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Environmentalist sisters bring sustainable edge to fashion

Bond University Master of Architecture student Emma Sommerville, together with her sister Kellie, have formed Folktribe - a clothing label with a focus on sustainability, environmental awareness, humanitarian values and changing the shopping habits of consumers.

In a fashion industry obsessed with a never-ending conveyor belt of new season styles, the sisters have designs on a new trend: eternal style.

Emma recently told the Gold Coast Bulletin that she and Kellie had always been environmentally aware but were inspired to start Folktribe after travelling and seeing the environmental impact of big business, particularly the fashion industry.

“In China they know the (fashion) colour of the seasons way ahead of us because their rivers will run that colour. They’ll know, ‘millennial pink, this is on trend’,” she said.

Folktribe’s fashion focus is on hand-drawn patterns that are designed to be long-lasting, rather than being based around trends. Their garments are created to be worn in different styles, in all seasons, and to be durable, to help reduce people’s overall clothing consumption.

The garments are made from natural fibres and products such as hemp and are completely compostable. Where needed, they use botanical dyes, alongside coconut buttons and personalised tags made from organic cotton.

The sustainability focus goes further than just the garments themselves. The company avoids using plastic post bags or individual garment packaging, and uses mainly recycled paper.

The environmental focus of the business had presented some challenges, Ms Sommerville said.

“Because we’re trying to break away from the mainstream, it’s a detriment to sales,” she said.

“We’re like, ‘how the hell do we break the mould and do something different, but also become an established brand’?”

To help with this, Ms Sommerville recently began working with Bond University’s entrepreneurship program Transformer to help with marketing and publications.

Sommerville said being a newcomer to the worlds of business and fashion had not necessarily been a bad thing.

“I think it’s a detriment in some ways, not knowing a lot about business and fashion, but I think it’s also kind of good, because we can go, ‘these are our ethics, these are our values, and we’re not wavering on them, this is what we stand for’.

“There’s so many people on the planet that businesses can survive without people ridiculously consuming. It’s (business) is still viable, it’s just how greedy you want it to be.”

Are you an entrepreneur with a fabulous start-up or business idea?

Then you should enter global start-up competition [email protected] for your chance to showcase your idea on a world stage. The regional final of [email protected] is taking place at Bond University on November 27. 

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