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Tag Archives | Clothing

Ethical fashion blogs: the best around


Photo credit: Dave Gingrich (Flickr)


Who hasn’t heard something about ethical fashion one day, only to have it contradicted by another source the next day? There’s a wealth of blogs about ethical fashion on the web, but which are the best and most trustworthy? Jess Noble has you covered. 

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A nose for recycled fashion

Photo credit: Jess Noble

Photo credit: Fashion Hound

Second-hand is sexy. That’s according to the Australian queen of thrift shopping, eco-fashion blogger and style ambassador for the Salvation Army, Faye De Lanty.

Sydney-based Faye – a well-known Aussie TV presenter turned eco-stylist and founder of amazing eco-fashion blog Fashion Hound – is changing the (still slightly muddy) face of second-hand clothes. While vintage fashion did see a mammoth resurgence in the last decade, Faye thinks there is still work to do to get consumers to stop buying fast fashion, and start seeking out the recycled gems hidden in the op-shops of the world. Turn on Channel 9’s Today Extra and you’re likely to see Faye’s face pop up in one of her live eco-fashion parades.

Otter’s Jess Noble had coffee with Faye in Sydney last week – and now she’s a thrift convert. Here’s what they talked about.
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Have a Christmas that’s merry for you and the world with Good Spender

good spender

Mark Daniels, Head of Market and Sector Development at social enterprise development organisation Social Traders, on their new social enterprise shop Good Spender!

Carols are playing in the supermarket, Christmas is coming, and the thought of presents is starting to loom large. This is a great opportunity to create social impact for individuals and communities by purchasing from a range of outstanding social enterprises on the Good Spender website.

Good Spender is an online marketplace where consumers who want to make a difference with their shopping can buy directly from social enterprises. Social enterprises are businesses that sell goods and services to benefit the community.

Every dollar you spend with a social enterprise goes directly to support the social purpose of that organization. This can range from creating employment for those with disabilities, the long term unemployed or indigenous Australians, through to protecting the environment and supporting nutrition and sanitation programs in developing countries.

This Christmas, Good Spender aims to be not just a platform for buying good and doing good, but also a convenient solution for ticking off your shopping list. Discover the broad range of products sold by social enterprises, and support their mission by buying from them, including:

Oz Fair Trade – beautifully home wares and jewelry handmade by local artisan from recycled bomb shells during the Vietnam War.


Summerland House Farm – farm fresh macadamia nuts, coffee, and gift hampers that create jobs for people with a disability.


Liminal Apparel  – fair trade and organic cotton bags and accessories that better the lives of local producers.


Niulife – a delicious and healthful range of extra-virgin coconut products that empowers third world producers.

Spend smart and do good these holidays. Visit for your Christmas shopping, and give gifts that make a difference. Also sign-up as a buyer to receive the newsletter, where you will be the first to know about new products and promotions such as free shipping!

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Inside ethical fashion: we chat to new label Jacob + Esau!


What better way to get an insight into ethical fashion than chat to some entrepreneurs who are trying to make it happen? We spoke with Joanne and Esther from (hopefully!) forthcoming clothing label Jacob + Esau. They’re currently running a crowdfunding campaign to try and get it off the ground.

Tell us a bit about your experience as fashion consumers trying to make ethical choices.

J & E: Making ethical shopping decisions has always been a personal challenge for us. We found it really hard to find out where and how the clothes we were interested in buying are made. There’s not much more information available besides the “MADE IN CHINA” label stitched onto the garment! It was tough choosing to gradually stop buying from our favourite brands as we began to realise the implications of shopping at stores that are silent on their supply and manufacturing processes. Finding new favourite (and ethical) stores was even tougher. They were either expensive, non-wearable, non-trendy or a combination of all three.

What motivated you to start your new brand Jacob and Esau?

E: Our motivation is to invest in people. Strip back differences in culture, religion and tradition and all humans are basically the same. We all want to love and be loved, and  have freedom and respect in our work and leisure. We felt like that was becoming increasingly difficult to recognise and understand in an age of fast paced consumerism.

