A masterclass in sustainability with A.BCH
In this instalment of the North and West Melbourne Precinct Association (NWMPA) “Precinct Ambassadors” series we talk to Courtney Holm, owner and founder of West Melbourne based circular fashion label A.BCH (Articles by Courtney Holm).
What is a circular fashion label you may ask?
The answer is philosophically simple but its practice inherently complicated.
In Ms Holm’s own words, “Circular design is an approach to developing products and systems that incorporates three key circular economy principals; designing out waste, keeping materials and products in use, and regenerating natural systems.”
What that looks like in practical terms is using 100 per cent regenerative and biologically circular materials; creating products tested and developed for longevity, repair and remanufacture; eliminating material and energy waste in the industrial, manufacturing and post-consumer lifecycle phases; and education for extended care and producer responsibility.
This unwavering dedication to the circular design mantra is one born out of Ms Holm’s first-hand look into fashions world of waste, pollution and exploitation.
“My first experience was seeing the waste in production from a cut, make, trim perspective in factories where we are laying fabric and cutting the patterns out – all the negative space from the fabric is a big issue,” Ms Holm said. “It is estimated that 15 per cent of all material is landfilled as off cuts.”
“It began a process where I wanted to find out what it meant to be a ‘sustainable label’. Can it be done and how you go about it.”
“We want to think about the kinds of materials you put into a garment and how it affects the lifespan and how it can be returned to the earth as nutrients or be perpetually recycled forever and ever.”
After coming across the work of Cradle2Cradle and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Whole Systems Thinking, and her own learned experience, Ms Holm developed the methodology that would lead to the launch of A.BCH in 2017.
According to Ms Holm, circularity is not just about the materials being used, but the entire production process and lifespan of a garment, from ensuring working conditions for farmers of raw materials to the products’ ability to safely return to the environment and provide nutrients for the earth.
“There is a hierarchy of values that you need to live by and to us circularity is at the top, but also supporting those people who make the products we buy to create our garments,” Ms Holm said.
“Ninety-nine per cent of clothing in the world is stitched with plastic, all the threads that hold our clothes together are plastic, usually the labels inside are plastic, the dyes have heavy metal counterparts within them, buttons are plastic; there are all these places where you create this monstrous hybrid of natural fibres and synthetic fibres that makes it almost impossible to recycle.”
“We repair, we offer alterations, we even help our customers if they have issues like removing stains, and at the end of a garment’s lifespan we offer the option to take it from them to be recycled or they can cut it up and throw it in their compost bin.”
According to fashion icon and sustainability campaigner, Stella McCartney, the equivalent of one dump truck of textiles gets landfilled or burned every second, and by 2025 the clothing waste accumulated between now and then will weigh as much as today’s world population.
For interested customers, you won’t find the same price point from A.BCH as you would from fast fashion retailers like H&M or UNIQLO, simple because, there is a certain price to live by a resolute circular ethos.
Customers can visit A.BCH online or by appointment during the week and will be opening on weekends in the near future. •
For more information: abch.world
Caption: Left to right: A.BCH’s Lilly Clatworthy, Simone Berman, founder Courtney Holm, and Emily Dent (intern)