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Byron Shire
September 26, 2023

Sustainable fashion course in Byron this season

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Sustainable fashion student, Gabriel Shine, designer and guest tutor, Jenny Bannister with course co-ordinator, Cate Coorey. Photo supplied.

Born in Byron, bred in a sweatshop, made from earth-destroying parts and brought back to you with copious carbon miles… it’s fast-fashion but it’s not a good look.

Australians, it seems, must choose between going naked or wearing clothes that never quite fit their increasingly informed ethical standards.

While Byronites are known to enjoy baring all, winter is coming and the Byron Community College (BCC) is offering another path: a six-week course in sustainable fashion.

Catwalk-ing the talk

Cate Coorey, known to many for her work as an independent Bryon Shire Councillor, is also a long-time tutor at BCC and has co-ordinated the course featuring guest experts and leading sustainable fashion practitioners.

Emerging designers and anyone who ‘wants to learn how to live more consciously’ is expected to benefit, Ms Coorey says.

‘Each day has got a different aspect to sustainable and ethical fashion,’ Ms Coorey told The Echo, ‘reducing the amount of fashion purchased, taking things out of the waste stream, and then looking at how to make clothes that are kinder to the planet and to people’.

‘It isn’t just a conversation, we’ll be giving practical information on how to do it.’

Byron’s Spell to share lessons learned

One of Byron’s most iconic brands in recent years has been Spell, but the famous Boho afficionados haven’t been immune to the ethical challenges of up-scaling business, with most garments made in Bali.

Spell sustainability officer Angie Menighini is to give a presentation in week one.

‘They’ve been working really hard the last few years to improve their practices at every level,’ Ms Coorey says, ‘so it’s a process for them and I thought it was an interesting way of looking at how a business can tackle this’.

‘There are ways of doing things that are kinder to the people that make them and are fair,’ she says.

Week four features Bangalow label Kopa, which is promoted in course information as working with artisans, women, and minorities via groups like the Self Employed Women’s Association and the Widows of Vrindavan ‘to create meaningful and lasting employment, and use all natural dyes and fabrics and antique traditions’.

The significance of dye in fashion can’t be overstated – even Prada’s famous black has to come from somewhere, and jeans aren’t born blue.

But if chemical dye pollution sounds like a fashion disaster risk you’d rather avoid, Annie Leon’s workshop in week six offers hope, with students to discover the pigments possible from organic sources such as avocado stones and Eucalyptus leaves.

From darning socks to Sashiko and Boro

No sustainable fashion course would be complete without a lesson or two on pre-loved clothing and Ms Coorey has turned to Byron Shire sustainability queen Sascha Mainsbridge of Mullum Cares Salvage Culture and Library of Stuff fame for inspiration in week five.

The Northern Rivers can be a true paradise for op-shop, vintage store and flea-market finds but if you prefer a more modern look, or simply need a few minor alterations done, it’s probably worth brushing up some old home economics basics like those featured in the course.

From re-doing hems and replacing zippers and buttons to re-stitching and cutting, students can expect to discover a world of fresh sartorial inspiration through their own two hands.

Ms Coorey says students may even learn how to darn socks, an image that seems to match very well with the shire’s prolonged cottage-core and linen look.

But if sitting around a fire helping keep toes warm doesn’t fan your creative flames, in week six Cristina Cameron is to teach some decidedly more glamorous sounding Japanese style repair techniques.

Many will have seen the Japanese ceramic repair method using gold, Kintsugi.

The famously meticulous and aesthetically appreciative Japanese apparently apply the same philosophy to mending clothes, with two techniques called Sashiko and Boro focused on decorative stitching.

Course fees subsidised

The Sustainable Fashion course starts 2 June with tuition fees waived for NSW residents although resource fees apply.

Local designers including The National Gallery’s Fashion Hall of Fame star Jenny Bannister and Lennox Head based Stefanie Mahoney of ethical Lennox label Odet are also featured in the program.

Places are limited.

More information is available via the Byron Community College online.

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