We recently sat down with Brittanie Dreghorn who is the brains behind Australia's favourite sustainable fashion publication; Britt's List.
We delve into sustainable fashion in Australia, the barriers holding people back, and how Australia can learn from its Asian neighbours in Brunei.
Check out the interview below and be sure to check out Britt's List for everything sustainable fashion in Australia!
And if podcasts are more your thing, listen to the audio version of 'Striding Forward' on your preferred podcasting platform :)
1. Tell us a bit about Brittanie and why you started Britt's List.
Brittanie: I've been interested in sustainability for more than five years. Hanging around some people, who I guess, I just soaked it in all their wisdom. They were interested in things that I hadn't really thought about.
I did dabble in op-shopping shopping and things when I was young, mostly because it was cheap! But it wasn't until I was probably working around some like-minded individuals that I started to think a bit more critically about my purchases.
I've actually got a marketing background: so I do look at brands quite a bit and listen to their messages and try to unpack what they're saying and whether or not that's true. And so with Britts list, I want to help other people do that.
2. That's fantastic. And how has the journey been so far?
Brittanie: It's been going for just over two years now. I was thinking about doing it a while before that. It was just this feeling, I guess, of, I don't know, existentialism. Like, I really want to do something about this thing. But I don't know what it is.
And I thought about it for quite a while. But it wasn't until I think for me, I just didn't want to be more noise out there. Saying the same thing as different people. So with Britts list, I wanted to make it a little bit different and make it more about the brand stories of the people who are making genuine efforts in ethical production and sustainability.
It's since changed a little bit in that exact kind of value or purpose, but that was the main sort of thing.
3. An important question we love to ask is what powerful quote do you leave by and why? What inspires you to be the best you can be. This can be personal or related to sustainable fashion.
Brittanie: I actually I have two, if that's all right, because one is more specific about the fashion industry and one is more, I guess, personal.
So the one that is personal is by F. Scott Fitzgerald, so it's a classic! It's "for what it's worth, it's never too late. Or in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit. Stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best of the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different view. I hope you live a life you're proud of. If you find that you're not. I hope you have the strength to start all over again".
So I feel like that one's a really great one just for anyone who is in the middle of their life or their day and not sure if they're going in the right direction that it's never too late to change direction.
The second one is actually by Orsola de Castro; the founder at Fashion Revolution. And she says "provided you wake up every morning and you're aware of the fact that your wardrobe is in the fashion supply chain, then you're a fashion decision maker".
And so I think this is a really important one, because it's about that not only brands have to take responsibility of the huge task that is creating fashion in a more ethical and sustainable way. But it's also about the people who are buying the clothing as well.
4. What are the main barriers holding people back from shopping with with sustainable fashion brands in Australia? Do you think it's got to do with a lack of education on the issues? Price, convenience, etc? Share some of the reasons you put this down to.
Brittanie: Yeah, I think it is definitely all of them.
So it's a little bit of the education piece. I've heard a bit about making clothes sustainably or ethically, but they don't exactly know what that translates to. So they don't know what to look out for in a brand. And then also they're more susceptible then to greenwashing.
So, if brands are calling out a 'conscious collection', for example, or something along those lines, they might think they're shopping sustainably, but they're still buying fast fashion that's made from synthetics. I think the education is important.
Availability comes to that in there as well. So just like you're saying with convenience, the fact that a lot of these high street retailers are not the ones that are selling ethically made or sustainably made fashion. It's not readily available. You may need to seek it out and find brands that you value. And then, you know, the price point comes into it, of course.
But we just need to change our whole attitude towards how much we pay for fashion and think about the true cost of the garments.
5. How optimistic are you in terms of transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry?
Brittanie: Yeah, I think there's definitely cause for optimism. We can see that there is an increase in people who are looking for it.
I know certainly that there is, because I know traffic to my website is improving, so I know that people are searching for ethically made underwear, sustainable swimwear or Australian made activewear. Because of that, I do know that there is more and more people looking than ever, which is really good.
In saying that we do have a really long way to go. There's still this huge gap between what even is a sustainable product and, you know, creating truly circular fashion, because at the moment we're still very much into take, make, discard. It's a process. But there's an awareness there. And I think if that just keeps moving and brands can catch up and fill that demand, then I think we'll be on to something pretty incredible.
Source: Common Objective
6. What are the key ingredients that you look for in the brands to feature in Britt's List?
Brittanie: So it just depends. So a lot of brands actually do approach me and they'll say 'I've got this great sustainable brand', or they might say they're using something like recycled polyester. And I always go back to them and I'll say, great, but please tell me more about:
• Where are they made
• How much are the workers being paid
• How do you reduce waste
• As well as a few more broader questions.
And that actually weeds a few of them out and some never reply either. I think that because they call themselves sustainable, but in actual fact, they don't know this information about their brand, or they do know, but they're not willing to share it.
It's really it's not one thing because one thing is definitely not enough. But in saying that, nobody's perfect. No brand is perfect. It's really about a journey. And I'm happy to go along with them on that. But I'm pretty much looking to cover three pillars, which is:
• The way they treat people
• The way they treat the planet
• The way they treat animals
So if they have addressed all three of those, then I start just talking about that. What I'm just doing is trying to turn to share their story. I'm not necessarily taking it, putting my opinion in there, but just helping to promote them because they are doing something. I guess that's good.
7. So you recently returned from a trip to Brunei with the Australian government. Can you tell us how that was and what were some of the key takeaways from that? What can they learn from us and what can we learn from them in their approaches?
Brittanie: So that trip was part of the Australia Now program where they ran something called the Youth Entrepreneurs & Leader Speakers series.
So they go to a number of different Asian countries and have young Australians talk about their area of expertise. With Brunei in particular, we were talking about social enterprise and sustainable fashion. But more generally, about how to use your business for good. So what we found there is actually so interesting, you would think, because it is quite a wealthy nation, that they would have quite a big understanding of the global issues. But more than that, just access to a lot of great fashion. Now, in reality, they don't really. A lot of it is imported from China
And a lot of it isn't labeled. So what we found it was really quite interesting is that here where we value Australian made, for example, it's not the same over there. And we think it is because just the lack of transparency around labelling and government labelling laws.
So for a start, if they pick up a garment, they can actually see where it's made. And then that even goes further to they can't see what's in it either. So there's no fabric or garment care label. It is really interesting because there's no awareness or very little around different fabrics, synthetic fabrics and semi synthetic fabrics and what their impact is on the environment. And even if they did know, then there's the issue that they can't tell.
So there was a couple of things there which we had some really great in-depth discussions about and wanting to solve. And on top of that, there's this awesome grassroots movement of young designers who are trying to create incredible sustainable brands importing their own organic cotton and producing stuff locally there and just doing everything right. So I thought that was really great.
8. And will you be returning to Brunei in the future as part of an ongoing relationship? Or was this more of a one-off event with the Australian government?
Brittanie: I'm pretty sure Australia Now and that program in particular will be doing work with the with the High Commission. However, I'm not sure if it'll be specifically about ethical fashion
Britt's List is our favourite sustainable fashion resource and we share it will soon becoming yours too... if it isn't already!
This amazing interview is just a snapshot into her insights.
Be sure to visit the Britt's List website, follow their Instagram and even sign up to their email list.
Between Stride and Britt's List, you'll never miss a beat on all things ethical and sustainable fashion in Australia!