Surrounded by paint brushes and thrifted clothes, Samantha Galan’s home studio is lit with dim artificial light. After a full day of working at a shop, her smile is fatigued as she prepares to start her real work – making a difference one jacket at a time.
Samantha is one example of the homegrown millennials building independent businesses from old clothes and fabrics. These young entrepreneurs are making old fashion new again to raise awareness of sustainability among young people, and making a bit of money on the side.
“That whole thing is trending at the moment, so it’s easy for people to vibe it,” Galan says. “It’s bringing more focus on it, and I’d say it’s probably inspiring more people to do it themselves.”
Samantha’s business started in her wardrobe, as she found an interest in altering her old clothes to fit her unique style. At 21, she began documenting her work on her personal social media platforms, and created a brand that sparked an interest in other millennials. However, it was her first major project, creating a full stage outfit for musician Lola Scott, which had fans of both Scott and Galan calling for Samantha to start selling the clothes she was making for herself.
“I thought I’d see how I’d go, so I made the Buzzfield Instagram. I think I had like five things, and I posted about it, and in the first 3 or 4 days I sold everything,” Galan says. “Instagram is like the first impression and everything based upon that, and it builds from there.”
Buzzkill sells hand-embellished vintage clothing that Galan sources from thrift stores. She hopes, in using well-made clothing, that she can encourage her followers to move away from fast-fashion.
“The rise of sustainable fashion is making people think more about where their clothes are coming from and who made it,” Samantha says. “It’s cool that it’s trending.”
High-end fashion labels are also taking notice of the trending nature of what millennials want, with Gucci ceasing to produce products made of animal fur in 2017 in response to calls for more ethical apparel. Gucci followed this with the release of the sub-branch Gucci Equilibrium on World Environment Day in 2018. The online store aims to “connect people, the planet and purpose,” through selling only sustainable fashion that has been produced ethically.
Gucci sales associate Leia Kim explains that the online platform was created to promote social change. It is a reflection of Gucci’s shifted focus to encourage environmental and social sustainability.
“To encourage,” Leia repeats. “That’s what I believe Gucci Equilibrium is trying to do”.
By launching this initiative through a website, Gucci is targeting the generation that is calling for a more sustainable fashion industry. “Sustainability is not just a passing issue, but a cause we can all become a part of, to secure the future of the upcoming generations,” Kim says.
While Gucci is reaching a wide audience to spread this message of ethical fashion, it is the young, homegrown creators that are making sustainability accessible to everyday consumers. By utilising the trend of thrifting and decluttering our wardrobes, these millennials are making it easy, and affordable, for young people to stay ethical.
This is what Patches Paradise owner Gap Karioek, 31, is hoping to achieve with his repurposed jean jackets.
After moving to Australia from Thailand, Kairoek started Patches Paradise to support himself through university. Four years later, the graphic design student has grown his business from a stall at his local markets to a pop-up in Sydney’s City Centre Westfield where his message is visible to hundreds of people daily.
Kairoek combines his loves of art and anime in his products, which include vintage denim jackets that have been painted with popular characters. Patches Paradise began as a hobby for Kairoek, but he found an opportunity to turn this interest into a business at Glebe Markets in Sydney. “I didn’t expect to become a brand like today,” he says. “I wanted to make money, but I wanted to make it from something that I love to do.”
Glebe Markets became a place for Karioek to find a niche market for teenagers who shared his love for anime and had an interest in sustainability. It’s these young people whom Kairoek believes should be encouraged to shop sustainably. “Fashion comes and goes,” he says, “but whatever we have left is what will be left to the world.”
Besides using social media, physical marketplaces are becoming widely used tools for young entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. Owner of Mellow Mellow Label Bobbi Rickards, 28, says her store in Glebe markets has a “massive young crowd coming in every weekend,” which allows her to interact with those interested in her brand: unique, locally and ethically made clothing.
Like Galan, Rickards created her business by making clothes to suit her style that she could not previously find in stores. Inspired by the Sixties and Seventies, Bobbi’s clothes draw the attention of young people looking for festival outfits, making Glebe Markets the perfect place to grow her brand.
Despite the drizzly weather, Rickard’s store is still buzzing with people looking for festival outfits.
“I sold a dress to a sixty-year-old woman the other week,” she notes with a laugh, while teenagers mill around to flick through the array of handmade crop tops and mini skirts.
While Bobbi’s brand is thriving, she says that people are not buying from her business because her clothes are locally made.
“I just don’t think it’s in people’s minds yet, in this fast fashion world,” she says. “But there are a small group of people that genuinely do care about it.”
Still, Rickards is confident that sustainable fashion is growing with the young people that care about it, and is continuing to do her part in encouraging people to shop sustainably, even if they do not know it.
“There’s definitely a spark happening. I think we need to put a lot more importance on keeping it local,” she says as she watches a pair of teenage girls move through the racks of clothing she has displayed.
“Young people do care.”