Angela Bell from Ethical Clothing Australia shares her story + values
I'm pretty proud and excited to finally be able to announce that Lois Hazel is accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA).
ECA is a is an accreditation body that works collaboratively with local textile, clothing and footwear businesses manufacturing in Australia. The ECA voluntary accreditation program offers practical and affordable assistance to these businesses, and ensures that their Australian supply chains are fully transparent and legally compliant.
Angela Bell, the National Manager of ECA has answered a few questions below about her journey with ECA ,the team she gets to work with, why she thinks it's an important step for brands to become accredited and a little bit more.
How did you end up being the national Manager for Ethical Clothing Australia? I love to know your journey into ethical fashion and why you think it’s so important.
My journey into ethical fashion has been a combination of both the personal and professional. I have worked for a union in the past and I spent many years working in the private sector, so ECA, which is governed by half union and half business-employer representatives, combines that different knowledge and experience. My background has been working in media and communications and corporate social responsibility but the concerns of garment workers locally and globally has been something that I have been conscious of for many years. In fact during my studies in Social Impact at Melbourne Business School back in 2012 I chose to complete one of my assignments on the sustainability of the fashion industry as I was concerned about the impacts that fast fashion was having on workers and the environment back then. In addition to my professional life, my personal shopping habits have always been to buy local and ethically made clothing or second-hand clothing and when I heard about ECA a number of years ago it became an easy way to find clothing that I love that I know has been made the right way.
I’d love to know a bit more about the team at ECA. How many people work in the office? What are their roles?
It surprises people to learn this, but we are a really small team at ECA. Other than myself, we have an Accreditation and Engagement Advisor; an Accreditation and Business Development Advisor and a part-time Administration Officer. The accreditation advisor roles focus on supporting businesses working through the accreditation process and a range of other projects in relation to business information, education and promotional opportunities. In some exciting news we are currently recruiting for a newly created role, Digital and Marketing Coordinator, which will be a part-time role starting in the new year and it’s going to be great to have a specialist overseeing our online efforts in 2020. Of course we also work closely with the compliance and outreach officers from the Textile, Clothing Footwear Union who undertake the very important auditing and compliance work on behalf of ECA. ECA and the union work closely to make sure that the accreditation and compliance work and annual renewals are completed as smooth and efficiently as possible.
Some of the amazing team from ECA at the social studio's 10 year gala
Why do you think it’s an important step for business, like mine, to become accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia? What are some of the benefits?
Well in part it comes down to a central point in that it gives you, the business owner, assurance that you’re meeting all of our obligations under Australian workplace place laws, and you’re also giving your customers that independent assurance at the same time. There are a lot of benefits to being accredited by ECA. It is a way of showing that you value the people making your clothing – enough to go through an independent auditing process – and it gives your customers peace of mind that they are buying something that’s been ethically produced. We also think that one of the big benefits is becoming a part of the ECA community, which is made up of a variety of different types of brands and manufacturers, but they are all committed to producing locally under ethical conditions. Together we are stronger when we’re united in promoting the Australian industry and when we share the positive stories about our local makers, their skills and the quality products that are being produced.
I am really passionate about making sure the people involved in making my garments are celebrated, and I always find it so interesting how often consumers forget that all garments are made by a pair of hands. Why do you think there is such a disconnect between consumers and the maker?
The complexities of fashion supply chains means, unfortunately, that its’ really easy for the workers in the industry to be hidden and that’s both locally and globally. If you add to that the abundance of clothing on the market and the speed at which it is produced, the story behind a garment gets lost easily and it’s why we need campaigns focussed on ‘who made your clothes’ and it’s why we need to keep promoting these stories
Thankfully there is a growing resurgence of the value of craft and the processes behind making clothing of great quality that will last. People are wanting to know where their clothes are made, and how they are made.
Expanding on that, I also feel that often the designers, photographers, models, stylist etc are the ones that get celebrated by the fashion industry. Most of the time the people who make our clothes are the ones who are completely taken advance of, they are at the bottom of the food chain. In my opinion these are some of the most important people in the industry, because without them we wouldn’t have the beautiful clothes we get to wear. How do you think this can change? How can we start making people appreciate the makers more?
By telling their stories and showing their passion and skills, people will start to value them more. We must also continue to teach people how the system is currently operating in order to show them that it needs to change. When confronted with the frightening realities of what garment workers are facing in their working lives, I hope that consumers will not continue to support the businesses that operate that way. I hope consumers will feel connected to clothing when they know where it came from and want to support the people who made it.
What are some of the things that you’d love to see more of in our industry here in Australia? From diversity to more transparency, anything really, I’d love to know.
Just this week we’ve launched our Womenswear Size 14+ category on the ECA website. It’s something that I have felt personally invested in and proud of because since starting in this role I have had a number of people ask me about ethical brands that stock above size 14. While this isn’t directly related to our remit of workers right in local supply chains, I want to make it as easy as possible to purchase locally made, ethical clothing and so I want to keep doing more in that area. In my role I love working with businesses that are doing great work in a range of different areas, from increasing diversity and representation to minimising their impact on the environment, to circularity. For me it’s incredibly important that throughout the discussion on improving the industry that we don’t forget about improving the lives of the workers in the industry along that way because that requires an ongoing conversation, monitoring and compliance.
Is there anything exciting in the works for ECA that you can share?
Next year ECA is celebrating its 20th anniversary as our first application for accreditation was received in November 2000. We are currently planning a program of events, including things that we have never done in the past, and we are hoping to reach an even wider audience as we celebrate this milestone, so stay tuned!
You can follow Ethical Clothing Australia's journey HERE
and check out their website HERE
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