This disconnection between ‘us’ as consumers and ‘them’ as off-shore workers is what fuels my passion to change things up in the fashion industry. J & E is a practical channel through which Jo and I want to provide education about how products are made, build bridges between different cultures and ultimately unite people through something as simple as a t-shirt.

J: We want to fill the gap we found when trying to shop ethically. That is, to provide the kind of clothes that we like to wear – affordable, stylish and now ethical as well.

kholi and wiwik

Who will make your clothes and what arrangements do you have with them? What do you think is the best way for a small supplier to ensure that the people making the clothes are treated well?

J & E: Husband and wife team Kholil and Wiwik will produce our first collection from their own home in Bali, Indonesia. Initially we looked at setting up a comfortable and clean workspace for them to use, but we realised that they actually prefer to work from home. It’s comfortable, convenient and makes it easier for them to raise their young son Dafar. They even have aspirations to make their home business a full-time affair, which we’re very excited by.

Our visit in July allowed us to meet face-to-face, get to know them and understand how partnering with us would fit into their lives.

We think this is the best way to ensure that our employees are treated well – by including them in all conversations and decisions made by the business. Small suppliers need to, and can definitely afford to, stop every now and then to have genuine conversations with their workers, and find out what works for them as individuals.

What about the fabrics they will use – are you able to trace where the fabric itself was made?

J: We will be the first to admit that we are still in the process of sourcing more sustainable alternatives in the fabric we use.Currently, we are exploring various organic and sustainable fabric suppliers in Indonesia and will be looking to improve our environmental practices in collections to come!

E: As a starting point, 90% of the collection to be launched this summer uses natural fibres, because of the harmful impacts of synthetic fibre production—it contributes to landfill because it takes so long to break down. Natural fibres increase a garment’s lifespan too. Because they’re breathable you can layer them, and use them for many different occasions. First a t-shirt is daywear, then exercise wear, then when it’s really soft it’s pyjamas! And you can use them as rags or cleaning cloths, then finally they break down naturally in landfill.

As well as this, we have sourced all our knit fabrics (such as cotton jersey and cotton French terry) from a local textile supplier in Bali whose primary source of cotton is from the neighbouring islands of Indonesia. They stock quantities on site, which allowed us to purchase the fabric on the spot rather than importing it from other suppliers. This minimises the carbon footprint left from shipping and transport, as well as making the purchase a lot more convenient for us!

What have people’s reactions been like?

J: It’s definitely been a mixed bag! It’s ranged from people who don’t know what ethical fashion is(which gives us a great opportunity to start a conversation), skepticism about whether we can “REALLY make money?” to incredibly encouraging words and advice.

E: I find that reactions vary greatly depending on the age, culture and demographic of the person, which is understandable and expected! There is a mix of interest, confusion and enthusiasm, which are all constructive things for Jo and myself.


What has been the most challenging part of J&E so far?

J & E: We’ve  been blessed with time, helpful connections and supportive friends and family, so the main challenge at this point is finance.

This includes the long-term challenge of moving people from caring about ethical fashion to supporting it through their purchases. In other words, putting their money where their mouth is!

Where do you see the Jacob and Esau project heading in the future?

E: The vision from the very beginning of J&E was to make ethical manufacturing the norm in the fashion industry. We love that we can design beautiful garments under the J&E brand, but we’re also interested in growing our ability to manufacture for other brands that want to make their supply chains more sustainable. This is also why we are intentional about being a business, rather than a community project or charity organisation. We recognise the importance of having a profitable business model, but we don’t think that has to be at the expense of the environment or our workers.

J: We want to grow, but we also want to spark a consumer awakening about ethical fashion and fair trade. As Esther mentioned, we would love to see it be standard practice for businesses to take responsibility for their entire supply chains.

What tips do you have for any aspiring small scale ethical fashion producers?

