Episode 65: How embracing the circular economy led to a values-driven fashion business with Courtney Holm of A.BCH




  • Introduction
  • Courtney's background in fashion
  • Starting with a long-term vision
  • On marketing
  • Different revenue streams
  • Advocacy and education
  • On Deciding what makes the cut 
  • Effects of Courtney's experience with Men's wear on circularity and sustainability
  • Legislation's role in the shifts to systems and change
  • Courtney's advice to business owners
  • Conclusion



Welcome to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you need help navigating the fashion industry sustainably, you have come to the right place. I'm your host Belinda Humphrey and my hope is to simplify the fashion industry so that businesses can make the best decisions for people, the planet, and product. 

Welcome to episode 65 of the Fashion Unearthed Podcast. I'm your host, Belinda Humphrey, and today's episode is an interview with Courtney Holm, the founder, and director of the Circular Fashion Label A.BCH. If you are a new listener, I've started to invite some business owners onto the podcast to highlight some of the incredible work being done locally, and today I'm thrilled to have such a leader in the circular fashion space join me. In today's chat, Courtney explains how her design process is the complete opposite of the common process most fashion businesses use, what her utopian world of fashion would look like, the deceptively simple solution to fashion's problems that no one wants to talk about and how she approaches shopping when she needs something her label doesn't produce. 

Courtney's unwavering commitment to making sure her professional work aligns with her values has resulted in one of the best examples of a circular fashion label. It's inspiring to see such an intelligent and thought-out fashion label carving out its path and bringing to life its unique business model. I'm sure you're going to feel so inspired after this chat, please join me in welcoming Courtney Holm, founder and director of Circular Fashion Label A.BCH.

Hello Courtney, welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for taking the time to come on today and chat. I know this time of yours is particularly busy for you, so thank you.

My pleasure. It's lovely to be here.

You're welcome. I'm just so excited for today's chat because I think when I think of someone who's walking the path of circularity, you come to mind and you are absolutely a leader in this area and I think the listeners just going to love getting an insight into how you do that. To start with, I was wondering if you could give a bit of an overview of your background in fashion and what led you to start A.BCH.

Well, I guess I was originally come out of fashion school thinking that I was going to be a designer. I specialised in menswear design school and I think coming out of that I thought this will be my path. I'll work for a label and go down this route. But I was a little bit underwhelmed with the opportunities and the types of businesses that I could work for. I guess I just started doing a few of my things and working on another plan. While I was working out what that would look like, I did other very different things from what I'm doing now, including I became a Pilates instructor and I worked in like a medical practice and then ended up starting this sort of, I guess you could call like an event that I would run where I would put on these three-day events called Minsk.

I would bring in all kinds of menswear designers of products and very beautifully designed objects and jewelry and wallets and bikes and all sorts of like cool stuff. I'd put these like events on, and I met heaps of people that I know in Melbourne doing that. I essentially decided from there that I did want to do my label and started to think about what I would do. I was dabbling in my hobby label before that, doing men's wear, and decided that I wanted to focus on something that aligned more with my values rather than just doing something for the sake of it or doing it just for the sake of creativity and exploring like what I was interested in. I took some time out to think about what that would look like and see what I saw in the industry, even just the very small local manufacturing instances that I had been a part of, I would see how much waste there was being generated in the cut make trim phase.

Also, just learning more about the issues in the industry from the systemic issues whether it be cotton farming or polyester production, waste dumping, post-consumer waste, and all this stuff. I just started to see that this probably is an industry that I'm not that aligned with in general. I was at a crossroads at one point where I thought, "Okay, I either need to just get out of this industry and do something completely different," or I need to figure out how I can change it, and how I can make an impact. That's where it all started. And essentially I decided that I would figure out what it meant to have a sustainable brand at the time it was a bit novel and I wasn't sure what it meant.

I was like, "I need some specifics around what this means." It sounds like a lovely idea, but what does it mean when you look at the whole system of fashion and the life cycle of a garment? I started to explore concepts like cradle-to-cradle and circular economy and started to think a lot more holistically about how things are created and being a very product-focused person, I gravitated towards that side of things. Anyway, that's how I started to develop my methodology and understanding of what a sustainable label would be. I decided quickly that calling something sustainable was not correct in the first instance and that we needed to be specific about the language that we were using. The “Circular Fashion Label” was something that we decided to go with and made sure that I guess every product that we made would fit under that category. Long story long, a series of events, a series of educational moments and learning and discovery and putting that into practice. That's how it all came about.

