– A passion piece written by Boutique Manager, Jacinta Stanford –
The world’s largest industries produce a huge amount of waste and continue to pump out massive amounts each day, resulting in a devastating impact on the environment. Some are surprised to learn that one of the biggest polluters in terms of manufacturing waste, is indeed the fashion industry which generates 4% of the world’s waste each year.
When we look a little closer into each industry it is clear that the consumers’ eyes are shut to the pollution impacts to the environment where they chose to spend their money, and price becomes more important than the environment.
Taking a closer look into the fashion industry where my personal passion and career lands, and where my ethics are left feeling torn between what is right and wrong. A short history into my career without naming names was back to back management positions with large retail corporations. The main things they all had in common were:
- Every garment and accessory came wrapped in plastic
- Low-quality fabrics that break easily
- After every collection countless units were sent to overflowing outlets
- And the consumer always wanting and looking for the better price
I absolutely adore fashion and the creativity that goes into the designs and the way an outfit can give a person confidence or bring colour and happiness to a room. But when you learn that according to Forbes, fast fashion brands like H&M and Nike have been known to incinerate tons of new, unsold clothing every year (attributing bad manufacturing quality), and even luxury brands such as Burberry have been accused of the same practice in order to preserve their devised exclusivity [Forbes, 2018], and where, in Australia alone, it is estimated ½ million tonnes of textile waste ends up in landfill each year (equivalent to 600kg thrown out every 10 minutes) [Nacro.com, 2017]. Add to this the realisation that the cost in water to make one simple cotton T-shirt is up to 2,700 litres… my bubble finally burst, recognising that my consumerism had been contributing to this insanity in the first place.
Jacinta, pictured here at the KG boutique in Chifley.
But things are changing (albeit, slowly) and consumer awareness is shifting, with fast-fashion retailers forced to reimagine their old ways in favour of sustainability or risk being left in the dust.
Finally, my dream job was presented to me from an old college friend and I was invited into the world of Karen Gee, made-to-measure and made-to-order; where each garment is individually cut and produced for each order, so there is no oversupply, minimising waste and the subsequent environmental impact. The brand’s emphasis on timelessness, quality, and longevity of the designs means that these garments are designed to be worn and loved for years to come, not thrown out at the end of the season.
At first, I found the concept difficult to wrap my head around as I was a perfectly trained consumer and shopper but soon caught up with the business model and fell in love. When it first clicked it was when I was talking to a friend who sold house and land packages. This concept made a lot of sense to me as I grew up in a family of builders and my parents were always dragging me to the showroom to show clients the possibilities they could have in their custom home, made especially for them.
I have been with KG for a year and my role is boutique manager, even though I have had this title before and with other brands, my experience has dramatically changed working for a sustainable company. Every day I meet clients at our showroom and talk colours, styles, and fabrics. We make personalised profiles for our clients to get to know what works best for them and what makes them feel confident and what life events are coming up in the future.
Throughout the made-to-measure and made-to-order process, I get to spend a considerable amount of time with my clients which gives me the opportunity to make long-lasting relationships and return customers. In the past, I was used to a more in and out experience with fluffy sales training that each customer would get, kind of like a robot or what I like to call “The Trude and Prude” from the show “Kath and Kim”. My time was constantly taken up, from unpacking boxes of stock and re-boxing old stock to transfer out once the season was over. This was both time consuming and exhausting and didn’t leave much room for making personal connections, instead leaving me trying to push the customer out the door with 2 or more pieces to keep KPI’s up.
In conclusion, the business model at KG is both saving the environment from an overload of waste and unwanted garments and creating memorable one-off pieces made especially for the individual. I could never see myself staying in retail long term until I started working here for Karen and I feel blessed every day. My future looks bright with a beaming career at KG in fashion, which I love, with the knowledge that every garment that walks out the door is for a purpose.