In my previous post, I mentioned Courtney Holm from A.BCH who hosted the “Build a Sustainable Wardrobe” event held by Council of Textile and Fashion.
After the event, I spoke to Courtney about her brand and what she thought about organic cotton. She was so knowledgeable about her fabrics and so dedicated to A.BCH that I had to learn more from her!
What is the story behind A.BCH?
“The whole idea behind starting the label in the first place was that personally I didn’t think there was a fashion label that was covering important areas in terms of ethics, sustainability, design and integrity. When it comes to sustainability the whole system is based around marketing, brands thinking “how can we get on board this green/eco bandwagon”, but not actually contributing to the issues.
I really wanted to create something that was researched, designed, and developed according to ethical and sustainable practices for our customers. And then, even after we sent out a garment to a customer, there was a path for that garment to go on. I call it circular design, from conception to the death of that item, you have considered and planned what is going to happen to that garment.
Circular design starts with designing something for longevity and isn’t that trend based. But also considering every raw material that goes into a garment, the dyes, threads, labels, and buttons – every little element. Then we educate the customer on how to look after a garment so they can use it for longer. When they are finally done with the garment, we want to show them how to either compost the garment or return it for recycling. This means there is a pathway for that garment to be restored to the earth or into a new recycling program.
Every single thing we create at A.BCH has the circular design/whole garment mentality where it’s all considered and important.
It’s often stuff that people don’t see or think about, but that the point behind what we are doing – it’s a genuine quest to make fashion sustainable, not just a trend or a gimmick.”
Why are you so passionate about A.BCH and fashion?
“I have always loved fashion – it’s what I studied at uni, its what I’ve always felt I was meant to do with my life and I feel like I’m good at it.
But in terms of sustainability, it’s not just fashion that I am concerned about, it’s the rampant sort of consumerism that is our culture and the throwaway mentality of people. I mean, people just use a cup once and then throw it away and I feel like there are so many instances in the day to day life where these sort of things aren’t thought about.
If you think about the necessaries of life, clothing is one of those things, and I also think that clothing is a way of showing who you are and expressing yourself. I think that fashion is a really amazing tool for self-expression, So for me it’s a holistic thing. It’s not that I just care about sustainable fashion -it’s everything. I hate single use plastics, and as much as I can, try to do the right thing with recycling and reusing materials. It’s been a part of my passion for a long time.”
Tell us about the process used to create one of your organic t-shirts
“I start with getting fabric samples from a variety of sources and just try to find one I really like. Obviously, it has to meet all of the sustainability criteria before we continue. We use GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic certified fabrics – if it’s not certified by GOTS then there has to be a reason why it’s not, GOTS might not certify that type of fibre. But the cotton has to be organic and GOTS is the best certification for that.
Even if you grow organic cotton, if the process after harvest isn’t organic then there is no point in growing it organically in the first place. If you are just going to dunk it in a bunch of chemical dye pots, or bleach it, or spray chemicals on it so it can be shipped without wrinkling, then it’s not worth all the time and effort to grow organically. All the processes that come after it are really important that’s why I prioritise GOTs fabrics as they only certify a full product. Organic Agricultural buddy will certify the growing and the harvest and GOTS will certify from harvest through to finish -so essentially the dyes, the treatments and the entire process processes has to be done specifically to become GOTS certified. GOTS also covers social criteria.
So over all, we have strict fabric sourcing guidelines to ensure the fabric we receive is fully certified and organic.
From there, we have to order the chosen fabric. After that, we had to find a GOTS certified organic thread which is harder than it sounds as the industry standard for the thread is polyester (not biodegradable) – as it’s cheap and relatively strong. Once I found the certified organic thread I asked my machinists to use it and they were a bit hesitant and unsure if it would hold, but it did and it’s great! It also meant the garment is fully compostable and you don’t need to pull out the stitches.
Once all the materials are gathered, we bring them in-house, cut and sew them. The distribute them from there.
We either sew in-house or have a local manufacturer in Coburg that we work really closely with.”
As a consumer, I know I feel the pressure of fast fashion. Social media often dictates what we should buy – how do you recommend we overcome this and not buy stuff just because our favourite blogger is wearing it?
“It’s tricky because I don’t think it’s an answer many people want to hear. I think people want to hear that there’s some way to have their cake and eat it too. But I don’t think it’s that easy. as much as I want people to buy my stuff, I want people to think about it first, and decide whether they truly need it before they buy it.
And I think that’s the way it has to be approached. As a consumer, you have to think “Do I need this?” and secondly “Do I love it so much, that I would have worn it 5 years ago?” and “would I wear it in 5 years time?”. If the answer is no, then you have to make a decision – do you just go for the trend? or are your values more important that you decide not to buy that thing? and Its defiantly hard, as the world tells you that you need more stuff to make you happy, even though it has been proven that it’s not true!
And it’s tricky, as it’s really counter-cultural. But I feel like once you come to that decision, you might relapse every now and then. But when you understand what is at stake and what that impact is. When someone has that kind of revelation, they feel very differently about it and that can influence their decision.
For example, The War on Waste series – after that aired, a lot of people were like “omg coffee cups, I had no idea!”. So sometimes it just takes a little push to make people realise. The ‘True Cost’ documentary was a wake-up call for lots of people as well.”
Courtney and I chatted a lot more, but I shall post that next week.
This gives you plenty of time to watch ‘The War on Waste‘ and ‘The True Cost‘