Representatives from some of Australia’s leading fashion brands got a taste of how cotton is produced at an exclusive cotton industry tour on Tuesday, May 2.
The Fashion Farm Tour, organised by Cotton Australia, aims to connect both ends of the cotton supply chain – growers and end-users – by allowing brand owners, designers and retailers to see the origin of the fibre their consumers love.
About 30 representatives from fashion brands including Cotton On, Country Road, Bonds, Jeanswest, Katies, Rivers, Target and H&M participated in the tour, which involved a visit to Auscott’s Narrabri farm and gin to see cotton being harvested, processed and transported.
They also had the opportunity to meet some of Australia’s world-class cotton scientists and find out how cotton research is incorporated into farming practices at the Australian Cotton Research Institute.
This was the third Fashion Farm Tour organised by Cotton Australia and the biggest yet.
Cotton Australia’s North West NSW regional manager Paul Sloman said the tour had “snowballed” in popularity since it was first established three years ago.
“It’s all about getting the designers from Australia out to the cotton farms to see where the product, the fabric that they use, recommend and design with comes from,” he said.
“We identified a few years ago that there was a bit of disconnect there, so we approached a handful of designers three years ago.
“About 10 came up and we brought them on farm, showed them the product on farm, took them to the gin and explained to them the process and environmental achievements we’ve made in the last few years and the heavy mechanisation that’s relied on to get the industry rolling.
“Today there’s 27 people here – it’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”
Most designers and retailers have never been to a cotton farm before, so the tour is a great opportunity to educate them about the Australian cotton industry and encourage them to use Australian cotton in their products if they’re not already doing so.
Cotton Australia's Cotton to Market program leader Brooke Summers was the organiser of the day and said most participants come on the tour to learn more about where their raw materials come from.
“This is a bit of a change in the textile market – in years gone by people haven’t really been that interested but now, customers are asking where their products are coming from, so these guys are showing some real interest in that and understanding exactly how the cotton is grown so that they can then incorporate it into their products and really tell the story of Australian cotton,” she said.
Ms Summers said she hoped everyone would gain a thorough understanding of how cotton is produced, and could leave with the knowledge that Australia is leading the world in sustainable, ethical cotton production.
“We grow the highest-quality crops in the world, we produce yield three times the world average and we’re doing it with less natural resources than ever before, so we’re really proud of that story and we want these guys to go away feeling proud of that as well,” she said.
Target Australia is one particular brand that is leading the way in support for the Australian cotton industry.
The department store is proud to have partnered with Cotton Australia over the past three years, offering 100 per cent Australian cotton apparel.
The menswear department led the initiative with its 100 per cent Australian cotton range which includes T-shirts, business shirts and knitwear. Other departments are now also stocking ranges of 100 per cent Australian cotton products.
“We like to think we’re the home of Australian cotton,” business manager, menswear and intimates Neil Ainsworth said.
“We were the first Australian retailer to launch Australian cotton and we’re big advocates, being an Australian retailer and wanting to support Australian farmers.”
Jeanswest is also developing their relationship with Cotton Australia and will be launching their early summer collection in September featuring woven shirts made with 100 per cent Australian cotton.
Last year they launched three T-shirt collections which used Australian cotton and were Australian made.
“Transparency is really important to us,” PR and retail marketing manager Natalie Kirby said.
“We’re looking for ways to support the local industry and supply chain and we’re here to get more information about the local industry.
“Australian cotton is a product we’re really interested in using more of.”
Iconic Australian brand Country Road was one another of the fashion houses represented on the tour and keen to develop more opportunities to support the Australian cotton industry.
“Because of the interest in the Australian cotton industry, it’s important to have more of an understanding of the source, right through to the finished product,” product and innovation manager Carla Woidt said.
“We have a strong provenance focus and a passion for telling the story all the way through. Country Road is an iconic Australian brand and should be supporting the Australian cotton industry.”