To mark National Recycling Week and Brisbane's Recreate Twilight Paper Fashion Festival, Live for Less blogger Hannah Klose talks with local fashion designer Nick Azar about his brand and why it's important to reduce our waste footprint.
Q. When and why did you start your The Great Beyond (TGB) label?
I started TGB in 2015 with my partner Aicha Robertson. She was dissatisfied with the lack of stylish sustainable basics on offer and that’s how we came up with the concept. I’m a designer and she’s a stylist and digital publisher, so we decided to combine our skills to create something of our own.
Q. What were some of the challenges with starting your label?
Sourcing materials and finding the right suppliers is always tricky, especially because we want to use very special fabrics that are not readily available. The challenges are part of the fun though, we love it!
Q. Tell us about your sewing skills. Were you an A-grade home ec student at school?
No! I have infinite respect for dress makers, it’s so hard! I try and I’m reasonably skilled but very slow. I taught myself the skill and I continue to hone it.
Q. Describe the TGB aesthetic?
Relaxed chic…we use clean lines and balanced proportions to create stylish yet easy to wear styles. My first inspiration is natural geometry, the shapes and patterns of nature. Besides that, I’m always immersed in the world of style and fashion trends, inspiration is everywhere.
Q. Tell us about your latest collection.
With our Cassiopeia collection we expanded our range a lot. Besides our staple basics we now have a more diverse collection showcasing some unique design flare. We also went with more lively colours like rose quartz. This collection is made from custom made woven bamboo from 100% organic sources, a beautiful and hard to find fabrication.
Q. All of your collections are made out of bamboo…why did you choose to use it as a textile?
Bamboo is renowned for its many unique features and impressive environmental benefits. Agriculturally, it does not require intensive irrigation and thrives without need of pesticides or fertilisers. Moreover, growing Bamboo is eco-restorative, improving soil quality and helping rebuild eroded land. Clothing made of bamboo is extremely soft, durable and luxuriously comfortable.
Q. Vivienne Westwood once said: “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.” How does that resonate with you and your label?
Perfectly, This is close to the core of what The Great Beyond is about. Clothing to wear at any time, again and again…versatility and durability are very important to us.
Q. The clothing industry is the second biggest polluter in the world and generates 11 million tonnes of waste each year, so can you explain your production process, its impacts on the environment and what it means to have a closed loop system?
A big part of the waste problem is the speed at which we buy and discard new clothes. There is also big problems with waste in the manufacturing process. Closed loop means that chemicals and dyes used in production are not discarded, but recycled back into the system for continuous use. Our manufacturing team is headed by Fanny Lam, a Brisbane based clothing manufacturer who works with her sister and team of garment makers in DongGuan, China. It is important for us to be able to meet regularly with our manufacturing team. This relationship is key to production quality and the peace of mind that our environmental and ethical standards are observed.
Q. 6000 kilograms of textiles goes to landfill every 10 minutes in Australia where it can sit for up to 200 years, especially if it’s polyester! How does bamboo break down?
Bamboo is 100% biodegradable, this is one of the main reasons why we chose to use it.
Q. What’s TGB’s take on fast fashion?
Fast fashion is not our thing, we believe that quality clothing and timeless style is so much better for customers, brands and the environment.
Q. Do you think Australians have become more aware of the ugly side of the fashion industry?
To some degree yes, but in the last few years we have also seen many of the world’s biggest fast fashion brands become established in our market. What goes on behind the scenes is really a lot to take in.
Q. Any tips ‘fashion-wise’ to ensure we have a more sustainable future?
Buy smart, wear more. By becoming an informed buyer we can start making a better future with our choices.
Q. What would you say to someone looking to start a sustainable label?
Go for it! It’s an exciting time to be a part of this movement. There is so many ways to make a difference, pick one that is important to you and commit to it.
Q. Where is TGB stocked?
Boutiques in New York, Singapore, New Zealand and NSW, and you can always find us online at www.the-great-beyond.com