With Australian fashion brands not immune from skilled labour shortages and workers in the industry radically declining, the shift to ethical fashion and sustainability is emerging as a major drawcard for both talent and brand appeal.

McKinsey report ‘The State of Fashion 2022’ states that sustainability will be in the spotlight this year, with brands held accountable by their employees for putting their public values into practice.

According to the report, listening and responding to these shifts will be crucial for many brands which are aiming to attract a new, diverse generation of talent.

Australian online brand Leina & Fleur has taken radical steps over the last 12 months to transform their business model to stay relevant with both their team and customers.

“We moved away from releasing new lines every week, even though they would sell out sometimes within hours, instead we now limit the number of garments we produce, focusing on fewer releases but which have been produced with even greater attention to detail, a more considered design and quality,” says Leina Broughton, whose background is with high profile fashion brands such as Country Road and Trenery.

“Other things we are doing in the sustainability space is with our fabric, making sure it is ethically and sustainably sourced,” she says.

“You are not getting that with a $20 garment you buy elsewhere.”

“All of our products are designed and made right here in Australia.”

The brand has seen sales go through the roof during the pandemic, with a nearly 200% increase year on year during the pandemic, forcing them to move to new premises four times the size of their last headquarters.

“One of the other major factors for us is genuine inclusivity. We are all about creating clothes for real women, and offer sizes ranging from 8 to 24.”

“Our bodies change at each season of our lives. The stores blame the labels for not offering more sizes but it goes both ways and the retailers also refuse to purchase the extended size range.”

“We’re creating clothes for real women – part of this is also not falling victim to fast fashion. We don’t believe in creating clothes for a single season.”

Clearly Australian women agree – thousands have joined Leina & Fleur Facebook groups dedicated to sharing their styles to reselling signature items, rather than seeing them end up in landfill.

“There’s actually a huge resale value, because of the quality and timeless designs. It’s not unusual to see items sell for a little less than the original price tag when it was brand new,” says Ms Broughton.

Leina & Fleur Head of product and Operations, Fleur Richardson says the business hasn’t been immune to staffing issues.

“We’ve been searching for a cutter and expert machinist for months. Not having any skilled migrants coming into the country who want to do those jobs has also made it more difficult,” says Ms Richardson.

This sentiment is echoed across the industry with employment levels in the Textile, Leather, Clothing and Footwear Manufacturing sector more than halving between 2001 and 2021, from 86,800 to 40,700.

The trend is forecast to continue on a downward trajectory.

“We are proudly Australian Made, and consumers definitely attach quality to Australian Made, but we need people with the right skills to continue to be made in Australia,” says Ms Richardson.

“Fashion brands that lose momentum in this space, and aren’t able to demonstrate their progress may find it difficult to attract loyalty.”

For more information visit https://leinaandfleur.com.au