What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words 'sustainable fashion'?
Chances are your mind wanders to the unrewarding aisles of second-hand warehouse stores; rows upon rows of pre-worn clothing and bric-à-brac that will likely never be sold.
Or perhaps you're transported to a suburban op-shop, likely packed with clothing you'll probably never wear (save for that highly irregular moment when you stumble upon that one beautiful vintage garment).
Surely there's a better way engage with the fashion industry sustainably.
Founded by Sydney Young Entrepreneur Awards 2019 Fashion Design winner Emily Kate Symes (pictured) in 2018, EKOLUV has fast built a reputation in Sydney for high-quality garments in the circular economy of fashion.
While other fast-fashion brands are focusing on materials to appear eco-friendly to customers, Emily has recognised that the problems faced by the fashion industry are more than thread-deep.
EKOLUV is a zero-waste dress hire and consignment boutique. Clients can hop online (or visit the store's Paddington bricks and mortar store) to pick out a dress (or two) for whatever occasion.
Instead of spending hundreds, or thousands, on a dress that might only get worn once for Instagram and then is doomed to either lay idle in a closet or wind up in landfill, customers can hire a dress for a night and return it the next day.
Symes says she founded the business to help solve Australia's mounting material waste problem, where we produce 6,000kg of clothing waste every 10 minutes.
"We want to change perceptions," says Symes.
"A lot of people think that sustainable fashion is just old clothes; we want to show customers the opposite of that; designer fashion can be a part of sustainable fashion."
"We are adopting the circular, second-hand and share economy models to prolong the lifespan of fashion and make the most of things already in existence."
EKOLUV doesn't stop at dress rentals; for customers looking to own sustainably made clothes, the site and Paddington store offers high-end luxury designer items in near new condition and gently preloved items at a fraction of the original retail price.
Additionally, customers can shop from the many ethical and sustainable brands the store has in-store including EKOLUV's own in-store brand, and other environmentally-friendly brands like Kowtow, Scandi Frock and Unreal Fur.
Symes says since starting her business in 2018 she's already seen a monumental uptick in customers looking for an eco-friendly alternative to the endless racks of fast fashion dominating retail currently.
"Women are becoming more conscious, and more open to either rental or buying pre-loved, when maybe they weren't before," says Symes.
"People are more conscious of their impact on the planet."
"In the next 10 years I think we will see second-hand outperform new and luxury fashion. So, we are in the business at the best time right now."
With sustainability at the core of everything Symes does with EKOLUV it makes sense that she is constantly giving back to the global community.
When clothes are unable to be sold in store or in second-hand stores, they are often diverted to developing nations to be sold by small vendors.
Symes says this practice is hurting the businesses of local creators and manufacturers, as they are often unable to compete with those re-selling clothes dumped on them by the Western world.
As such, Symes has partnered with Opportunity International, a not-for-profit that gives small business owners in developing nations small business loans to help kickstart their own enterprises.
"Sustainability is at the forefront of everything I do," says Symes.
"With microfinance you can really make a difference. It's a shame how in developing countries we don't realise the direct result of our consumer behaviours and shopping habits on the developing world."
"I think that fashion can be a real force for change if you do it in a positive way and you educate people."
Business News Australia