It sounds like you've just got such a thirst for knowledge and getting into the detail of understanding exactly what things mean and what impact they're going to have. Has it turned out, I mean, you've been in business now for five years, is that right?

Yes. I think it'll be coming up in over five years. Six years next year.

Has it evolved? Has it worked? Has it evolved the way that you thought it would, did you start it with a long-term vision? Or did you just follow where your interests went?

I think the long-term vision was always there because you can't approach these things with a short-term vision. After all, if you're not thinking about the garment in 50 years, it doesn't lend itself to circularity. That nothing ever goes to waste and that materials can be captured, reused, replenished, and not go to landfill or not be so messed up with other materials that they can't be separated and recycled. Long-term is a non-negotiable in terms of what's changed or evolved. I think the strategy and the intention about what the business would look like in the future. I mean, nicely evolved because you just don't know how things are going to play out and the pandemic's a great example of that. I think that's been a big chunk of our business life has been peak pandemic. Being in Victoria we felt it was probably the hardest of anyone in the country. I think there have been changes, and things have evolved, but the core of the business, the values, and the types of products that we make have not changed much.

Do you think being a smaller business and already having those values in place when the pandemic hit was a benefit in a way to you?

I think especially in the beginning, it was a benefit. People were looking for where to spend their money and how to do it more thoughtfully. Unfortunately, it seems like people, in general, have reverted to pre pandemic habits and behaviours, but I think especially at the start and then towards the middle, it did seem to be a really big advantage for us now though, I think now that people can shop in stores again and impulse buying and advertising and all of the things that get thrown at people daily to cloud their judgment, make them think that they need to buy something else or buy something new, whether they're missing something like the latest trend. I think the trend thing was less important in lockdown because people wanted to be comfortable. They wanted longevity and comfort, overlooking trendy because they weren't being seen by anyone. Whereas now it has ramped up in the opposite direction. I'd like to say it continued, but from my experience, it seems to be that people have reverted and, and almost like gone backward in a way.

I feel that too. Just recently with the Black Friday sales and just the lead-up to Christmas, I'm online and getting the emails and I feel like just the messaging has just ramped up to pre-pandemic.

It's overwhelming. and I'm someone that doesn't like signing up for a lot of things even my inbox is like completely crammed and people just shoving these messages down my throat and it's very gross. Even the sustainable brands and not saying that they should take the moral high ground cause it's not on them to change the entire system because that's how they need to survive as well. But even the brands that you think are slower and are trying to like show restraint, and have to be a part of that. And it's sad. That's what is required to survive at the moment.

Do you think about that when you plan your marketing? How do you incorporate that sentiment within the balance between being able to communicate the things that you're doing between running a business?

I think it's a challenge. We are a subversive sort of example because I would rather find another way for us to thrive and survive or whatever it is in that particular moment. I'd rather find a way than just sell out for the sake of needing to stay in business. It's hard because you speak to anybody in business and they'll say you have to go down the wholesale route, or you have to do a bunch of digital ads and the advertising has to be worded in such a way that people feel like they're going to miss out if they don't buy right away or compel them to like purchase something immediately. That's just not who we are. That's not what I want to do. How do you survive? That's where I've had to be creative and think of other ways and part of how we supplement our revenue is also by selling our surplus materials.

Embracing circular economy principles and thinking, "how else can we create from either waste or excess?" we have these two extra ways we can make revenue. One is through making our red line, which is products made out of the waste process in A.BCH or waste that we find or are given. We work in very handmade, painstaking ways that are very time-consuming. But it means that we can create a unique product and those things can go, they can be art projects, they can be commission pieces, they can be one-of-a-kind. We can charge a higher price point for them because of the time that's involved in creating them. And they're usually a much more interesting item than your everyday basis.