J: When you are starting something new and getting things off the ground, it can seem daunting and never-ending! You will also get a few quizzical looks and doubtful questions, but that’s par for the course. My one piece of advice is to persevere. Know that good things don’t come easy, and this is a really worthwhile cause.

E: I don’t think I have the authority to give tips or advice as my journey is incredibly fresh and is being put to the test every day! I will say that ethical fashion is a very new concept and that it will take time for people (even family and friends!) to get up to speed and support your vision. Also, that your vision has to be strong enough for you personally to commit the time, discipline and patience in the long run – being a pioneer can be a lonely path, but it’s worth it.

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Op shopping tips for the skeptical newbie

op shopping

Eleanor Robertson

Op shops are fantastic, there’s no two ways about it. They’re a great way to avoid purchasing new and prevent perfectly good cast-offs from going into landfill, plus you’re supporting charity at the same time.  Some of my earliest memories are of cruising op shops with my dad on Saturday afternoons; his poison was vintage sci-fi novels and comics, whereas I was more interested in toys and dress-ups.

However! For people who aren’t lifelong op shoppers, secondhand wonderlands can be confusing and intimidating. Plus there’s that weird op shop smell, like a cross between a primary school and a retirement home. But fear not, because to celebrate National Op Shop Week we’ve put together the ultimate guide to pre-loved purchasing  — and don’t worry, the op shop smell disappears completely after a thorough cycle in the washing machine.

  1. Know the lay of the land.

Choosing which op shops to hit up is crucial. If someone close to you is a regular at Vinnies and the Salvos, get them to take you to their favourite spots. Op shops vary hugely in size, price point, stock, store arrangement and many other factors. For the seasoned enthusiast this is all part of the fun, but if you’re more used to doing a casual swing through Target then the number and variety of op shops can be overwhelming. To find your closest op shops, check out Op Shop Listing, which has hundreds of op shops around the country.

As well as proximity, here are some general tips when deciding which stores to hit up:

  • The further you are from a major urban centre, the cheaper the items and the larger the variety. Regional op shops, and those in outer suburbs, are often enormous treasure troves of clothing, books and homewares priced significantly lower than those in trendier postcodes.
  • Check out church or parish op shops, which are tiny in size but frequently contain more than their fair share of unexpected finds.
  • Most op shops take delivery of new stock on specific days of the week, so it’s often worth it to phone ahead to your op shop of choice and ask them when they’ll get a new shipment in.

op shopping

  1. Be prepared.

Ideally, you want to set aside at least a whole morning or afternoon to go on an op shopping adventure. There are some basic preparations you’ll want to make to ensure you get the best out of the experience:

  • Bring reusable shopping bags for carrying your finds so that you don’t have to use disposable plastic bags.
  • Make sure you’ve got a reasonable wad of cash, because some op shops don’t have EFTPOS.
  • Go through your wardrobe or your kitchen cupboard and make a rough list of what you’re looking for so that you don’t end up wandering around aimlessly (can be a real problem in op shops.)
  • Bring a bottle of water. Op shopping is thirsty work.

op shopping

  1. When you’re inside

Because op shops are organised so differently to normal retail spaces, the techniques you need to navigate them are different too. Stock is often displayed in a way that would be considered cramped in other shops, and this means there are a lot more items per square inch than your shopping eyes are probably used to. This is a recipe for glazed-over wandering – don’t let the Op Shop Dawdle happen to you.

  • Manage your FOMO (fear of missing out). Only check each area once, and be strict. If you find yourself fingering through the same rack of jumpers three or four times, you might have to implement a time limit by setting an alarm on your phone.
  • When going through clothing, be picky. Is your item made of nice fabric? Is it a colour that will go with other things in your wardrobe? Does it fit properly? Are there any defects? Only take the plunge if it’s something you’ll actually wear!
  • Don’t get too caught up in gender-specific sections. Browse the men’s section if you’re a woman, and if you’re a man don’t reject that nice wintery coat just because the tag says it’s made by the Ladies’ Clothing Emporium for Women.

