Sustainable fashion is about acquiring beauty without harm. Many fashion industry players envision sustainable fashion as the way forward. With a growing number of ethically conscious consumers and fashion labels, the Sydney Environment Institute and Sydney Ideas will run Beauty Without Harm to highlight the importance of sustainable fashion and provide tips for how we can make better purchasing decisions.

The Beauty Without Harm panel will also address the misconceptions of sustainable fashion. Headed by PhD candidate Lisa Heinze from the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies who will present her findings on evolving consumer fashion trends, the panel demonstrates how discounts in clothing prices reflect ethical and environmental compromises to the supply chain. “The answer is not to make people feel guilty about shopping for pleasure but rather painting a realistic picture of fashion consumption,” says Heinze.

Despite many people struggling to find inspiration on what to wear, few are equipped to make informed fashion choices. There is currently no national accreditation body able to certify ethically produced and environmentally sustainable apparel.

“It’s very rare to find a label or a garment that is ticking all the right boxes. It’s quite common to find a brand that is dedicated to being sweatshop-free, but their environmental credentials won’t be as strong. Most people don’t want to buy something that’s made in a sweatshop – it’s not that people want to choose that as an option – but it can be really difficult to know how something was made.”

“[When choosing eco fashion] There’s a recognition that aesthetics and style has to be as good as everything else that’s out there. Price, style and availability tend to be the top three issues when choosing fashion, and many people aren’t even aware of the sustainability factor.”

Heinze is the author of Sustainability with Style and has so far interviewed at least 25 Australian eco fashion labels. She believes that the opportunities for making sustainable fashion choices will increase in the future but the first step towards this change is to increase awareness among consumers and the industry. The Beauty Without Harm panel will also include Kit Willow Podgornik, founder of WILLOW and new label KITX, Ethical Sourcing Manager at David Jones Jaana Quaintance-James, and Dr Frances Flanagan from the Sydney Environment Institute.

The Beauty Without Harm panel will present on Wednesday 12 August, 6.30 to 8.00pm  at the University of Sydney. For more details and registration, visit Sydney University’s event listing.