T-Shirts and skis and whatnot. There's that side of it. The other side is circular sourcing, which is how we sell our surplus materials. Leftover threads, elastics that bricks get to the end of a roll and we're not going to produce anymore. We can sell that stuff and get some money back for it rather than just letting it sit around and hoping we'll find a purpose for it one day, which is what typically happens. There are other ways that we've been able to diversify. It's not the standard way that businesses would operate though, it's people who can't wrap their heads around it.

A lot of businesses are talking about, and I know the British Fashion Council was talking about the need for fashion businesses to diversify their revenue streams and not always rely on new. In terms of the different revenue streams, how does that circular sourcing online store tie into the circular sourcing marketplace that you were working with sustainability Victoria on?

It was born out of those projects that we've been working on. Circular sourcing is basically like an online store that we created where we can sell all of our surplus materials. And it's been very successful and we've thought, “if we are creating waste when we're such a small business, not waste,” but we have a surplus, we have leftovers, we have dead stock, then we're a small operation, think of how much is coming out of the larger businesses. Being able to go to think about, “how could we let other businesses in on our model and create an easy system for them to be able to tap into and sell their surplus as well,” make additional revenue for themselves. 

That's where the idea of it becoming a marketplace was born. And specifically, we got some funding through Sustainability Victoria to do that. We also have got some great partners involved as well in the development of it. It's not live yet, it'll be live, hopefully, we'll have our first prototype live in the next couple of months. Essentially what circular sourcing as a shop is now, is going to be overtaken by the marketplace and that will become the main business of that. It's an evolution.

That would reduce the barriers for smaller businesses as well in terms of minimum quantities and sort of at the other end, like you're using up the dead stock and let go materials, but also, I guess providing a way for smaller designers to access high-quality materials.

It's a good example of how like you can reach very small businesses or individuals and you could also reach really large businesses and you're able to share and keep materials in use at their highest value. Rather than trashing materials and landfill donating them or selling them cheap where they're undervalued, you're able to keep the material in use and reduce reliance on virgin materials. It comes into that circular economy principle of keeping materials in use and by nature, it is very inclusive. It's not just for big businesses, it's not just for the people that have access, but we're trying to create access for everybody through the platform.

I just wanted to backtrack for a little bit because like advocacy and education are such a huge part of what you do and I guess your values come through so strongly in everything that you do. Is that, was that part of your upbringing? Did your family influence that in any sort of way? Did you think that played a part or has that always been who you are, to uphold your values and stick to them?

I'm sure there have been influences from family, not explicitly I suppose, my mom taught me how to look for good quality materials in clothes, how to feel a fabric, and know whether there was a synthetic inside it or if it was a natural fibre. And I don't think it was ever approached as this is a sustainable choice. It was just, this is, this is what quality is and quality lasts longer. And it went across into food and anything that we did, my mom also was a sewer, and as a kid, I would want to copy her and sew things and she'd sew all of our clothes. I'm sure that there were these kinds of little influencers that came through those kinds of things.

In terms of sticking to values and stuff like that, I think it's a combination of things. I think that when I went to uni, it wasn't ever really, sustainability as a like concept was not presented very clearly to us as fashion students. It was more if the individual teacher had a passion for it and tried to bring it in, it wasn't part of the curriculum. It wasn't a consideration in cutting or making. I think I didn't put my finger on what wasn't sitting right with me in fashion until later when I could see the waste and I could see the destruction. I always had a sense that I didn't like the idea of sending our designs offshore to be made by someone else invisibly. And then to have it all brought back, I always really wanted transparency and I wanted to know who made my clothes. I was very passionate about local manufacturing. I guess I never really just put my finger on why that was. I think it was just like a feeling I had that this was not quite right. It's hard to like connect it all specifically, but I'm sure it all has played a part in building whatever it is. 

Where you are now, one thing leads to another. Doesn't it all build on top of each other.

I wanted to ask next about your creative process. I'm always interested to know the creative process of designers and how you start your design process, what your research phase looks like, and knowing that you've got such a high standard when it comes to transparency and the resources that you use. How do you decide what to include in a range or what makes the cut when it's going through your design process?

