Fuelled by the pandemic, the demand for Australian-made products has risen, seeing a shift back to local production. As consumers we have become more conscious about the benefits of localization: from reducing our carbon footprint, to ethical production and revitalising local economies.
Here at Arnhem, we have committed to manufacturing some of our collections here in Australia and consider it a significant step on our sustainability roadmap towards gaining greater transparency across our supply chain. We also believe that in making this commitment we are supporting future growth of the fashion and textiles manufacturing industry here in Australia, helping to rebuild what had become a dying industry sector.
To coincide with the launch of our second Made in Australia collection, Haven, we talk to Jyoti Durrant, our Sustainability Co-ordinator about what’s happened within the Australian fashion industry since our last Australian made collection.
It’s been almost a year since our last made in Australia collection launched. Reflecting on the year that has been and the continued impact of Covid-19 on global economies and supply chains. The pandemic has caused significant disruption with losses suffered due to order cancellations following lockdowns and border closures as retail stores closed and online sales declined.
The Australian fashion industry as a whole has suffered significantly. The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) conducted a survey with McKinsey & Company in early 2020 to assess the impact of the pandemic revealing an 87% decline in retail sales and 56% decline in online sales.
Brands experienced further disruption through supply chains due to factory closures, freight delays and increased freight costs due to emergency surcharges. Brands responded by closing retail operations, transitioning to working remotely and adopting new digital marketing and retail strategies.
With so much uncertainty in offshore supply chains, local manufacturing offered resilience and a competitive edge through efficiency in communication, visibility, and quality control. It allowed brands flexibility in responding to a changing market, for example, an increased demand for comfortable clothing, as more people worked remotely.
We saw a rise in industry collaboration and solidarity with business to customer initiatives such as the #wewearaustralian shop local campaign offering discount incentives for local fashion and donating to charities. We saw the emergence of online forums and industry support in the virtual space. Many local manufacturers adapted by making personal protective equipment.
We have seen a shift in consumer behaviour and sentiment, seeking brands with aligned values for ethical and sustainable practices. The economic impact means people are consuming less and purchases are consciously considered. More consumers are willing to invest in garments made ethically in Australia and recognise the higher price point is relative with the increased cost of local wages and overheads compared with offshore manufacturers.
Currently 8% of Australian apparel is manufactured on shore. Despite the challenges of the pandemic a recent report by the Australian Fashion Council found that the Australian fashion industry represents 1.5% of the economy, 1.7% of Australian exports and 3.8% of the labour market. 77% of which is female, providing economic security, advancement, and equality.
There is a need for investment and government incentives to ensure the growth of the industry here particularly with textiles; currently manufacturers must import fabric and yarn. Cotton and wool fibres are farmed in Australia and yet the facilities to process them into yarn are offshore. Cotton must be exported to be processed and re-imported to be knitted into jersey fabric. There are also limitations as to what fabrics can be produced here. There is so much potential for growth in this space and a need for innovation in technologies through industry investment and commitment and government support.
The training of future skilled workers is also a critical to ensure sustained growth.
The pandemic has exposed inadequacies and vulnerability of our economic system and dependencies on volatile supply chains, and the need for self-sufficiency. As restrictions begin to lift and the consumer landscape is changing, there is potential for growth. By manufacturing locally, we are not only supporting local economies and communities, creating employment in ethically certified factories, but reducing our carbon and environmental impact. By purchasing Haven you are supporting the made in Australia industry.