How can a fashion label truly be sustainable and ethical?
The short answer is that even with a lot of hard work and dedication, no brand can truly be 'sustainable' and ethics are very personal. So we take a unique approach. In addition to providing you with full disclosure of how each of our pieces came to be, we follow a circular design method to minimise environmental impact and help create positive change in the fashion industry. It goes like this.
We make clothes that are either biodegradable, recyclable or upcycled from waste. All the materials we use are high quality as are our manufacturers. Plus customer input is a part of the process from the get go which makes the finished pieces relevant to our audience’s needs.
We seek out suppliers and partners that share our values and are willing to offer supply chain transparency.
We preference local raw material suppliers, followed by closest proximity suppliers, and manufacture everything locally. Our fabrics are certified organic, natural, renewable materials with non-toxic finishes/dye. We also seek out suppliers with carbon neutral factories that ensure ethical treatment, fair wages and working conditions of workers across the supply chain via GOTS, Fair Trade or Fair Wear Foundation.
When using protein fibres, we choose cruelty free, such as peace silk, non-mulesed wool and up-cycled leather.
We show customers how to care for goods and facilitate mending and repair workshops for the community. We encourage less consumption by giving fresh wear ideas.
We encourage the re-use, recycle and compost of our products. Plus we facilitate a returns program for donation, compost or recycling.
We’re connected to the community and make a point of collaborating with charities, designers and brands that align with our values.
Where are your garments made?
All our clothes are currently either made in-house or locally in Melbourne, Australia, in a clean, cool, well-lit factory run by a family owned business. Under Australian workplace laws, our suppliers are required to adhere to the Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award covered by Fair Work Australia. We may choose to diversify our manufacturing as we grow, but will always reveal this to our customers and will always preference local manufacturing.
Where are your fabrics made?
Our fabrics come from a diverse range of suppliers, although a few of our special jersey fabrics are made just outside of Melbourne. Each of our product pages discloses exactly where your fabric is made for that particular product, plus where the fibre is grown, spun and dyed. As part of our full disclosure policy, we also reveal the origin and suppliers of our thread, labels and buttons.
Why aren't all the fabrics you use Made in Australia?
We source all our woven fabrics offshore because those capabilities and industries simply don’t exist in Australia anymore. That said, the knitting industry still exists here if you know where to look, so we will continue to use Australian made jerseys in a majority of our garments.
What is GOTS?
This one's important, guys. We use fabrics that are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) to ensure compliance within the organic textile industry. GOTS certification is only possible if suppliers meet strict (soooo strict) environmental, technical quality, human toxicity and social criteria. You can read about those specific criteria here.
Our GOTS certified fabrics are made from 100% organic materials, as are our threads, which is nearly unheard of in the fashion industry. We request certificates from each supplier that claims organic status, and keep each shipment certificate on file.
Read more about GOTS at their offical site here.
What does Made in Australia mean?
We are an Australian owned business. We design our product in Australia and we manufacture all of our goods in Australia. Our raw materials come from many other countries, even our Australian knitted cotton is grown in India. As global citizens, we celebrate the skills, raw materials and artisanship that other countries bring to our diverse supply chain. While we aim to keep jobs in Australia for industries that still exist here, we’re also pleased to support our partners in other countries by importing goods to Australia such as Belgian linen, Japanese denim and Indian organic cotton. Of course we only choose to work with companies that align with our values.
What is Vegan clothing?
In order for a clothing item to be vegan, it must not contain any animal product or by-product, including in its processing, dyeing and manufacturing. That means garments with silk, wool or leather components can’t be vegan. Many of our garments are naturally vegan, and we’ll always be transparent about which of our items are not.
What makes wool ethical?
