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The Dress Collective is the brainchild of industry expert and sustainable fashion enthusiast, Claire Goldsworthy, and it's a flag bearer for Australian home-grown fashion, supporting up and coming local designers. Working to educate consumers on the importance of buying local and slowing down against the snowball effect of fast-fashion, The Dress Collective’s online store stocks only Australian designers. We talked about The Dress Collective and its inception, and how it emerged when Claire met her partner, Mitchell Dempsey, who added a grounded business element to her vision. “I started my own label almost 10 years ago straight out of school with only home economics sewing knowledge; I slowly built my brand by going to the markets at 4am, working two jobs to fund the label, researching a lot, doing internships and learning how to sew from my grandmother – so I learnt the hard way. I knew nothing about the online world, marketing, pr or social media, and just fumbled my way through.”

Emerge Australia soon followed, where Claire helped launch runway events to support local designers. Most notably, Emerge Australia was behind the fashion events at the Teneriffe Festival, as well as hosting a number of design competitions in association with Brisbane bar, Capulet. “I worked with over 40 designers that year and through conversations and getting to know each designer closely, the common problem was clear; national exposure for small labels.”

In reaction to this problem, with the help of the groundwork that Emerge Australia had laid, and the business sense of Mitchell, The Dress Collective was born, and cemented itself as 100% Australian designed and made. While Claire understands the business logic in off shore production, she is proud to say that The Dress Collective only stocks locally produced designers. “We’re up against a few other online stores that say they’re all about Australian fashion, but if you look into the labels, they’re actually just designed – not made – in Australia.”

Claire Goldsworthy is perhaps one of Australian fashion’s biggest cheerleaders, a mantra she echoes in The Dress Collective’s mission and values. “Our ethos is simple: to create a liberal and dynamic future for Australian fashion. When a lot of people think about the Australian fashion industry, they just think it’s designers that are involved, but it’s so much more than that.” Claire believes that supporting local designers is important from an environmental and sustainability rational as well, and is part of working against the ever growing trend of fast-fashion. “I shudder when I hear the term ‘fast fashion’, it’s probably the worst thing that has ever happened to the fashion industry and environment. It doesn’t just affect economies, it contributes to an immense amount of pollution and waste every single year.”

A deep concern of Claire and The Dress Collective team is also the concept of disposability in fast fashion. 67.5 million tonnes of clothing is made and released into the world every single year, and of that, 2/3 is made from synthetic fibres, which takes much longer to break down than natural fibres. In 2013, Australia’s contribution to the world’s fast fashion problem alone was sending over $500 million dollars of fashion clothing to landfill.

Despite these grave concerns, Claire believes that there is a great future ahead for Australian fashion and its next crop of designers. When asked about her favourite local success stories, she animatedly refers to the great Carla Zampatti. “She’s an inspirational woman and her achievements are extraordinary – this year, she celebrated 50 years of fashion too, which is a huge milestone.”

Claire has trouble picking her favourite from the huge number of Australian brands she idolizes, and believes that Australian fashion stands out on the global stage. “I spent a few years collectively overseas working in fashion, at Milan Fashion Week, Paris Fashion Week, in Berlin, London… but no matter how glamorous and exorbitant that fashion scene is, I still came home thinking how amazing our local fashion industry is.” Claire acknowledges that we do have our fair share of designers that conform to trends, but can also see the sparks of originality in the new up and coming designers.

“Our labels Chip The Teacup and Alexa Leeb ID are totally different, but they’re both from Byron Bay. One is crazy and colourful and playful, the other up-cycles delicate jewellery from repurposed luxury boat materials. We have the freedom to be creative and we have the resources at our fingertips to create what we want. I find that our aesthetic is very non-conforming and unique.”

When asked about what makes for good, personal style, Claire responds, “It’s a little in the eye of the beholder. Fashion is intimate, it’s something you connect with on a personal level and it’s something that you develop to be your own.” As well as this, Claire believes that a truly unique fashion piece can sometimes be the piece you pay a little bit more for, and that mass produced, fashion has potential to create a more generic look. “Fashion that is created purely to be on trend, fast fashion, or cheap fashion – it serves no other purpose than just to cover the naked body, and if that is all you’re buying it for, why not wear a paper bag?”

As for The Dress Collective, the future involves educating consumers about the consequences of buying into fast-fashion, and the benefits of supporting local designers. “We’re always branching out and starting projects that help our local design community. We’ve got a few sneaky surprises up our sleeve for the New Year, so you’ll have to follow us on social media to stay up to date! We add new designers almost weekly too, so keep visiting The Dress Collective for the latest in Australian fashion.”

I for one, completely agree with the avid support shown by Claire and the team at The Dress Collective for the paradigm of sustainable fashion. It’s so important to support local from so many perspectives, whether it’s an economical, environmental, or creative argument. - Ella Kate Thrupp.

Read more from Ella Kate Thrupp here and support Australian fashion by shopping here.

The Dress Collective Interview with founder, Claire Goldsworthy and Ella Kate Thrupp

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