When I first started Melco Fabrics in March 2021, we were importing fabrics from overseas (China). However, the more I researched into the industry, the more I wanted to ensure we were supporting ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes. I knew in my heart manufacturing fabrics in Australia for Melco was the right move from an environmental, sustainable and ethical standpoint. So, we made the switch.
In the textiles industry, we so often see buzz words like "ethical" and "sustainable" manufacturing thrown around. I understand it can be really difficult to know if it really is ethical and sustainable fabric.
So today I wanted to give you some information that I have learned since starting Melco Fabrics. I hope this information will help you make more conscious decisions when it comes to sourcing fabrics for your slow fashion adventure.
What is Slow Fabric?
Slow fabrics are produced in small quantities, in order to avoid over production and textiles waste. Further to this, being able to trace, understand the conditions the fabric was manufactured under such an environmental and humanitarian.
For me, visiting the textiles mill in Australia and working with them face to face is an experience that cannot be replaced.
Slow fabrics have a transparent manufacturing process that is verified with an independent body(s) in order to ensure the fabric origin is as stated, and the conditions it was manufactured under are ethical.
What is Fast Fabric?
Fast fabrics fabrics are produced in mass quantities, very similar to fast fashion. Fast fabric is also hard to obtain information about and trace the different stages of the supply chain.
When importing fabric from overseas, often importers of fabric are dealing with "fabric traders", not the fabric mill itself. Information about the manufacturing process and human rights is difficult to obtain.
Now, I am not saying all imported fabric is unethical, or "bad". But now armed with the knowledge I have, I would be asking more questions surrounding this.
If a company believes in human rights and ethical manufacturing, and wants to advertise as such, I believe it is their obligation to ensure that the manufacturing process is audited from start to finish by an independent body.
Independent Verification - International
Social Accountability International (SAI) is a global non-governmental organisation advancing human rights at work.
"The SA8000 Standard is the world’s leading social certification program. The SA8000 Standard and Certification System provide a framework for organizations of all types, in any industry, and in any country to conduct business in a way that is fair and decent for workers and to demonstrate their adherence to the highest social standards." [ SA8000® Standard - SAI (sa-intl.org) ]
Businesses that are passionate about sustainability and human rights can have their manufacturing process audited to ensure they are meeting the standards for a fair and safe workplace.
Independent Verification - Australia
In Australia, there is an accreditation body called Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA).
"Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) is an accreditation body. We work collaboratively with local textile, clothing and footwear (TCF) businesses to protect and uphold the rights of Australian garment workers. To be ECA accredited, a business’s manufacturing operations are audited from design to dispatch to ensure that local TCF workers, including outworkers, are being paid appropriately, receiving all their legal entitlements and working in safe conditions. By supporting an ECA accredited business you are helping to strengthen the Australian TCF industry and you’re valuing the rights of our local garment workers."
Melco Fabrics is active in our registration process at the moment with ECA and completing our final audits. We practice what we preach and want you to feel confident you're supporting ethical manufacturing of textile products. We (at Melco Fabrics) want to ensure we are supporting ethical manufacturing for our own peace of mind as well.
Australian Made Registration
Items that are 'Australian Made' can be registered with the Australian Made Campaign. In order to do this, the manufacturing process must be analyzed to ensure the product is manufactured in Australia beyond 'decoration'.
For example, a fabric that is imported from overseas, and then has an artwork printed on it in Australia cannot be registered as Australian Made. Reason being, it has not had any transformation. It was fabric when imported, and is still fabric after printing the design.
Melco Fabrics is a licensee of the Australian Made Campaign and have had our Australian made products registered with them.
"The famous Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo is the true mark of Aussie authenticity. It's Australia's most trusted, recognised and widely used country of origin symbol, and is underpinned by a third-party accreditation system, which ensures products that carry the logo are certified as 'genuinely Australian'." - AMCL
I believe supporting the textiles industry in Australia is so important, as with many things, without support from the sewing community one day it would cease to exist.
If you want to check if a product is Australia Made, there is a search function on the AMCL website in which you can search for products, or search for company names. Click here to see. Registering with AMCL is not an expensive process and worthwhile for any company that is investing in Australian manufacturing.
Questions to ask before purchase
If I were a consumer and looking to invest in ethical and sustainable textiles, I would be seeking the following information first. You can seek the following information from companies (which would hopefully be available on the company's website).
- Ethical Manufacturing:
- How are you supporting ethical manufacturing?
- Has your supply chain been audited by an independent body?
- How closely do you work with the fabric mill, are you able to visit it regularly and see the working conditions?
- Origin of products: what portion of your manufacturing is done off-shore versus on-shore?
Slow Fashion and Fast Fabrics
Many of us took up sewing for different reasons, whether that be a hobby, a business, a stand against fast fashion, reducing textiles waste or expressing one's own individual flare... Regardless of the reason, I am sure we can all appreciate the love, effort and care that goes into handmade items.
I am sure at one time or another, we have all been asked... "why do you sew when you can buy clothing so cheaply? I can buy a shirt at Kmart for $5, why would I buy handmade for $20?" [insert eye roll from the sewist]. There is a vast difference in fast fashion, versus slow fashion, and the ethos, values and beliefs driving both.
Just as in the world of fast fashion v's slow fashion, there are fast fabrics v's slow fabrics.
What's in the price?
At Melco Fabrics we believe in quality over quantity. At Melco Fabrics our made to order fabrics are made possible by the teamwork of three small, Australian family-owned businesses.
If you divide the cost per metre, say $38 for our printed cotton lycra, from that, each business averages $12.66 each. From this they need to pay manufacturing expenses, gst, award/fair wages, provide a safe working environment for staff, the cost of running the business and keeping the lights on ect. Anyway, you get the gist.
By manufacturing in Australia, at Melco we are able to have clarity and transparency within our supply chain. Being able to visit the fabric mill and printers in person is inspiring and eye opening to say the least. If you would like to learn more about their focus on environmental and sustainable practices, you can read more here.
I understand it is not in everyone's budget to invest in slow and ethical textiles. If you are unable to stretch your hip pocket that little bit further, I encourage you to upcycle. Upcycling fabrics is a great way to reduce textiles waste and be environmental and sustainable on a budget. Often old bed sheets or clothing can be purchased for a few dollars from the 2nd hand shop and be revitalized into something amazing.
For those of you that are able to afford the investment in slow fashion or slow textiles, I encourage you to do so. Buying that handmade blouse at your local market, or a metre of Australian milled fabric, can mean all the difference to the small family businesses often behind them.
Slow fashion is fantastic, but I think on a deeper level, slow fabric is an important aspect too. I hope the above information I have shared with you is helpful in navigating the textiles world.
At Melco Fabrics we look forward to continuing our journey of expanding our Australian milled range of fabrics and sharing them with you. We hope by January 2023 that all of our old, imported stock will be sold out and we will be a 100% Australian Made textiles store.
We would love if you could tag #melcofabrics on social media in any of your Melco Creations.
On another note, if you have any questions about Melco Fabrics please don't hesitate to reach out.
Thanks for reading,