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Focus on Fashion Last Updated: Nov 21, 2018 - 11:29:30 PM

Australia Leads the Charge for Eco Fashion
By Robbin Whachell
Nov 21, 2018 - 1:29:10 PM

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Left to right: Green Embassy (Australia), Zuzana Hrubos (Czech Republic), and Betty Spoke (UK) [Photos: Port Douglas Photographer]

Eco Fashion Week Australia (EFWA) closed on November 29 and was held in two locations in this its second year. First opening in Port Douglas, Queensland, an eco tourism destination closest to the world's oldest and largest  rainforest, the Daintree and the seventh wonder of  the world, the Great Barrier Reef.

The event then moved to Western Australia to the Fremantle Community Bank Oval. Fremantle is where the inaugural EFWA event was held last year and is situated near Perth.

55 local and international designers took part, making it the the largest eco fashion week in the world. With the support of 72 fashion models, 125 hair and makeup stylists, 150 volunteers and 500 meals, the team have definitely become a tight-knit family with many of the models' mothers helping backstage to ensure everyone was being supported.

"Fashion has always belonged to the privileged, and a handful of fashionistas. Not the ordinary people. We aim to change that," said founder Zuhal Kuvan-Mills. "When community comes together to run an event like this, they are able to take a good look at who is making clothing, to be curious as to how it is manufactured, and to embrace eco designers working in their region,” said Zuhal-Mills “Our goal is to ignite and inspire attendees to change their perspective on fashion."

Photos from events in both states! EFWA2018 photo credits to David Woolley and Port Douglas Photographer

The event is quickly becoming known for its diversity and inclusiveness.  Models are all ages, shapes and sizes, and abilities. This year, model Tia Semi, who was born unable to walk and lives with multiple disabilities, was on the runway representing over ten designers. Her physiotherapist proudly watched in the audience.  "I was diagnosed at 5 1/2 months old with my disability and my parents were told I wouldn't walk. It was my physio that said 'I think she will', and not only do I walk, I walked for Eco Fashion Week Australia!"

Another community component of the event is the nightly Style it Green makeover runway show by eco stylist Dalija Vlahov, which was a delightful break into lighthearted fun as five people volunteering from the audience were made over in a $5 thrift store little black dress with accessories. They then get a chance to walk the runway in their new look. This year an elderly woman with her walker volunteered and walked the catwalk to thunderous applause.

Waste as a resource was a large component of EFWA, as many of the designers practise zero waste methods, and labels like Beads 'n Pods (jewelry from used coffee pods), The Junk Weavers (upcycled packaging and wrappers, junk mail, etc. woven into handbags, earrings, bracelets and bowls), and Sylvia Calvo BCN (upcycled jute coffee bags) showed ingenuity.

Disposable Planet Speakers in Port Douglas. BACK left to right: Marina Chahboune of Beyond Fashion; Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi of Eluxe Magazine (Italy); Julia Leu, mayor of Douglas Shire (Australia); Nicki Colls, Fibreshed Melbourne (Australia); Bridgette Gower, Sea Shepherd Australia (Queensland); Robbin Whachell, Hoy-Scott Watershed Society (Canada); Stewart Christie, Reef Restoration Foundation (Australia). FRONT left to right: Sylvia Calvo (Barcelona); Zuhal Kuvan-Mills (EFWA Founder); Jane Milburn, Textile Beat (Australia); and Natalie Shehata (Australia). Missing from photo: Peta Slack-Smith, Australian Wool Innovation. (Photo: EFWA2018)

Education was key. EFWA2018 offered mending workshops run by Textile Beat's Jane Milburn, the author of Slow Clothing. Clothing swaps, secondhand markets, and the Disposable Planet 2 seminars were all part of the two week event. Speakers like Sass Brown, author of "Eco Fashion" and "Refashion;" sustainability editor for Vogue Magazine, Claire Press; Jane Milburn, author of "Slow Clothing;" sustainability consultant, Marina Chahboune of Beyond Fashion; Jeff Hansen of Sea Shepherd Australia;  and Nicki Colls of Fibreshed Melbourne. Also speaking at the seminars was Julia Leu, Bridgette Gower, Stewart Christie, Peta Slack-Smith, Sylvia Calvo, Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, Robbin Whachell, Natalie Shehata and Rachel Pemberton.

Radio personality and event MC, Angie Ayers kept audiences entertained with personal insights and industry statistics. She said that only a short year ago she was not interested in fashion, but by learning about the planetary challenges we're facing due to the effects of fast fashion she's now become one of the event's ambassadors.

A photo from Spain! Design students from Girona tune in to Eco Fashion Week Australia via Facebook livestream. Belvis Soler and Robbin Whachell seen on the screen.