I wish there was a step-by-step process I could tell you about, but I think our concept is about creating a capsule wardrobe or a wardrobe that people can build their wardrobe on. I think that means that there's influences are not coming from me going out. I would've in the past when I was studying and when I was doing my menswear label, going out and like finding a point of inspiration and then creating a collection just for the sake of its autumn winter, I need to create the next collection. What's my inspiration going to be? What's it going to stem from? And then how am I going to develop a product? I work differently from that now, and it's more of, it could be that a customer suggests an item.

It could be that one of our staff members says, “Hey, this would be good with a longer sleeve,” or if we did it in a long dress version instead of just a t-shirt version. Or it can be so basic, it can be such a simple little thing that we have a bit of an experimentation side of what we do in the business and like nothing is like not allowed. We can test things out like a lab and if a piece works or we think it has legs, we'll try to get some feedback from our customers about it and see how they're feeling. Whether that's through like a poll on Instagram or inviting customers into the store to try things on and get their feedback in real-time, which is the best way.

But we try to get some feedback from customers. And this process might take a year. We don't like to rush a product out unless sometimes we do rush a product out because we just feel it's the right product for that moment. Other times it might take us a year to go, “okay, we made this product, we like it, and we've been testing it for a year.” Maybe three of the staff members have been wearing this product for a year and they constantly getting compliments, love it to death, still washed, and well worn as well. That could be the catalyst for starting a new style. Unlike my material sourcing and how we build a product is the actual inspiration for, what the product is, and how we decide on the next thing is much more organic and in the moment.

When I say at the moment, it still might take a long time for it to develop. It's like a color. I think about color for a year before I decide to dye. That's important to me. If I still feel passionate about color in a year, then that's a pretty good sign that it's either going to do well with our, with our customer base or it's not trend based. It's not just a whim it does stand like a 12-month test time. Are we still really feeling it? And because we want to keep that color around probably for a long time. I think there's a much more bi-feel process past it sort of feel. It's not like, "it's time to range plan." We don't do that.

That's amazing. I just feel like there should be more of that within the fashion industry just letting go of those timelines and taking your time to sit with the product before you invest all the time to be able to get it in and incorporate it. I think that's amazing. I guess those slower development processes, I feel, cause I've worked as well across both men's and women's and I feel like men's wear in some ways is inherently more sustainable because there are fewer product drops often. I feel the fabric quality is higher because men need durable things in quotation marks. Do you think your experience with men's wear has informed and helped the path of the, I guess, circularity and sustainability that you've brought to the brand and the way that you put the product together?

I think the thing that's always I've been drawn to in menswear is probably like the longevity of style, less so material and more in the fact that you can have a style and make little tweaks to it and the style essentially stays the same. I think to me that's interesting. That's kind of what we do at A.BCH, we have this one block and we have this idea and we might make small tweaks to it, whether it's just changing the fabric or changing the color or changing little thing's length or whatever it might be. I think that that is why I'm quite interested in this idea of tweaking and evolving timeless styles rather than inventing new silhouettes every season. I think that always bothered me about women's wear was that you were always pushed to like, create this silhouette of the moment or something that would be great right now, but then in a year's time people are over it.

I think that's the thing that drew me to that men's wear sort of space. I think the more utilitarian sort of idea of basics and classic staples is also part of that as well. I guess it forms the building blocks of your wardrobe and If you want to add a fancy coat or a fancy dress to the wardrobe, of course, you can do that, but it's not probably going to come from us. We are doing the core layers. I think that's what I'm interested in, that space and continuing to refine that rather than chase every category and chase every single thing, I don't want to be creating all the products for everyone. Like, people are like, “we want swimwear, we want pajamas, we want underwear, we want hats, we want accessories. We want shoes.” And it's like, I just don't like, there's enough stuff in the world. Why does every brand have to be making every single product for everyone? It's just that everyone should just specialize and they probably make a lot nicer quality products if they did that.

It's an easy go-to for some brands to feel like adding a category is the way to expand their business. Whereas obviously, you're not.

It makes sense, from a financial perspective, that it's easier to market to your customers than you already have, but it's not sustainable. It isn't. If every brand was making every category, it's just too much.

I think it loses meaning as well. It dilutes the purpose of what your business is trying to do.

