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Similar to investing in our most beloved designer garments, purchasing a rather luxurious designer handbag proves no easy task. Whether it’s the hefty price tag or stylish aesthetic, there is much to consider prior to swinging that lavish piece of arm candy over your shoulder.  

Australia’s fashion market is now inundated with luxury goods, the range of designer handbags available to consumers, is far from limited. Whether it’s Dior’s classic Book Tote  you’re after, or Chanel’s iconic Full Flap Quilted Shoulder Bag, the chances of you getting your hands on it at an Australian stockist are significantly high. 

With stock and variety proving no issue, choosing the right designer handbag boils down to analysing the accessories four main components, of construction, functionality, price tag and aesthetic.  

Understanding the importance of these components prior to purchasing, will ensure your little slice of luxury is an investment piece you will be swinging from one season to the next.   

Materials/Construction  

The first step when shopping for a designer handbag is to consider the type of materials that have been used in the bags initial manufacturing process. With Leather, Suede and Synthetic materials each having their own timely life-span, choosing a handbag with suitable fabrication is more important than one may think.  

It is also important to remember that, just because a designer handbag has been produced under the guise of a luxury fashion house, will it necessarily equate to being of great quality.        

Just like a hefty price tag may not accurately reflect the handbags craftsmanship, it is vital you research the brand and their quality control prior to purchasing. 

The quality of the raw materials used (leather or fabric, thread, zippers and other hardware), right down to how the bag is constructed (cutting, stitching, edge-dyeing, finishing) is what should and does matter most.

Although materials and construction have the power to either prolong or shorten the lifespan of your new accessory, the level at which you care and look after your handbag will also dictate how long it will remain in prime condition. 

Functionality   

Splurging on a designer handbag usually means you are wanting to wear – and enjoy – your new accessory time and time again, hence it is crucial that functionality is not overlooked for aesthetic reasons.

Like most high-end luxury purchases, many consumers tend to be so heavily attracted to the item’s visual aesthetic that they do not consider nor acknowledge the item’s primary purpose of being functional.  

Whether you’re looking for the perfect tote, sling or crossbody, it is crucial to think of the bigger picture. Ask yourself, can I use this handbag everyday?, and more importantly… Will I still like this bag style, in say, twelve month’s time?. 

Once answered, these questions will assist in determining whether your chosen handbag is in-fact, fit for the purpose you are intending to buy it for. 

For an avid shopper like myself, I prefer to purchase designer handbags which act as the ultimate transformer piece – meaning the style of the handbag allows the wearer to style and wear the bag more than just one way. 

Whether it’s detachable straps you’re after or rather interchangeable zippers, a versatile handbag, has no limits. 

Price Tag 

Notably one of the biggest dilemmas consumers face when shopping for their first designer handbag, is of course the question “how much should I spend?”. Although this question may vary depending on the bags’ style, fabrication and brand name, it is important to research and investigate the bags origin, fabrication, typical lifespan and popularity. These factors all contribute to how a designer has or will price their brand’s handbag, both in Australia and overseas. 

Although it is great to support luxury brands and shop from their stores directly, you will commonly find that online retailers and department stores (which stock branded handbags) may price the accessory at a slightly reduced price point – hence it is essential to do your research and compare prices.  

At the end of the day, remember to be realistic about what you can and cannot afford. As a ‘loving handbag veteran’ myself, trust me when I say, you do not want to be splurging into designer debt. 

Aesthetic 

From shape, structure and style to colour, pattern and fabrication, visually, there is a lot to consider when choosing your new shoulder accessory.  

Although bold colours, intricate patterns and trendy monogramming may seem appealing at the time of purchase, it is important to consider what will compliment what is already in your wardrobe, and also what styles and colour-ways will remain timeless. 

For your initial purchase, opting for a handbag in a neutral or monochromatic hue will prove useful when pairing your new accessory with either day or evening wear. 

That said, if you have been eyeing-off a rather bright statement making handbag                          – DELVAUX’s ‘The Hero’ Shoulder Bag,  is a personal favourite –  by all means go for it,.. invest. 

As we have been told time and time again, aesthetics are all about personal taste. 

Don’t purchase a designer handbag because it’s trendy or on sale, purchase it because you absolutely love it, hopefully now and forever. 

Now you are equipped with the knowledge on how to successfully  invest in your first designer handbag, why not treat yourself to that little slice of luxury.

What is modern slavery? And how is it connected to the clothes we wear?

As far as I can tell, it’s 2019, and most people are under the assumption that slavery was abolished in Australia and the USA almost 200 years ago. Right? Sadly, it’s more complicated than that. 

‘Modern Slavery’ refers to any circumstance in which someone is subject to threats, violence, coercion, abuse of power or deception, preventing them from leaving their workplace. 

According to ‘The International Labour Organisation’, roughly 21 million people worldwide are forced labourers, half of them in the Asia-Pacific region. Unfortunately, it’s not just some dystopian fever dream. 

The complexity and lack of transparency in global supply chains makes it difficult for consumers to determine which products utilise slave and child labour at some point in their production. 

It’s not just modern slavery we have to worry about, either. 

There are other human rights violations occurring in the fashion industry such as denial of freedom of association and denial of worker safety.

Both of which are conditions that workers in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh experienced when their factory collapsed in 2013, and more than 1,000 people died.

And the other problems textile workers face?

  • Lack of building regulations
  • Lack of job security
  • Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse 

So why are we just talking about it now?

More and more, the inhumane treatment of manufacturers is under the spotlight, with factory disasters receiving global media coverage and technology allowing for the rapid distribution of photos from incidents that are too heartbreaking to ignore.

Since the Rana Plaza disaster, hundreds of workers have lost their lives in textile industry tragedies such as the Tampoco and Multifabs factory fires in 2016 and 2017.