For the second year, a Facebook livestream was set up between EFWA and the Girona, Spain design school, Espai de Qstura thanks to Barcelona designer Sylvia Calvo. Joining her in fielding questions by faculty and students were Belvis Soler, Robbin Whachell, and Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi.

Eco Fashion Week Australia accepts designers who create with organic, recycled or upcycled fabrics, or use or create with traditional hand-crafted textiles; use environmentally friendly fabrics (organic cotton, wool, alpaca, hemp, bamboo, silk ); show evidence of zero waste in their collection; and use locally produced products.

International designers included: Connally McDougall (Canada); Hiroaki Tanaka (Japan); Zuzann Hrubos (Czech Republic); Francesca Phipps (UK); Betty Spoke (UK); Sylvia Calvo (Spain); Marita Moreno (Portugal); MOLA  (Uruguay); Things of Substance (Vietnam); Ren (Turkey); and Robert Naorem (India).

With wool being one of the most sustainable fibres on the planet, and Western Australia producing 71 million kg of wool per year, it was definitely highlighted at the event with the Merino Wool Challenge sponsored by  Peter Scanlan Wools.  The outcome was incredible and proved how very versatile this product is.

Returning this year was the intriguing Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn Wilson and Dalija Vlahov, where 13 Australian and international fashion designers created one runway look from upcycled men's dress shirts.

Anita Moon Awards of Excellence were presented to Regina Bochat for Best Australian Student Designer; Tayla Parnham for Best Australian Emerging Designer; Pearlita Orongan for Best Australian Home Sustainable Garment; and Rose Mercer of Livie Rose Designs received the Australian Made Design Award.

Eco Fashion Week Australia has jumped into the lead as the top eco fashion week on the planet, and seeing such amazing growth this year, we are eager to see what Kuvan-Mills and her team will create in 2019.

Left to right: Jane Milburn, author of Slow Clothing; Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, founder of EFWA; and Sass Brown, founding dean of Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation. (Photo: EFWA2018)

Eco Fashion Week Australia partnered with the following: The Bahamas Weekly; Douglas Shire Council; Explore Tropical North Queensland; Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef; Eluxe Magazine; luxiders; Be Global Fashion Network; tommie magazine; Olio by Marilyn; Textile Beat; Circular Style Magazine; Style Drama; Dowerin GWN Machinery Field Days; LOIG'S MUSIC LAB; Dene Selby: Model School, Agency & Image Maker; Xpression Models; Claire Hair Boutique; Notre Dame University; The Beauty Room; QT Port Douglas; Ethically Kate; Slow Down Style; A Small Wardrobe; Zuii Organic; Australian Made Campaign; Edith Cowan University (ECU); Curtin University; Eco Fashion Talk; Rainforest Rescue; Sea Shepherd Australia; Reef Restoration Foundation; Indigo, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef; and Curtin Springs Paper.

EFWA2018 presenting designers: Green Embassy, Connally McDougall, Curtin Springs Paper, Gemini Kite, Francesca Phipps, Sylvia Calvo, MOLA Curated Collection, Jude Taylor, Melaleuca Rise, CLAWDI, Pattern by Design, Nickelby Designs, Zuzana Hrubos, Classic Couture Vintage & Bridal, Junk Weavers Inc., Satisha, Skylark the Label, Barbwire Noose, BIRDTRIBE, Ren, Fabric of Nature, Livie Rose Designs, Studio Membrane, Beads 'n Pods, Sustainable Couture, Murii Quu Couture, EFWA Upcycling Challenge by Marilyn Wilson, Betty Spoke, Marita Moreno, NoRuYeLo, Robert Naorem, Ku'arlu Mangga, Leah Kelly by Design, Ngali, Things of Substance.

For more information go to: ecofashionweekaustralia.com

About the author: Robbin Whachell is a publicist, writer, photo-journalist; and the co-founder of  TheBahamasWeekly.com. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Skype. She can be reached at robbinwhachell@gmail.com

Opening night at the Fremantle Community Bank Oval included awards, words from speakers, Merino Wool Challenge sponsored by Peter Scanlan Wools, and the sounds of the didgeridoo by Ken Maynard, and the sounds of country by singer Shelly Q. (EFWA2018 / David Woolley)

Hair was provided by Claire Hair Boutique. Makeup was led by Alex Dimov and the team of Ryan Cauilan, Lauren Nettle, Caitlin Alford, Jess Williamson, Stacey Hildred, Jordan Darman, Crystal Kaka, Tina Mansfield & Courtney Green, Lauren Nettle, Jane Wong, Jess Vlok, Ryan Cauilan, Jordan Darman, Emaline Elamor, Rebecca Newell, Courtney Green, Meagan Studiò, Jess Iddon, Cailtin Bone, Julia McLachlan, Julia McLachlan, and students of WA Perth Beauty College. [Photos: Angelique Lee and Robbin Whachell]

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