5 sustainable fashion lessons from A.BCH founder Courtney Holm

Can beautiful design, good ethics and transparency become the norm of what we come to expect of future brands? Australian startup fashion brand A.BCH is on a mission to make it so. A.BCH is a Melbourne-based label dedicated to what it calls the ‘Whole Garment’ design method where every component (from dyes and labels, to buttons and threads) are either compostable or recyclable in the final garment. We chatted to A.BCH’s founder and lead designer Courtney Holm to get her thoughts on why fast fashion can’t solve the sustainability issue, her drive for change and her tips on how to navigate the complex world of ethical products.

Lesson 1: I don’t think fast fashion and sustainability are compatible.

It’s an oxymoron. Sustainable fashion should never be able to scale up to the level that fast fashion does. Over-consumption is a big part of the problem and until consumers slow down, and fast fashion’s hold on the market is a thing of the past, we will never be able to truly revolutionise the industry at large.

Lesson 2: At the time, no fashion label was really nailing beautiful design + full transparency + ethical manufacturing down the supply chain and sustainably sourced fibres in every aspect of the garment.

Also circular design is still rarely employed in fashion design, so these elements that were missing from the market, inspired me to start A.BCH. We have lofty goals, however I think that dreaming big and aiming high is imperative if we are to change an industry that is so stuck in its ways.

image of sustainable fashion brand abch
Photography: A.BCH

Lesson 3: I think the tides are turning, but it will be too late if brands respond at the incredibly slow rate they are responding now.

Consumers, brands and government all have a part to play, yet everyone is waiting for someone else to make the first move. The time is now!

Lesson 4: Environmental issues nearly always have a social impact.

If a river is polluted by a textile mill, it affects the people in the community who rely on it for drinking water. I guess if I had to address the root cause of the problems, the thing that concerns me the most, is the greed and self-centred approach by certain (perhaps the majority?) of consumers and brands. That is what drives social decline and environmental destruction, and it happens when people don’t think past themselves, their instant wants and needs and their desire to accumulate wealth at any cost.


image of sustainable fashion abch
Photography: A.BCH

Lesson 5: It can be really confusing to know what’s true and really hard to break old habits.

Stick with it, keep educating yourself, and use the amazing resources that are already out there, like Good on You (app), A.BCH World (our blog) and Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press (book & podcast).