fashion industry she wishes to specialise in and make a career out of, but she does know she is incredibly interested in the evolving technologies in fashion and how they can reduce the industry’s impact on our natural resources. She has gained ample experience through working at a number of fashion shows assisting stylists and sourcing garments and over her up and coming summer break she will take on an internship with a designer in Sydney where she will be helping stylists, taking garment measurements and doing various liaison duties.

“Winston Churchill once said ‘success is not final and failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts’ and this resonates so much with me. If I did not live by this I don’t think I would be doing what I am doing right now, so far from home. But I know that it’s going to be worth it in the end and I hope that one day I can say I made a difference to the world.”

Check out the Social Studio at http://www.thesocialstudio.org/shop/