Consumers of sustainable fashion are demanding ethical alternatives in the current climate of fast fashion, spurred by growing awareness of its environmental impact.

With the sustainable fashion market projected to hit global revenue of $33 billion by 2030, according to a recent Coherent Markets Insights report, circular fashion and the take-up of eco-friendly materials for ethically produced clothing is increasingly driving trends.

However, within Australia’s fashion market, which boasts urban classics, designer labels, and cultural fusion, sustainability initiatives are still evolving.

Despite the fashion industry as a whole contributing $27 billion to the national economy and employing over 489,000 people, the industry grapples with its environmental footprint.

Jerico Mandybur, founder of Jerico Road Vintage, who runs market stalls around Sydney, said Australian clothes manufacturers are becoming more aware of the effects of their industry and are changing their ways to reflect environmental concerns.

“Being a vintage brand, my mission is to contribute to a circular economy and keep clothes out of landfill,” she told Central News.

“My goal is just to persuade more women and NB (non-binary) people into an environmental and ethical approach to fashion and self-expression while keeping beautiful pieces of clothing, with lots of stories behind them and plenty of love left to give, out of landfill.”

The Surry Hills monthly vintage market where Mandybur has a stall, has been an ongoing fashion event since 1981, and has substantially increased its sustainable clothing production in recent years.

Originally working as an editorial lead for major fashion brand ASOS, Jerico had an early insight into the exploitation of fast fashion and its contribution to climate change.

There is a wealth of greenwashing going on in fashion today, where brands seek to look ethical and environmentally friendly, but very much aren’t.

“As I learned more about the climate catastrophe we’re in, and the fact that the fast fashion industry — which has only increased at hyperspeed with the help of algorithms since then — is the second largest polluter on the planet, I came to believe that the only truly sustainable way to shop is second hand,” she said.

“There is a wealth of greenwashing going on in fashion today, where brands seek to look ethical and environmentally friendly, but very much aren’t. Also, on a personal level, my spirituality is centred on a deep reverence for nature, so as this aspect of my outlook developed, the less comfortable I was supporting mass production.”

Sustainable fashion initiatives are not limited to just vintage markets and smaller sellers. Large fashion corporations such as Zara and H&M are also beginning to recognise the urgency of implementing eco-friendly practices.

“These key players are investing in sustainable practices and offering eco-friendly products to meet the changing consumer preferences in the market,” the Coherent Insights report said.

“By prioritising sustainability and social responsibility, these companies are well-positioned to capitalise on the growing demand for sustainable fashion products globally.”

The clothing Mandybur sells is sourced locally and by hand to avoid shipping and carbon emissions. Her brand further uses reusable, biodegradable packing bags and eco-friendly washing products and promotes shopping with intention, reusing the clothes you already own and reimagining them into outfits you desire.

“I try to mention my “why” (sustainability) as often as I can in messaging online,” she said.

“My current tag line is ‘lovingly curated for romantics, witches, and earth-worshippers’, because I’m hoping to encourage my customers to see nature as a precious, enchanted thing that needs our stewardship and care, and an easy way to do that (along with supporting wider industry/political change), is to shop with intention, using what clothing already exists.”

Main image by Eryn Yates