Sustainability at every level
At the heart Annette Young is consciousness and compassion: for the planet and the people who make and wear the clothes. At every single stage of design and production: from the first drawing, to the fabric choice, sewing of the garment and making of garment tags, we consider environmental sustainability, ethical production and the experience of wearing and owning each piece, alongside the prosperity of our business and world.
What does sustainability mean?
It's a widely used term today, but what does it actually mean?
Sustainability is maintaining change and growth between nature and humanity to meet our needs and aspirations, in a balanced and harmonious way. It is the practice of balancing the interconnection between the environment, society and the economy. The United Nations defines sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." For Annette Young, sustainability is about respect and peace. We ask: does this action respect nature and humans in order to grow this business? Does it come from heartfelt peace?
What are the ways Annette Young Design is sustainable?
At Annette Young, we consult with the big guns: the leading voices in the industry on sustainable fashion and we follow their advice. We also follow our hearts and if there is a way we can do business that benefits people and the environment, we'll do it.
Annette Young is guided by the principles of the Global Fashion Agenda, Fashion Revolution, United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change Action and extensive research over the past four years. Designer Annette Young also researched sustainable fashion extensively during her degree in fashion design and for her honours thesis.
Emotionally Durable Design
Every collection is made with a meaningful theme, so the value of the garment goes beyond the fabric. They are inspired by an experience, story or emotion and we hope you connect deeply with the story and see the garment as a way to express your values or connect to the garment in a meaningful way.
The theory of emotionally durable design, coined by Jonathan Chapman, is that we keep things for longer when we have an emotional connection to them. If you see the garment as emotionally valuable, not just economically valuable, you will be more likely to hold on to it and care for it. The result is a reduction in purchasing, reduction of waste and a slowing down of the fashion industry.
Commitment to less than 10 percent polyester
Polyester is now the most commonly used fibre in our clothing and the most environmentally damaging. The manufacture of polyester has risen from 5.8 million tonnes in 1980 to 34 million in 1997 and more than 100 million in 2015.
Did you know that polyester is made from plastic, which is made from petrochemicals? That's right: the stuff you put in your car is being made in to clothing that you wear on your body. An estimated 70 million barrels of oil are extracted and used to make the polyester each year. When you consider that the oil industry is the biggest polluter in the world it is easy to see why fashion is a close second.
And the impacts continue after you throw it away. It takes more than 200 years to decompose polyester causing waste problems well beyond our generation. On top of that, plastic microfibres from washing the clothes shed into the water supply, accounting for 85% of the human-made material in oceans, threatening marine wildlife and ending up in our food supply. Yep we're all eating plastic.
At Annette Young we are committed to using as little polyester as possible. Unfortunately it is so wide spread that it is enormously challenging to find fabrics without it, but we are committed to no more than 10 percent polyester in the fabric mix. We always prefer fabrics that are 100 percent natural and choose these as often as we can.
Designer Annette Young, worked as a stylist for many years, shopping with clients and styling for magazines. She found that standard sizing was often demoralising for women and thought there had to be a better way. She also found that the designs and fabrics did not always consider the emotional and physical comfort of the wearer. To us, this approach to fashion is not sustainable.
At Annette Young, we don't have sizes: we make everything to measure, so there is no right or wrong size: just your size. Every design considers modesty (making sure the important bits are covered!) but not at the sacrifice of sensuality of femininity. We also consider your comfort, choosing fabrics that are beautifully tactile, breathable (using natural fabrics as much as possible) and in shapes that are comfortable to wear.
At Annette Young, we hope you feel good, comfortable and connected and fashion is a way to express your values and your self.
In the fashion industry, most large brands have to order thousands of metres of fabrics as a minimum order. Often after making the number of garments they want (lets say 2000) they have a few metres of excess fabric and this generally goes straight to landfill.
At Annette Young we use upcycled and excess fabric (also referred to as dead stock) to make many of of our samples and have used it in some of our garments when the quality is high enough (like the mixed trench coat).
With all of our garments made to order, it also saves a phenomenal amount of waste and stress on the environment. The fashion industry produces billions of garments each year and if they don't sell at retail, they are thrown to landfill, which contributes to cO2 emissions or burnt, which affects air quality. But the greatest environment impact is in the extraction of raw materials (like petrol to make polyester or cotton farming to make cotton). If we can reduce this it will help the environment enormously.
Towards a Circular Economy
All of our garments have special labels made from recycled paper that link back to this website, so you can see exactly what the garment is made from, where it is made and who made it, which facilitates the afterlife of the garment.
The idea behind this was inspired by The Renewal Workshop who can only recycle garments if they know where and how they were made. Their research showed that one of the greatest barriers to recycling garments was a lack of information about where they were made and the composition of the fabric. Without knowing this it is impossible to recycle the garment and the fabric.
When we talk about a circular economy in fashion, the goal is to keep the garment or textile circulating so we don't have to extract raw materials to make clothing. The best case scenario is that the garment will be re-used and have a second or third life. After that the fabric can be recycled. At the moment the technology for recycling fabric is in the early stages and not widely accessible but this will change in the next five years as technology advances. Annette Young design is getting ready for this change and thinking about the whole life of your garments.
Ethically Designed and Made
Ethical fashion is a vital component of sustainability. If the people who are designing or making our garments are suffering or not earning a living wage there is nothing sustainable about that and in fact, we believe that is a cruel and heartless way to create something so beautiful as fashion. Our motto is: 'You can not exploit women in one country to empower them in another.'
All of the garments are designed in Australia by Annette Young in her lovely studio in Melbourne, then made in Hoi An, Vietnam.
Annette travelled to Vietnam in 2018 to inspect several factories with the goal of choosing the factories that treated their staff well (providing food, water, breaks, holidays and a living wage), had good working conditions (with good facilities, fans and toilets), believed in making high quality garments and cared about their customers. Out of the 400 options available, Annette chose the two highest quality factories she could find. She then worked with the tailors to make these designs to the highest quality (pictured above).
Transparency, not perfection
Finally it's important to say we do everything we can to make this brand as ethical and sustainable as possible. Of course, we recognise that in the very production of clothing there is an impact on the environment, so we create clothing with the greatest respect for the environment and people involved.
We are currently researching sustainable fabrics such as plant based alternatives to silk, vegan leather and recycled fabrics. As the business grows, so will our commitment to sustainability.
Annette Young will continue to learn and evolve and move towards our vision of creating clothing that has a positive impact on the world.
Behind the scenes
Annette Young's latest collection Afterlife is captured in this beautiful magazine which takes you though the design process and behind the scenes of making the collection.
It dives in to the emotional meaning behind the designs and shows you how the collection went from hand sketches to the final garment.
See the magazine here.