My utopia for fashion, is all these small ateliers and tailors and fashion labels that just really specialize in something very beautiful, very thoughtful, and you go to that person for that thing and it's very local and it's hyper-localized and that would be so cool and amazing. I know that poses accessibility restrictions and whatnot, but there need to be other ways that we can experience fashion, experience creativity that are not fast fashion.

It wasn't that long ago, that you would go to someone who specialized in a particular area.

Exactly. It's not even that far-fetched. Because it's not that long ago.

That happened, it used to happen.


This is a big question, but what role do you think legislation plays in these shifts to systems and change? Because I think there are lots of conversations about closing the gap between what people want to do and what they do. They often talk about the customer wanting to be more sustainable or responsible, but they don't want to pay more. I guess this sort of rattles around my head a lot and I'm interested to hear your thoughts on what role legislation plays in moving that forward.

I think there are plenty of ways that legislation can play a part and needs to play a part. And that could be anything from things that are not allowed. Whether that's chemicals being banned, particular materials that we either want to tax heavier or materials that we want to encourage more. We have a sliding scale of how we treat these materials coming into the country. I think that that is one way that legislation could play a part also looking at product stewardship schemes and extended producer responsibility. There's a part to play in that space where if you are making a product, you should be taking responsibility for it at its life phase and end of a black phase. If you're not able to do that, then you need to pay the price.

I think that's another way that legislation can play a part. I think also if we're looking at the individual consumers or even individual businesses looking at limitations on volume. If we want to make a dent, nothing matters until we decrease the volumes of overproduction and overconsumption. That's really where people probably don't want to hear it. It's an uncomfortable thing to think about. I can only be restricted like war rations like to purchase X amount of garments per year, or as a business, I can only create this many from this many tons of materials, raw materials. What am I going to do with that material? And then suddenly my waist becomes incredibly precious and valuable. I think there is a lot that can be done from a legislative perspective, but it's going to require some pain and some, and some people are going to, no one's going to be that excited about this. Do you know what I mean? It's not like some people are like, “legislation should just fix everything and it'll be fine.” It's like, "no, we're all going to feel it." We all going to feel this.

Is this what we want? Is this the price we're going to continue to insist that it's a human right to purchase cheap clothes? 60, 54 garments per year in Australia is the average purchase per person. Is that we're what we're going to insist on and continue to create hundreds of thousands of garments going to landfills every year? Is this what we want in our future? Or do we want to have something left for our future generation? I think it's a really tough conversation to have, but in a country like Australia, we've had our turn of massive consumerism, and it's probably time to like reign it in a little bit. If you look at the numbers, the current numbers of what, of how much we're buying and how much we're throwing away, it's appalling and it's quite disgusting.

As Australians, especially people who can afford it, and I put the call out to those people, and I think there's a whole nother conversation about accessibility, affordability, and all this sort of stuff. But honestly, if we just start addressing even just the simplest of issues, which is are the people who made the clothes paid fair, fair living wages to produce this? The answer is overwhelmingly no. If we start with that and we start to work on the environmental side of things that's a great starting point because that means that the price of closed will go up. They just will, because they won't be exploitative labor anymore to make the prices go so low. That's the only reason prices can be so low for exploitation.

We can't slice it any other way. That's a great place to start when we're talking about affordability and accessibility. We need to recalibrate what a garment should cost when someone is paid a fair wage to produce it. And then we can start talking about sustainability. We can start talking about regenerative agriculture. We can start talking about chemicals and what kinds of things we're putting into our clothes that are then going onto our bodies that are then either harming us as humans and harming our health or then going back into landfill and harming our land. It's all bad news. The only way to start making a difference is to curb the volumes. Nobody wants to talk about this. Nobody wants to be told as a business, you must produce less you must sell less and you must raise your prices. No one wants to hear that. They think I'm crazy if I bring it up. But, how else?

It's a tricky one because I know I saw a graph, I can't remember where it was from, but they did a scene where they raised the prices of the garment workers from minimum wage to living wage. And to be able to accommodate that, I think it was something like 10 cents more. I think it's not even a costly exercise to be able to do that for businesses. 

