Australian designers leading the way in sustainable fashion – all the way to New York Fashion Week
After presenting their first dual-designer runway show at the 2nd Sustainable New York Fashion Week (NYFW) to wide acclaim, Noosa based sustainable fashion designer Debra Cheyne and Melbourne based jewellery designer Angela Clark have been inundated with interest in their garments and jewellery. The dynamic Aussie duo are optimistic about the future of repurposed textiles and items and its capacity to reduce the harm it causes to our environment.
Debra, owner of Butterscotch Castle, teamed up with Angela, owner of Angela Clark Boutique, to present their sustainable fashion lines at the Manhattan event on February 8, 2020.
Sustainable NYFW features the “what’s next” in sustainable fashion and is described by organisers as “a boutique, sustainable luxury exhibition where designers and consumers are sourcing, researching, and supporting environmentally ethical production and business customs in an effort to eliminate excessive and often permanent ecological consequences.”
Debra uses repurposed men’s shirts for her zero-waste designs and turns them into stunning dresses, skirts and shirts for women and children.
Angela uses a blend of traditional and non-traditional materials including vintage and antique components (even recycled bullet cartridges) and reworks them into wearable jewellery while keeping the integrity of the old components.
“It was a dream come true to be able to present our handmade Australian collections at NYFW, Debra said. “To have the opportunity to showcase our designs in the world’s fashion capital and spread the message of fashion sustainability at the same time is something we will never forget.”
“This is my second show at NYFW but my first with Butterscotch Castle, Angela said. “I remain committed to repurposing and using quality materials to make jewellery that will become heirlooms of the future. Equally important is that I design my pieces with real women and real bodies in mind, making them sustainable and accessible to all.”
Both women agree that the world’s love of fashion is literally killing the planet.
“Thankfully there is some incredible work being done within the sector to make designers, producers and consumers more aware of the cost to our planet of fast and disposable fashion, Debra said.
Angela added, “Textile waste is one of the biggest polluters in the world and there are ways we can reduce that without sacrificing the aesthetics of fashion. Debra and my work shows that it’s possible and that people love it.”
Textile World data (https://textilebeat.com/aussies-send-85-of-textiles-to-landfill/) shows Australians buy an average of 27kg of new textiles annually while discarding an almost equal amount at 23kg every year into landfill. “Australians are the second largest consumers of new textiles after north Americans who annually buy 37kg each,” industry publication Textile Beat reported in late 2018.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals half a million tonnes of leather and textiles are thrown out by Australians every year, with only a very small percentage repurposed and much of it ending up in landfill.
Debra, who credits her background as a naturopath to increasing her awareness of holistic health, said she is a self-taught fashioner designer who is doing what “feels right” for her.
“I have always been drawn to repurposing clothes and in particular, working with men’s shirts,” Debra added. “The quality, the beautiful fabrics and looking at how we can reuse and re-invent them is my passion.
“We use every part of every shirt. I have a great team helping to source vintage shirts for use and we also have agreements with suppliers who we purchase end-of-line stock from which gives them a sustainability tick and ensures the garments are not destined for landfill.
Angela, who is also self-taught and trains and teaches jewellery-making to disadvantaged communities across the world, agrees that repurposing is the future.
“There is enormous scope to repurpose so many previously discarded or unwanted items into beautiful pieces of fashion. This isn’t recycling for recycling’s sake. This is about creating new and gorgeous pieces that are fashion forward and sustainable. We are thrilled to be a part of the charge.”
The Butterscotch Castle and Angela Clark Boutique NYFW show and collection has recently been awarded Ile Maison magazine’s VIII Senses Award which “honours life enriching experiences and collections that inspire artful living and enhance wellbeing while leading the way to a sustainable future.” The collection will be featured in a future edition of the magazine.
Angela and Debra have been inundated with interest and orders from their collections since the Manhattan show.
“It shows there is a real appetite for smart and sustainable design and also shows what can happen to Australian designers working in this space, Angela said.
“If you believe in yourself, follow your passion and go with what feels right for you, you can reap the rewards, adds Debra.
Both women agree that as well as satisfying their creative passions that they are doing their bit to help the planet, one incredible outfit at a time.