Mindful Buying – Discovering some of Melbourne’s secret ethical designers


“Buy less, choose well,

Make it last…”

– Vivienne Westwood

In a world of instant gratification and disposable everything, there is a new wave starting to push back that encourages sustainable fashion, buying locally, sourcing pre-loved and making better choices.

As Melbourne Fashion Week 2019 approaches, I was lucky enough to spend a day with Donna Cameron and Briar Jasper-Batson, two Melbourne based style specialists who together have created Fashion by Foot. Spurred on by their love of style and their concerns about the environmental footprint fast fashion is leaving in it’s wake, Donna and Briar began taking guided walking tours throughout Melbourne that introduce customers, tourists and locals alike, to a number of independent Melbourne designers and labels.

“Melbourne really is blessed to have such a vibrant independent fashion scene. It’s a big part of what gives our city it’s uniquely creative culture and helps make it one of most liveable cities in the world,” Donna tells me.

The fashion industry is a booming business, worth an estimated 2.5 trillion dollars but it comes with major impacts. According to the UN in 2018, the fashion industry, including the production of all wearable clothes, contributes to around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions due to its long supply chains and energy intensive production.  The industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industry combined, as well as using other valuable resources.

To make just one pair of denim jeans, for example, 10,000 litres of water is required to just grow the one kilo of cotton needed. In comparison, it would take ten years for one person to drink that amount. Add to that the burning and dumping of cheaply made garments, exported around the world, which creates toxic chemicals that escape from the dying and bleaching processes to leach into the environment. There are also unethical working practices in the race to produce more and more products at extremely cheap prices. Fashion by Foot hopes to encourage local, ethically produced brands, and to change the perceptions of disposable fashion.

I first met Donna and Briar at the ground breaking Access to Fashion event at Melbourne Fashion Week, where she was the lead stylist. The brainchild of author and appearance activist Carly Findlay, Access to Fashion was the first Melbourne Fashion Week event to feature models with visible and invisible disability. The event also featured unique Australian designers.

Gourmet lunch at Charcoal Lane – Fitzroy

Donna and Briar, and others supporting the sustainable fashion movement, work on the principal that quality is more important than quantity and by choosing well and taking care of the garments that we purchase, we can lesson the impact on the environment while also supporting the fashion industry closest to our location. As stylists, they also aim to help people through the confusion of what your own personal style is, what colours best suit skin tones, and how to achieve looks that make sense for your lifestyle.

As a Melbourne girl, born and bred, I was probably their worst nightmare, turning up in all black. One of their goals is to help people in Melbourne, renowned for the black uniform, get past the fear of colour and introduce splashes of colour into our wardrobes. Donna and Briar have a lovely way of disarming clients and I’m greeted with warm smiles, a glass of bubbles and croissants. Workshopping colour palettes and shapes that might suit the individual happens before we set our walking around Melbourne’s iconic suburb of Fitzroy. Fashion set to a back drop of street art and hipster cafes and barber shops is a pretty cool way to spend a sunny winter day.

Being able to meet the designers and store owners added to this unique shopping experience, and I was impressed by their knowledge and the high level of customer service. Donna and Briar encouraged me to step out of my sombre-Melbourne box and experiment with colour. I am now the proud owner of an olive coloured dress from Elk, a Melbourne based brand who prides itself on ethical sourcing and production. I made the purchase at a lovely boutique in Smith Street called Inspirasia.

If you’re unsure of your own personal style, or you’re visiting Melbourne, or you’re a local looking for some bespoke garments and accessories to enhance your wardrobe, I can highly recommend a guided walking tour. Donna and Briar have very different styles but both are brilliant and allaying any fears or anxiety you may have on the fashion front. They introduced me to some wonderful, playful designers of garments, hats and accessories, with a very hands on approach. (I may have had too much fun trying on hats at Smart, Alec Hatters!).

Fashion by Foot run guided tours in Brunswick, Melbourne city and Fitzroy. They will also take you out for a gourmet lunch, offering advice throughout the day and asking any questions you might have. We dined at Charcoal Lane which has an amazing social program, incredible food they describe as “A showcase of native fresh produce from across our great land, foraged and found.” (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle dined here when they were in Melbourne. I thoroughly enjoyed the emu spring rolls). It certainly opened my eyes to how I can add a pop of colour to my wardrobe, and also to some of the amazing emerging and established designers Melbourne has to offer. Grab your girlfriends or book for yourself!

You can book a guided walking tour at https://www.fashionbyfoot.com/

*Please note, this post was not sponsored. I just loved the tour and the concept behind it!

Previous articlePodcast 024 – Kayte Murphy & Kim Berry
Next articleGood Little Girl Syndrome
Sandy is a writer, creative and podcaster based in Melbourne’s west. She is the proud mother of her three adult children. She has always been passionate about women’s rights and celebrating the diversity of women having been raised by a proud disabled feminist mother herself. As the founder and Creative Director of Wb40 – Women Beyond Forty Magazine, she’s had a diverse and interesting career that has seen her wear various hats – business owner, manager, coordinator, writer, blogger and creative. She has never been afraid to challenge herself and has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. If “Wb40” reminds you of another thing entirely Sandy jokes that it’s the lubricant for your mind! In this world, representation matters, and right now in the publishing world, women over forty are not well represented. Sandy has been that woman fighting for her voice to be heard. As a mother, a single parent keeping her head above water, a business owner and a corporate worker. Although her background is diverse, the one constant is a desire to help others, to build a community, to give back and to bring people together. The journey of Wb40 – Women Beyond Forty, is not an accident. Sandy started an award-nominated blog back in 2013 which changed and evolved and has an established community of amazing women who are proud members of a tribe — industry leaders, creatives, disruptors, authors, survivors, inspirational keynote speakers, disability advocates and activists, teachers, nurses, doctors — many who are well known and respected in their fields. Women who, just like her, are seeking change in the world, and understand that the collective wisdom of women can make a positive difference in the world. When she reached out to women with her vision for Wb40 and her podcast The Good Girl Confessional, their collective enthusiasm, advice and encouragement was overwhelmingly positive and was honoured that they offered advice, their knowledge, time and expertise. They wanted to share their stories and write for Wb40. All of them without question wanted to be involved, believing in the vision but also understanding the need for such a platform. When Sandy couldn’t find the platform was looking for, with help from some friends, she created it here. Let’s start a revolution.