If you’ve not yet heard the term, ‘ethical fashion’, you’re either not on social media or don’t watch the news. The collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013 changed a lot for our industry, and over the past six years, the butterfly effect has been far-reaching. Since its devastating impacts, multiple industries have come under fire, and rightfully so.
Ethical practices and sustainable fibres are a must in modern day fashion, and if the Earth is to survive our industry, the latter is something that needs dire change. It’s a concept that Kristen Barr understands, and it’s the driving force behind her business, Time IV Change. On any given day, Kristen multi-tasks and wears many hats, from design and marketing to book-keeping and social media, to raise awareness on the importance of vegan materials.
Her business is as its name suggests; Time IV Change is devoted to creating positive change within the realms of time, literally speaking. Watches, timepieces, wrist clocks, whatever you want to call them, most of us have owned one in our lifetime, but few have considered the environmental impacts of keeping time.
I’m not vegan, but I was a vegetarian for nearly a decade, I am an avid animal lover. I pull over on the side of the road to pat horses when I see them, and I give my love to any dog in the street that takes it. I am aware of the effects of the livestock industry and the ethical implications of leather tanning practices in third world countries too, so, when I have the option, I choose vegan leather alternatives. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have said the same thing though, because until recently, ‘vegan leather’ meant PVC fabric, plastic or chemical-laden petroleum-based materials. What sounded like an excellent cruelty-free option in the past, was, in fact, an environmental minefield.
The founders of Time IV Change were just as frustrated by the lack of vegan options on the market that also met their sustainability needs, so they decided to create their own in 2015. Kristen Barr stepped in to run Time IV Change in 2018, and since, she's applied her passion for ethics and sustainability to strengthen the brand.
“It comes down to doing the right thing; even when the right choices may not be visible, we stick to our values. We’re animal lovers, and we’re committed to ensuring that everything within the business is cruelty-free and vegan. Our values drive the choices that we make in the company. Just being vegan isn’t enough for us though; it’s important for us that everyone we work with throughout our supply chain is treated fairly, and it’s just as important to us that our activities don’t damage the planet. We’re working towards a point of doing ‘net good’ for the planet.”
Unfortunately, priorities like this aren't standard practice in the fashion industry. Putting people and the planet over profits is not a typical balance for many modern fashion businesses, but it should be. I actively share Kristen’s views, and anyone who knows me well knows that I’m an advocate for ethics and sustainability. The fashion industry is saturated, and competition is rife, so when a business decides to put their values first and forge a path towards positive change, potentially forgoing profits in the process, I take my hat off to them. Measuring positive impact can be tricky though, but it's something Kristen is working towards.
“Being able to measure our impact in a more tangible manner is one of our key goals for the remainder of the 2019 year. We know we are doing a lot of ‘good', but I’d love to be able to put some more numbers around it. We donate 10% of our yearly profits to various animal welfare and environmental causes, and while we aren’t quite big enough to be fully-funding projects, we love the fact that our contribution helps to continue their fantastic work. We also look at the impact of our decisions daily, and we put a lot of research into determining what packaging to use, which couriers to send our parcels out with, and most importantly, which materials to use in our collections.”
The latter is what drew me to Time IV Change, and in particular, their use of Pinatex and their refusal to use leather across the entire range. To the naked eye, Pinatex looks and feels exactly like leather, but it’s environmentally better. It’s an innovative natural textile made from the leaves of pineapples, it’s a by-product of existing agriculture, and it’s a sustainably-sourced cruelty-free material. No toxic chemicals are used in the production process, which means wastewater is also much safer than its leather counterpart, and it’s a renewable resource. Pinatex has a low environmental impact, a high social responsibility, and it’s an ethical alternative to traditional leather. It may not be as cheap to buy as real leather, but I’m happy to pay a premium price for fairness, as is Kristen.
“We’re committed to paying a fair price for our watches. It doesn’t guarantee fair treatment completely, but it removes some of the 'unknown' of unsafe working environments that don’t value the wellbeing of workers. We set realistic manufacturing deadlines to avoid putting pressure on our partners for overtime, and we also carefully select our manufacturers based on their ethical frameworks and policies, regularly reviewing their certifications and audit reports. We also visit our key sites at least once annually, if not twice."
And Kristen is right; ethical trade is a commitment. Once you know the difference between fair trade and unfair trade, or ethical treatment and unethical treatment, it's something you can't 'un-know'.
To learn more about Pinatex or explore vegan alternatives to leather watches, visit timeivchange.com.au.
The Fashion Advocate x