In this series with textile testing and certification group Testex, Ragtrader reports on sustainability pioneers in the Australian fashion industry. Having spoken the International Sourcing Fair, The Legacy Summit and the 2018 Australian Cotton Conference, Lucy King is a proud advocate for change.

Lucy King: Country Road Group & David Jones sustainability manager

When did the sustainability journey start?

We started out on the journey back in 2015, when we identified the major materials we were using across all of our brands were cotton, cellulose, leather and wool.

Cotton was about 40% to 60% of our fibres across the Group, so we knew that cotton would be a key part of the program for us. For each of those key materials that we identified, we developed a strategy and set time-bound commitments that launched those with all of the brands. We launched tools, resources and from a Group perspective we've helped the brands be accountable for the targets we have for each of those fibres.

That's not to say we can't explore other opportunties that suit their collections and their brands. So in addition to the core fabrics, we've got Country Road with the Refibra jeans, Mimco are using five to six plastic bottles in the lining most of their handbags.

Trenery have innovated by using cashmere recycled jumpers back into cashmere collections. Each brand is building confidence in driving innovation within their unique collections.

What is the top-line commitment?

  • For cotton, we've set 100% of our cotton products to support sustainable farming practices by 2020. We're currently at the 60% mark.
  • 100% of leather products to come from tanneries that are maintaining high environmental standards, so certified against the Leather Working Group Standard. We're at about 40% at this point. Trenery, Witchery and David Jones are at about the 90% mark which is incredible in such a short time.
  • Cellulose we set a target for about 100% to be deforestation free by 2020.
  • Then we'll also got an overarching commitment that both David Jones and Country Group are on a journey to meeting, that 100% of our products need to have one sustainability attribute by 2020. That means some way or another, the product needs to be more sustainable and a huge part of that is fabric selection.

How has Country Road upped its messaging around this space?

We're receiving more and more questions from customers about where their clothes are made, wanting to understand the standards we're adhering to in the background, where the fibres are coming from.

For us, we've been doing a lot of groundwork behind the scenes and it's taken a lot to get to this point, where we've got more sustainable product going out onto the floor.

If you walk into our store, you wouldn't necessarily know about the work going on behind the scenes. That's partly because we've been careful to talk about it in a credible way.

Particularly at the moment, there's a big spotlight on sustainability and it's really become part of mainstream fashion talk. We want to make sure we communicate it in a way that's credible.

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