The cost is less about the payment to the individuals and more about when you're dealing with, I guess, offshore manufacturing that is not owned by your company, you have to invest a lot into that process rather than just treating it as a subcontractor, you have to invest in that factory or that conglomerate or whatever it might be to ensure that that actually would happen because you're bypassing the government mandate for what is the local minimum wage and you've got to invest a lot more than just the wage itself. There's so much more that goes into it and no one wants to just go out and do that on their own. Everyone's waiting for all the brands to make some sort of agreement or consensus. We've been talking about this for years. It's not like, "we just thought of this."

Living wages have been on the table for a long time, but I don't know. It's obviously complicated, but I would just feel very uncomfortable making garments and just feel like I could just outsource everything and get it for a cheap price and just feed the system. It just doesn't align with my values at all. I just think given the state of the world and resource scarcity and just the way things are heading, I think we need to have serious conversations about it from an economic perspective as well as a moral perspective. Anyway, renting.

Do you think there could be legislation to enforce proof of living wages across the supply chain? If businesses had to adhere to or be fined?

The Modern Slavery Act is one step in that direction. But it's only for large businesses. It's not small or medium-sized businesses that don't have to even look at it.

There are still businesses being shown classic examples. There are still businesses being exposed for not adhering to that way of working even when it exists.

When you're working with subcontractors, you can get away with anything because you say, these are our codes of conduct, we don't allow modern slavery. They might say, “we expect that in the country the factory is in each of these people would be expected to be paid that minimum wage at a minimum.” But if someone breaches the code of conduct, who is the blame put onto the brand? Always puts the blame back onto the supplier. That's not working. Codes of conduct have been around since probably before Rana Plaza, but I think they became very proudly displayed on websites and whatnot after Rana Plaza. 

We're still talking about the same thing.

We haven’t had a disaster at that scale. But we still have disasters. We have factory fires, there are building collapses. There are people that are still in modern slavery situations in the fashion and textile industry. It's not gone away. The awareness has increased, I think, in a general population though, which I think is good, but what's, what's next, you know? It's a tricky one, but I think limit limiting volume would also be just one-way legislation that could also have an impact, significant immediate impact.

Also a creative challenge. We know that creativity thrives within boundaries and constraints, and maybe it will force some more creative solutions. How do you shop? What do you think about when you are updating your wardrobe? If you're not buying your product? How do you approach this personally? Do you shop with other brands still, or I can tell if it’s yours or not?

Very rarely. I have a few like brands friends, I'll call them brand brands. If I need something that they specialize in, then I hundred percent love to support them. Its people that I know are like hand making the garments themselves or are, they're small, they're small labels. Like myself, I would say that I don't buy a lot of fashionable clothes because if I need clothes, I will either make them for myself or buy A.BCH clothes or I'll thrift. And when I thrift, I'm like a lazy thrifty. I don't go sorting through like secondhand stores unless I'm in another country and I'm like interested in their secondhand marketplace. But like, I'll go on this year collective or the real, real, and find like consignment stuff that I'm like, “I could never afford this in real life.”

I don't have to worry about what's the material. It's a lazy way to go shopping. But honestly, it's very rare. I would only really do that if I really needed something. I'm missing one item from my wardrobe, I'll be on the lookout for it. But probably that process could take years. I'm not itching to buy stuff. I'd say the only thing that I buy, not regularly, but that like I find I need to buy is exercise clothes because they tend to wear out. But I've found a brand or a couple of brands that I like because they lost. I feel like now I'm at a point where I'm like, "I don't need to buy anything." Probably for 10 more years because I have enough to get me through what I need. It seems to be really good quality and the durability seems good. In that space, then I'm looking for durability. If possible sustain recycled materials because it's mostly synthetic. Synthetic things that are going to last and are preferably recycled and have a takeback program. Things that I would look for ideally.

Sportswear is one of the hardest ones to navigate just in terms of blends and coatings and chemicals and things coming to light in that area. I might have to get the names.

I've had the same swimsuit for like 10 years. I just never buy clothes. I just don't.

I think that's good. I've had sort of two kids and my size has gone up and down over the years. I found that's been challenging because the stuff that I've had in my wardrobe that is good quality and things that I bought to wear for a long time, obviously doesn't fit at the moment. I found that's been hard as I've gotten older to be able to then think about, “Okay, I do need to buy things because things don't fit anymore.” I get sad when I can't wear things in my wardrobe. It's a bit of a tricky one. 

