THE DRESS COLLECTIVE'S FOUNDER, CLAIRE GOLDSWORTHY, INTERVIEWED BY FASHION WEEKLY
To read the full interview via Fashion Weekly, click here.
It’s no secret: fast fashion is responsible for harmful impacts on our environment and the individuals working in the garment industry. To combat this issue, The Dress Collective sells 100 per cent Australian made fashion through its Melbourne-based e-boutique. With an abundance of Australian labels to shop from, whether it’s ethical, sustainable or slow fashion, you’ll find it at The Dress Collective.
We caught up with The Dress Collective Founder, Claire Goldsworthy, to talk about the epiphany moment that led to following her dreams, what it’s like to be a #Girlboss, and why it’s essential to shop local fashion.
Tell us about the epiphany moment when you decided to follow your dreams and create The Dress Collective?
After working in fashion for nearly ten years, I had seen the many sides of the industry, good and bad. I have always been compelled to make a positive impact in whatever I do, but when you’re working for someone else, sometimes you’re forced to make decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were working for yourself. The higher I climbed in the corporate fashion world, the more I knew about sourcing, offshore garment prices and margins with fast fashion, and I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I gradually grew to value purpose and people over the security of a weekly pay packet. The Dress Collective was an idea that I had been toying with for a while, but I didn’t find the courage to go out on my own till 2015. I wanted to make a positive change, I wanted to wake up and feel good about what I worked on every day, and I wanted to help labels succeed in this competitive industry.
Congratulations on being selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Young Victorian of the Year Awards in two different categories. Can you tell us about how you're feeling and why this is such an exciting time for you?
It was such a surprise to be selected as a Semi-Finalist in one category, let alone two! 2017 has already been such a great year, and to have recognition for the 12 hour days I’ve been putting in for Australian fashion makes me indescribably happy. I’m less concerned with my name being attached to the accolades though; I’m more excited for the recognition to bring attention to the brands and small businesses I promote through The Dress Collective. I love sharing my collective of designers, and I love promoting fashion that matters, so I’m honoured to be considered alongside so many other inspirational young Victorians. It’s great that fashion is gaining momentum among the national awards too, as it’s traditionally not considered. The Australian fashion industry is a $19 billion industry, and it supports hundreds of thousands of local jobs, so to have The Dress Collective recognised as a legitimate business by such prestigious awards, is awesome.
In a time where fast fashion is swallowing up little brands, what does it take for designers to make their mark and be successful in this evolving market?
Australian designers are already doing everything they can to compete with fast fashion; we have incredible brands and amazing talent, but it’s not the Australian designers that need to change. Consumers need to change their attitude towards pricing. Local brands are struggling as it is, they can’t drop their prices or they’ll cave. Consumers can do their part by educating themselves on the issues with fast fashion though, and they can educate themselves on the realistic price of locally made, ethical goods.
Tell us why local production and ethical manufacturing is important and why the spotlight isn't being shown on this important issue?
168 million children are forced into labour exploitation worldwide, and millions of garment workers are paid wages so low they’ll never escape poverty. I could talk all day about what the fast fashion industry is doing to our environment, and what it’s doing to offshore garment workers, but anyone can Google that. I’m not sure why people don’t take it more seriously, I’m not sure why our government keeps approving build after build of stores like H+M, Zara and Topshop. I think part of this issue is out of sight, out of mind. The factories aren’t in Australia; people don’t see the horrible conditions, the leather factories dumping deathly dyes into our rivers. If the factories were here, people would see it, people would be affected by it, and they’d change, in fact, there’s no way the factories would ever exist in Australia because no one would go to work for $1.50 a day. It’s important to support local makers and creators, and ethical and sustainable fashion so that we can elevate the pressure of the offshore system, and support the local economy. We have hundreds of local labels that are so incredibly talented, and they’re doing such amazing things, and we need to support them if we want a fashion identity for Australia.
Why is 'sustainable' a niche market instead of something that is 'normal'?
50 years ago, people thought smoking was good for you; it’s the same progressive model with fashion. We live in a technological world, information is shared in milliseconds, and you can Google absolutely everything. The problem is, our ethics and our morals haven’t caught up with the progression of the industry, it’s all happened too quickly. I know that in my lifetime there will be major shifts and changes because we can’t keep pillaging the earth forever, but it is a slow process lining people’s minds up with the rate of change. I also think a lot of people just don’t get it. We’re fed so much rubbish through TV, media, newspapers, magazines... We’re told what to buy, what to eat, what’s good for you, what we should be wearing, and the mainstream media holds the monopoly on what’s promoted and what’s not. Sustainable and ethical fashion is a slow burn, and isn’t a cash cow, so fewer media outlets are inclined to support the movement, which means fewer people are exposed to it.
You’re a multi-tasking wonder, how do you manage stress when it all gets too much?
Thanks! I do a lot... I’ve always done a lot. I feel inspired when I’m working on exciting projects, and there’s just so many exciting brands doing so many incredible things, so there’s a lot of work to be done! Between The Dress Collective, The Fashion Advocate, launching a new ethical brand and trying to live a normal life with any kind of social calendar or time for chilling out, it does get a bit much sometimes. I’m big on holistic therapies though, and my monthly sessions keep me grounded and sane, and I make sure I’m exercising and eating right so I have the right mind to handle a massive workload. I started 2017 saying that I was going to ban the S word (stress) from my vocabulary and I’m nearly there, but I think it’s something that every small business owner experiences and it’s a natural emotion to feel when you care so much about what you do, and the success of your business. There are a lot of labels counting on the success of The Dress Collective to keep their brands afloat which is a lot of pressure, but I stay focussed and having realistic expectations of growth. I try to remember what I’ve achieved on a regular basis too, and surround myself with good people and the things that make me happy, that keeps the stress at bay.
What's one of the biggest challenges you've had to face as a #Girlboss?
Being a woman! And working in fashion. It’s surprising how many people haven’t taken me seriously or haven’t given me the time of day in business because of those two tiny details, it’s interesting. The commercial fashion industry is headed by male CEO’s, likewise with a lot of media kingpins, and it’s a constant struggle. I’m a feminist too, so it’s frustrating not to be taken seriously. People forget that fashion is so much more than a materialistic industry; it employs one in six people globally, and it keeps many of Australia’s primary industries afloat, but ‘fashion’ is still in a grey zone. It’s on the up, but it’s not there yet. As a woman running a small business, it’s difficult getting my message heard, but I’m creative and I’m determined, so it’s not going to stop me.
Why do you think it's important for our readers to shop local?
It’s important to shop local because these labels are the future of our country’s identity. Our designers illustrate who we are, what we wear, what Australia means at a point in time, it’s our culture. If we lose our designers, we lose our identity, so we have to support local brands to ensure a future for them, for our local suppliers, our local manufacturers, our local stores... You have to think about the bigger picture and what every single purchase means, then think about the smaller picture and who it impacts directly.
Would you like to see The Dress Collective on a global scale?
Hell yes! I’m working on it.
What's next for you?
We have new brands joining The Dress Collective over the next few weeks, and I can’t wait to share them! And we’ll wait and see how The Dress Collective fares in April with the next round of awards. I’m also working on the launch of my own new label, and I’m collaborating with my partner on the launch of his active line too, so it’s going to be a great year!
Read more at fashionweekly.com.au.