Massive Conglomerates Are Killing Local Fashion

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 1 year ago | Features

Image: inside the Arnsdorf atelier, where everything is made locally by skilled artisans.

Gone are the days when a tailor (or our grandmas) would make our clothes. So in an era now governed by fast-paced trends and mass production, global conglomerates are killing our local stores. In that context, then, there has never has been a more important time to support local brands and stores.

The forces of globalisation have meant that many local fashion manufacturers are now struggling to survive in Australia. And, as a result, we are left with an industry that’s dominated by low cost overseas production, which comes at a high cost to both people and planet.

When one of our well-made footwear brands Belmore was forced to step back after its manufacturer closed down, the designers told us “it has been heartbreaking to hear the personal stories [of our manufacturing team in Sydney] and what ‘redundancy’ means for each of them.” That redundancy was a direct result of big overseas competitors making it increasingly difficult to produce onshore.

The sad fact is that, as fast fashion becomes increasingly popular, so do local manufacturers suffer. In countries like Australia – where the wages are relatively high and fair labour conditions are often taken for granted – it is simply not possible to produce fashion for the same low-cost as offshore factories. “It is hard for us and our manufacturers to compete with this fact,” Belmore explains.

International conglomerates like H&M and Zara, on the other hand, have both the resources and the immorality to scour the globe in search of low-cost factories, which allows them to keep prices as low as possible – often at the expense of worker rights and wages.

Sadly, this groundswell is now forcing many of our favourite local brands and stores out of business. Which is why we believe so strongly in supporting the underdogs in fashion – aka the local brands like Jillian Boustred, Holly Ryan and Arnsdorf.

The Australian Financial Review points out that local manufacturing ultimately contributes to our gross domestic product and exports, but the Council of Textiles and Fashion Industries of Australia says that 92% of clothes sold in Australia are actually imported. This is because it's generally cheaper for brands to manufacture in poor developing nations. Meanwhile it is expensive, by comparison, to produce onshore.

Arnsdorf is a brand that’s fostering necessary conversation around this issue. "We are working to provide greater transparency and traceability throughout the industry," explains designer Jade Sarita Arnott. "By providing a breakdown of costings for each of our products, as well as the name of each individual working on the garment and source of the materials used, we build trust with our clients and serve to greater educate the wider community about what it actually costs to manufacture locally and ethically."

Making clothes locally can mean tighter margins and smaller production runs for designers, but from a consumer perspective, it also means higher quality and more original designs. So with major conglomerates rapidly killing Australian fashion, now is the time to support local – while we still can.


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