Australia is renowned for producing merino wool (thought to be the softest) and remains one of the world’s biggest wool exporters. Unfortunately, Australian farmers have to deal with something called flystrike, which is when flies lay eggs in the moist wrinkles and fold of the lamb's skin around the tail and breech. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed off the flesh of the sheep which can be fatal if left untreated. Awful, right? It gets worse. Farmers have a way to ease flystrike by cutting the skin around the tail and breech to allow taught scar tissue to remain, and viola, flies don’t like to lay their eggs there. This “cutting” is called mulesing and on a pain level is similar to castration for the sheep.
Mulesing has been rejected by the industry in many countries, including New Zealand, however Australia has failed to get with the program, despite promising to do so by 2010. There are several solutions for farmers to start making the change to cruelty free wool, the most promising is breeding out the genetic traits in sheep that flies are attracted to. Even with all this, the general treatment of the sheep is still an ethical concern especially during shearing.
So in a nutshell, ethical wool, to us, is where the animals are treated well, are not subject to mulesing and can live a relatively free-range life. How do we find that kind of transparency? We are currently working on it with a local partner and a small-holder farm where we can source Aussie, non-mulesed wool for some of our future products. Stay tuned.
What is Peace Silk?
At A.BCH we commit to only purchasing silk that is ethically extracted. 90% of the world’s silk production is obtained by gassing or boiling the silkworm alive in order to obtain its cocoon, which ensures an unbroken silk fibre. We’re not cool with that. Some justify that process by saying the worms are so domesticated that they would never live in the wild anyhow, but that’s because humans have created silkworm farms for the sole purpose of creating crap loads of silk. Silk is incredibly special, it’s fibres are literally made from the silkworm's own creation! For that to then be woven into potentially cheap and abused garments for humans isn't right in our eyes.
Peace silk is different. It allows the silkworm to exit the cocoon before silk is harvested and is done in such a way that doesn’t harm the worm. We think that silk, especially because of its process, is pretty special, and something to be treasured, not worn and tossed around as garbage. We currently don’t offer any silk garments, but we are working away on some special ‘Peace Silk’ pieces for the future.
What does Cradle to Cradle Certified mean?
Some of our raw materials and components have an additional certification called Cradle to Cradle Certified, meaning they receive a basic, silver, gold or platinum rating based on a series of environmental and regeneration factors in the making of their products. This certification system was released as part of the Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things publication in 2002 by William McDonough and Dr Michael Braungart. In 2010, these guys began to offer the certification system and methodology to the public via the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute- a not-for-profit open source of information. For more information check them out here.
What is a Good On You rating?
The Good On You app has independently rated A.BCH as 'Great'. Which is its highest possible score. The team at Good On You use criteria based on People, Planet and Animals to determine their recommendations for a wide selection of brands around the world. You can get it for free on the app store here. We are pretty chuffed about our rating, as we are only just getting started!
What is your Recycling Program?
We take back our own donated brand garments for recycling purposes. These garments are assessed and either donated to participating charity shops or kept and used for our recycling research program, where we’re aiming to find local recycling solutions for cotton garments. Once a year we’ll advise our customers that we are taking garments and anyone wishing to send back A.BCH goods can receive a returns bag in the mail. Once we receive the items we will sort through them and either donate or use the items for research. We hope to grow our returns program to take back as we grow, and provide educational workshops for the community to share our research and ideas.
Can I really compost my t-shirt?
If you really don’t want that cutie anymore… then yes! 99% of every A.BCH garments is biodegradable due to the organic nature of the fabrics, low impact dyes and prints, thread and component composition. Before composting, please remove the branded A.BCH recycled polyester tag and size pip as this tag is NOT biodegradable. And finally, this garment will not biodegrade easily in landfill which is toxic and oxygen-starved. Bio-degradability requires oxygen! So, bury that tee out in the garden, don't just chuck it in the bin. Even better, send it back to us so we can use it for future recycling.
What is A.BCH doing about Carbon Emissions?
All our domestic deliveries are carbon neutral, thanks to our delivery partner, a certified B-corp that offsets all their business operations, including the sending on our behalf! That is only part of the journey, we are still working on offsetting our international deliveries.
