Report Synopsis

Farmers of Fashion. A Farmer’s Response to a Global Wardrobe Crisis

Tamara Uebergang

Fashion and textiles are a global juggernaut of industry and influence. The cotton supply chain is simultaneously convoluted and disjointed, but dynamic; fast and ‘just-in-time’. Hence, it is difficult for farmers to connect directly to connect with consumers. This supply chain is ripe for disruption.

As all are sustainable by all current metrics, Australian cotton is well placed to participate in future fashion markets, including the circular economy, carbon neutral products and ‘business for good’. There is an opportunity to garner additional value in a sustainability and provenance proposition.

Australia is rich in infrastructure and knowledge. This would easily facilitate the adoption of block-chain technology. This approach would provide full traceability and transparency to the farm gate, cost being the only inhibitor. Modern slavery is a hot-button issue in fashion, but the Australian cotton can humbly, and confidently, invite scrutiny into workplaces. Hence, the industry is well poised to align with ‘brands with purpose’. There are already several certifying schemes for textiles, some are aimed at brand protection while some signify luxury niches.

‘Australian cotton’ is not an existing identity fibre, owing to inconsistent supply and the unique qualities the lint can bring when blended with lower qualities into yarn. Australian cotton’s ultimate competitor is synthetics, though the dangers of microplastics washing into the natural environment are not widely known. A growing awareness of this is a great opportunity for cotton.

The objectives of this study were to understand the customer and how they are influenced, explore the cotton value chain, identify trends and disruptions in the textile market and seek technology that clarifies traceability and transparency.

Traditionally, an Australian cotton grower’s customer is a spinning mill buying raw lint as a bulk commodity. The advent of a discerning customer and technology to trace raw materials to the source is changing this. Being that Australian cotton has already done the heavy lifting regarding water, pesticide and energy use, the industry is well placed to align with a conscious customer.  

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