Australian Cotton: Good for Fashion, Good for the Environment
I grew up in a cotton growing town, but I can tell you I definitely didn’t know just how big the industry is in Australia. Our growers are producing enough cotton to clothe 500 million people each year, but it’s not always easy for fashion designers and makers to get their hands on. Until Full Circle Fibres, that is.
Full Circle Fibres is an initiative giving small designers and producers, who lack the buying power of the big brands, direct access to the cotton supply chain in Australia. A collaboration with Australian Super Cotton in St George, Full Circle Fibres was started by textile technologist Meriel Chamberlin, who was struggling to find 100% cotton products and knew she would have to be the one to take that first step. “I sometimes call myself a reluctant entrepreneur!” says Meriel on getting started. “Essentially, from the first time I met Glenn Rogan and Rebecca Lindert (growers at Australian Super Cotton) I realised we were the passionate champions we each were looking for. I found a wonderful innovative and forward thinking cotton grower, and they found someone who loved commercialising fabrics and working with supply chains.”
And Meriel is just one of a large group in the textiles and fashion industry with an interest in Australian cotton. “Our most important customers currently are Indonesia, China, Vietnam and Bangladesh – we sell to spinning mills that make yarn. This can change year to year based on seasonal conditions and supply and demand and the 2015-16 Australian cotton crop was worth over $1.3 billion,” says Brooke Summers, Project Lead for Cotton Australia’s Cotton to Market project. “Australian cotton is easy to sell to brands and designers because it’s some of the best quality in the world, it’s sustainable and ethically produced, we look after our people, we contribute in such a positive way to our communities and it produces a beautiful product.”
Brooke explains further how Cotton Australia is supporting the move towards sustainability in fashion and textiles. “Australian cotton leads the world in sustainable cotton production and has improved its environmental performance year on year. For example we use 95% less pesticides than 10 years ago, we’ve increased our water use efficiency by over 40% and we require 30% less land to produce a tonne of cotton compared to a decade ago.” She also adds, “Australian cotton is one of the highest quality cottons in the world, and it’s consistently high quality in terms of length, strength, whiteness and low contamination. Our spinning mill customers love using Australian cotton because of the quality yarns it produces.” Meriel from Full Circle Fibres agrees. “High quality cotton will give you incredibly long lasting items, great comfort and easy care, as well as something that can be mended, recycled or composted at the end of its life.”
Looking to the future, Brooke says Cotton Australia will continue to maintain its global partnership in the social and environmentally responsible production of cotton, as well as strengthening relationships with farmers and customers, and helping cotton growers in other parts of the world to “continually evolve and improve our industry together”.
If you’re a fashion designer, maker or retailer interested in learning more about cotton, you can contact Cotton Australia via email. You can also hear more from Meriel at the Fibre to Fashion Conversation series at this year’s Royal Queensland Show. Coinciding with the Ekka’s Natural Fibres Fashion Parades, Meriel’s panel will take place at 1pm on Saturday August 19. For more information visit the Ekka website.
Author: Zoie May
Images: Full Circle Fibres