op shopping

Pro tips

  • Don’t buy something if it’s chipped, ripped, stained, too short, too long, or ‘for a friend’. If you’ve never sewn before you’re probably not going to start now, and that beautiful but too-long skirt will sit at the bottom of your wardrobe causing you guilt until you give it back to a different op shop six months later. Better to leave it for someone else to find.
  • Know what clothing in style this season. Fashion goes through cycles, and often by the time something ends up in an op shop it can be on the verge of a comeback.
  • Avoid single-use appliances unless you’re 100% sure you’ll use them. There are stacks of popcorn makers, doughnut irons, fairy floss machines, chocolate fountains and the like in op shops, which can seem exciting because they’re expensive at retail. But there’s a reason they end up here – most people don’t use them!
  • If you’re shopping for furniture, bring a tape measure, and the dimensions of the space you need to fill. There’s nothing worse than lashing a bargain vintage bed frame to the roof of your car and dragging it home, only to find it doesn’t fit in your bedroom.
  • Be very picky about accessories. Op shops are full of scarves, belts, hats, sunglasses and costume jewellery, and you can afford to put something back if you’re not completely in love with it.
 Photo credit
 Emily Orpin, A day in Hongdae (CC)
Eddy Milfort, 10 11 2013 (CC)
Ashton, Vintage Haight-Ashbury (CC)
Tracy B, Royal Albert Summer Solitude (CC)


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Fair Fashion: Save Ethical Clothing Australia!


Ethical Clothing Australia has become a casualty of Federal budget cuts, with the government announcing it will axe ECA’s $1 million budget.

ECA is the only labour ethics compliance body in the Australian fashion industry, working to secure wages and conditions for Australia’s thousands of garment workers.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

The joint industry-union group has conducted almost 3500 audits of Australian clothing factories in the past five years and met with more than 2500 home-based outworkers, known as the industry’s “hidden workforce”, who are vulnerable to exploitation.

Eighty Australian fashion labels and manufacturers – including Cue, Carla Zampatti, Puma, Rossi Boots, Hard Yakka and RM Williams – have been accredited under the voluntary scheme.The head of the de-funded organisation said the cuts would lead to more workers being underpaid and overworked, and act as a disincentive for the industry to operate ethically.

ECA’s certification is an essential source of consumer information, and stripping funding from the organisation’s accreditation program will decrease Australians’ ability to make more ethical choices when shopping for clothing and footwear. It is already far too difficult for the average shopper to access information on clothing supply chains and working conditions, and ECA labelling is one of few ways we can know we’re making a positive choice.
Take action by sending an email to Senator Eric Abetz here or see ECA’s list of other ways you can help here.
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Know any good yarns? Otter’s top 8 sewing bloggers do!


Sewing your own clothes isn’t just a fun and rewarding hobby. It helps to develop consciousness of the labour that goes into the things we wear and encourages us to appreciate quality rather than transient trendiness. It can also be good for the environment, especially if you’re careful with your fabric selection and make clothes to last.

Many of us have experienced the pangs of longing that lifestyle blogs tend to inspire. The tousle-haired children! The green smoothies! The photogenic pets! But I find the best of these blogs do one thing, and they do it well. Enter the sewing blogosphere, an amazing resource for anyone looking to get into the world of clothes-making. Back in the day access to this kind of knowledge was limited to those of us with patient grandmothers, but now anyone can dip in their toes.

For the curious wannabe, seasoned stitcher, or simple DIY voyeur, here are some of Otter’s favourite sewing blogs for you to peruse and enjoy.

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A busy person’s guide to better fashion choices

Colourful shirts on hangers

Kate Halliday

Like many people, when I heard about the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 and read about clashes in Cambodia between badly paid workers and security forces earlier this year, I became even more concerned about the impacts my fashion choices were having on the people making the clothes.

But like everyone, the time I can dedicate to researching every piece of clothing in my wardrobe is somewhat limited! So I started thinking about the most efficient way to find the relevant information and weigh up the issues that mattered to me.

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