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Materials have traditionally been the easiest way for us to approach sustainability in fashion. Whilst we know that often the most significant sustainability impacts related to clothing are created through laundering and drying, materials nevertheless play a significant role in moving towards more sustainable fashion practices. As the three speakers in this panel will demonstrate, a variety of strategies exist, from new technologies to reclaimed fibres to organically grown natural fibres.

Professor Marie O’Mahony, University of Technology Sydney
Marie joined UTS as Professor of Advanced Textiles and Fashion and she is also Visiting Professor at University of the Arts, London. For the past fifteen years she has worked as an independent textile and technology consultant based in London. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including Cyborg – The Man-Machine for the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and The Fabric of Fashion for the British Council. Her books include TechnoTextiles 2, TechnoTextiles, SportsTech and Cyborg – The Man Machine all published by Thames and Hudson. Consultancy clients include Hussein Chalayan, NIKE and Zaha M. Hadid.

Delores D’Costa, Operations Manager - Recycling, The Smith Family which is the largest not for profit centralised sorting clothing facility in NSW
Delores has a varied background, which began in the Banking sector. Since then Delores has worked in pharmaceuticals followed by the medical publishing industry. Delores wanted to 'make a difference' in the world and so she left her Publishers role with a weekly medical newspaper to work in the not for profit sector.

Tracy Mak, Environmental Manager, Instyle Contract Textiles
Tracy joined INSTYLE in 2002, as the company’s Environmental Manager. Tracy is responsible for the concept and technical development of INSTYLE’s benchmark environmental textile collection, LIFE Textiles®. These were the first contract textiles on the Australian market to address the entire product life cycle. Since joining INSTYLE, Tracy has introduced initiatives to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. In recognition of these achievements, INSTYLE was selected as a finalist in the prestigious national environmental award, Banksia Awards, in the Sustainability category for 2006 and 2007.

In 2008 INSTYLE won a United Nations World Environment Day Award and three separate awards at the Sustainability Green Globe Awards including the Premier’s Sustainability Excellence Award. Tracy has taken part in the development of the Sustainable Textile Standard in the USA, and chaired two sub-task groups, 1. researching international textile standards and 2. Fibre Sourcing.

A Green Star Accredited Professional, Tracy also holds a Bachelor of Science (Textile Design and Technology) and a Masters in Design, where she focused on sustainable design.

This panel explores the process of making fashion garments, which is a complex system that involves many different resources, people and processes. If we look at sustainable and ethical methods of making fashion then we need to analyse what it is that we are currently doing and see if we can make improvements that better consider people, profits and the planet.

Each of the speakers on this panel, are all attempting to show that there is a better way to make fashion – that we can be ethical, that we can run successful sustainable businesses and that we can still achieve creativity in fashion design.

Rachel Bending, Creative Director and founder of Bird Textile and Slingfings
Rachel is a pioneer in sustainable fashion and interior design practices. Rachel’s work started in 2002 with Slingfings, a brand widely recognized for its environmental consciousness. In 2004 the company became Australia’s first climate neutral business. Bird Textiles was launched in March 2006 and continues this brand ethos, exposing its products and message to a global marketplace.

Sue Thomas, School of Architecture and Design, RMIT
Sue is a fashion academic teaching at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. With academics from the USA and the UK she contributed to the Sustainable Fashion: Handbook for Educators, which was published this month by Fashioning an Ethical Industry. She publishes internationally including academic papers on fairness in the Australian fashion industry, inclusive fashion design, and the future of wool, ethics and innovation. A listed RMIT media expert, Sue enjoys contributing to fashion in a wide range of public fora including consultancy, public lectures and radio commentaries (including ABC 774 and ABC Radio National).

Susan Dimasi, Director and designer, materialbyproduct
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Susan Dimasi (with a BA & MA in Tailoring / Systems) and Chantal Kirby (with a BA in Systems and Surfaces) entered into a design partnership in 2003; by 2004 MATERIALBYPRODUCT was officially formed. Dimasi and Kirby are designing fashion for our culture, our time and our place. They are answering the questions of sustainability and the relevance of fashion whilst still being conceptual luxurists who are continuing to redefine fashion.

Both designers regularly present in national and international fashion, design, and sustainability forums by invitation and over the past four years they have been awarded some of fashion’s most prestigious industry awards as well as being exhibited both in Australia and overseas.

Dr Kate Fletcher
Dr Kate Fletcher is Reader In Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, UK. Since finishing a PhD in 1999 at Chelsea College of Art and Design, Kate has been working in academia, as a consultant and writing about fashion, textiles and sustainability. She is the author of the book, Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys, which was published by Earthscan in 2008.


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