In regards to our raw material carbon emissions, we work with several CO2 neutral mills and factories to achieve the lowest outputs of carbon in production. In fact, all our linen is woven in a completely carbon neutral mill in Belgium.
One of the biggest emissions factors is our transport of raw materials. Australia has lost many skills and practises in the textile and garment industry. It’s then imperative that we source fabrics, fibres and notions from overseas in order to acquire the best possible products in line with our strict ethos for ethics and sustainability. We offset this by maintaining a strong commitment to source all our manufacturing within Australia and where possible, commission fabric knitting within Australia, close to our distribution points. This helps us reduce carbon emissions drastically compared to clothes made offshore. We are looking to find additional ways to offset our carbon emissions as we grow. Watch this space, and if you have any suggestions, get in touch!
Does organic fibre farming have a lower carbon footprint than conventional?
Actually, organic farming is thought to produce around 43% less greenhouse gasses than conventional farming. This is due to a variety of things, such as soil health and minimal to no use of chemicals and the synthesising of nitrogen fertilisers. Organic farming also "stores" around 100-400kg of carbon per hectare to the soil per year (also known as a carbon sink and in case you were wondering, that's a good thing).
Which fibre is the most environmentally friendly?
Sadly, there is no "perfect" fibre. Cotton uses a lot of water, Tencel uses a lot of trees, recycled PET uses a lot of energy and virgin polyester uses even more. Hemp is expensive and hard to find, linen (unless organic) uses a chemical retting process. There are a lot of new innovations which are promising, but they will take a long time to become accessible to the mainstream. We don't like to herald any fibre as being the "most eco" however, we have compiled a pretty nifty list of the ones we like, and dislike as well as their pros and cons. Check all that out, on our Materials List.
Doesn't the textile industry use a lot of water?
Yup. In fact, the average conventionally gown cotton t-shirt uses around 2,700L of water from farm to finish. That's near enough to quench the thirst of an average human for 3 years.
We've heard a lot of chatter that organic cotton can use the same amount of water than the plain old, soil degrading, pesticide consuming kind can. That may be true, but only for the first 1-2 crop rotations. After that, the soil becomes much better at retaining water (using around 30% less water than conventional) and is generally in better condition due to its superior ability to store carbon. In fact, of all the organic cotton farms in the world, 70-80% of those farms rely on rainwater alone. So growing organic cotton really makes a difference. Not only that, organic fibres, that continue on with GOTS certification will use less water in every stage of processing, as the application and disposal of chemicals along the way requires the use of much more water.
Do your suppliers recycle their water?
Here's a little shout out to one of our local textile mills, ABMT Textiles. These guys are the only mill in Australia to recycle 85% of their spent reactive dye bath water into Class A Grey Water. This is then re-used in parklands, agriculture and households. Go ABMT!
In fact, all of our GOTS suppliers (from harvest to fabric finish), are required to have written environmental policies on water resources management and have target goals for reducing these over time. All wastewater from all wet processing units must also be treated in an internal or external functional wastewater treatment plant before being discharged into the environment and must meet strict guidelines around pH and temperature. If you want to get scientific, we'd love to nerd out with you so hit us up with any more detailed questions here.
Where are you based?
A.BCH is based in a light and airy loft studio on 367 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, Victoria, Australia.
Can I come try on items at your studio?
Currently, we are hosting visitors by appointment only. Please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will hook a sister or brother up. We also love to keep things exciting with temporary concept stores and community events. The absolute best way to stay informed in via our community e-newsletter (scroll right to the bottom of this page to sign up). Our A.BCH community gets all the freshness, and all the chances to meet us and try on everything!
I have questions about shipping…
Check out our shipping policy for timeframes, costs and more.
I have questions about returns…
Check out our returns policy for how that all works.
I have questions about privacy…
We value your privacy, check out our privacy terms for more info.
Something we missed?
Hit us up at email@example.com