What's one piece of advice you would give to business owners that are wanting to embed more secularity within their business?

You have to know what you're doing. It's not just like, "I would like to take a flavor of circularity and like apply it." You need to understand what it means. And that means investing in education and tools and also the types of materials that you purchase and the design team. It depends on how big the business is and how much it's just like a small business and it's one woman's show or something like you could say, “great, well, here are some great resources you could start with. And this would help like, get you on a path.” If it's a whole team of designers and a larger business, then you might have to invest in getting some workshops and some design consultation.

It depends on the business. What products you're making as well? Because it's not like one, there's not just like, here's how you're a circular tick. It's so unique and it also depends on the systems that you have available to you. Where are you based? Where is your supply chain based? Where are your customers based? That's all really important information to have, to understand what systems are available to you to do circularity because circularity doesn't start and end somewhere. It's the whole pro. From the garment being a concept of a garment through to when it has its last moment before it either gets thrown into a landfill or put into the shredder to be recycled. That whole process needs to be considered before you put pen to paper.

I think that concept is really hard for people to wrap their heads around and it requires like, rethink and shift in how they see their role. I don't have like one piece of advice except to just start educating yourself. Don't believe everything that you read. I think that you've got to interrogate a lot of what you see out there because people like to use buzzwords all the time. It's important to understand what you're looking at and don't get swept up by the latest shiny sustainability innovation, because that's not always the answer, even though it might seem like a silver bullet to solve everything. Chemical textile recycling, let's just chemically recycle our garments. It's really like a simple thing to think, "that's great, that's going to solve everything, but it's way more complicated than that."

Recycling isn't the answer to everything. There's so much more that needs to happen in the like, life extension and cycles of use before something is recycled. But it just, every cycle of use is adding complexity and layers and more difficulty. How do you get that thing back at the end? How do you keep some sort of tabs on it through life cycles? These are the big problems that need investing in and, and solving collaboratively because one business doing it doesn't, isn't going to cut it. We need everybody working together to come up with localized solutions for circular economies, both like lo like local ones, and national ones, and then obviously there's the global side of things as well. But we need to, especially in Australia, we need to get our act together when it comes to post-consumer waste.

The more manufacturing we lose from this country, the harder it will be for us to process that post-consumer waste into anything. It's going to be much harder for us to extract that out of the landfill as we slowly kill off the manufacturing industry. If you want to support circularity as a consumer, and as a business, I would say keep investing in local manufacturing, because there's no. I'm going to borrow this phrase from my friend and colleague, Marielle Chamberlain from Full Circle Fibres, there's no remanufacturing without manufacturing. If we lose our manufacturing industry, there's no way we're going to have a circular economy here. 

Because we're going to have to invest billions of dollars basically to build it. When we could have retrofitted onto the current manufacturing that we already have? I think that's important for any business that's trying to think about circularity, is what are the local solutions? Because you can't just ship something across the world that's not going, that waste being sent out of our country to other countries, it's not going to be an option in 10 years. It's a very forward-thinking mentality. A lot of investment is required a lot.

Where do you go for trust? What's your one go-to resource for circularity? If a business was thinking, yes, I want to change things, what I'm doing is not sitting right with me, what's one place they could start or head to?

There's no like one go-to, but Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a good place to start if you haven't already started there. That's going to give you all the basics and show you the path of the larger brands and how they're approaching it. That's one way to get started.

Thank you so much, Courtney. I loved our conversation. You're such a wealth of knowledge and the passion comes through in your experience and what you're trying to achieve I appreciate your time today.

No worries, Belinda. My pleasure.

Where can listeners connect with you and find your brilliant brand?

Our website, abch.world. There's heaps of information on there and lots of education that you can just access even if you don't want to buy anything, you can just learn, obviously there's social media. @abch.world. If you're interested in circular sourcing, you can also find us on Circularsourcing.world. See what we're up to.

Amazing. Well, thanks so much, Courtney.

My pleasure. Thank you.

See you. Bye.

Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch head over to belindahumphrey.com or you can find me on Instagram @belindahumphrey 


Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 


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