Four million Bangladeshi’s work in dangerous conditions, without sufficient labour protections or a living wage. A phenomenon due to the demand for cheaper and rapidly produced clothing in western countries.

Who is to blame for these issues?

Roughly 80% of South Asia’s export earnings come from foreign retail companies, including H&M, Primark, Walmart, Tesco and Aldi. Many of these companies run on a model of mass production and low cost. 

Australian retail brands are beneficiaries of these practices. And recent findings by Oxfam Australia have exposed a “systemic failure to ensure payment of wages that are enough for people to afford even the basics of a decent life.” 

Some of these brands have recently claimed to be strengthening their commitment to liveable wages. This is a positive step and a clear indicator that public outrage is an incentive for corporate reform.

In late 2018, the Bangladesh government announced a pay raise for mid-level factory workers. Protesters claimed that it was not enough of an improvement as it excluded a large section of workers.

More than 11,000 manufacturers, including some operating for H&M, were dismissed from their jobs as a result of these complaints. They were among a cohort of workers responsible for the export of $30bn worth of apparel last year. 

Commerce Minister for Bangladesh, Tipu Munshi pointed out that some of the corporations reliant on these factories had failed to follow the industry guidelines.

There was a regulatory body in charge of safety inspections at these workplaces, but the Bangladeshi court later dismissed its European firms from conducting these assessments.

Are the factories responsible?

It would be easy for us to point the finger at the companies running these factories and subjecting their workers to such conditions. However these companies are a product of the market conditions in which they operate.

As Judy Gearhart from the International Labor Rights Forum puts it: “If one factory owner agrees to produce jeans for $2, then another can’t charge $2.50, or they’ll lose business. 

“In a sense, we are all fuelling the race to the bottom, but it’s the largest, most successful brands that are driving themselves and the competition the hardest.”

What role do customers play in the supply chain?

Studies show that Millennials are more likely to vocalise their support for sustainability than to modify their consumer behaviour.

Ziauddin Ahmed, chief operating officer at Bangladeshi factory, Viyellatex, claims that customers have the power to change this corrupt system. “When customers say, ‘I will only buy a sustainable product that has been made responsibly,’ the entire supply chain will change, because of the market rules. It is the customer who is the king.”

Labour Behind the Label director Anna McMullen proposed that the government could intervene by asking companies to label which factories are responsible for manufacturing their products. Approaches such as this one may give fast fashionistas the opportunity to reflect on where their money is going and hopefully, change their consumer habits.

What is the fashion world doing to help solve the problem? 

Multi-national companies have an inconsistent record when it comes to ethical targets. In 2013, H&M committed to delivering a “fair living wage” that would reach 850,000 workers within five years. Then in 2018, this statement was amended to make way for the less impressive pledge of “improved wage management systems” for 50 per cent of suppliers.

That same year, the conglomerate behind Topshop, Miss Selfridge, and Dorothy Perkins decided to start paying factories 2 per cent less for failing to perform as well. This decision they attributed to industry skewed toward online commerce websites. 

So how do we clean up this mess? And do we all have a role to play?

It’s clear that the supply chain problem is a two-way street. Retail companies’ continue to lower the benchmark because the deal-hunting customers demand it; feeding the race to the bottom.

Brands can influence customers to change their habits by marketing around the value of ethical fashion and showcasing the critical role it plays in all our lives. 

At the same time, Customers can affect brands by posing a demand for ethical clothing and a willingness to pay a little more than below the line for quality and peace of mind. 

Living Wage benchmark and Slavery laws

The Australian Institute of Criminology reports that only one in five victims of modern slavery are detected.  

Dominique Muller, director of policy at Labour Behind the Label claims that “brands puff up their corporate social responsibility and on the other hand, when it suits them, do the opposite in terms of producing standards.” 

Thankfully, governments and law-makers are finally taking steps to ensure corporations are accountable for labour crimes.

Last year, the Modern Slavery Act passed in Aussie parliament (following the UK’s implementation of it in 2015), and it was made effective at the beginning of 2019. 

The laws require large businesses to provide information for reviewing their supply chains for the risk of modern slavery. 

The first reports are due by 2020 and will be available on a public register. This information being shared with the public may serve an important secondary purpose: a marketing tool. While customers are watching, businesses will be incentivised to prove their supply chains are ethical and sustainable.

However, this method is far from perfect. Independent oversight of supply chain practices should be the next step forward for the industry, and actual consequences for brands that don’t adhere to the rules (under the current legislation, there is no financial penalty for companies who fail to submit the report).

The pathway to a future of responsible fashion is long and paved with significant challenges. Excitingly, there are change makers among us, armed with ideas that might inspire customers and brands to transform the industry into the one we want it to be, one thread at a time.

Click here to learn more about AirRobe.

Shoppers, we need to talk. Fashion has an ethics and sustainability problem. 

I know what you’re thinking: we’re already using our keep-cups and our metal straws; we’re all doing our part for the planet and its inhabitants. But the fashion world is making it difficult for us to serve looks and society, at the same time. 

What is the issue with the way we shop?

The complicated nature of global supply chains makes it difficult for consumers to determine which products utilise slave and child labour at some point in their production. 

So that even if a product is labelled: Made in Australia, that doesn’t always tell us the entire route of its journey.

Plus, 95 per cent of Australian brands continue to under pay factory workers, according to Baptist World Aid chief executive John Hickey.

Because deal-hunting customers demand throwaway trends at unmatchable prices, companies continue to churn out products and lower their benchmark; feeding a race to the bottom (or more accurately, the basement floor).

Both customers and brands are capable of changing this system. Brands can focus on promoting the quality of their products over the quantity, and customers can support these brands by investing in a garment that is made to last.

If that is setting off any alarms, fear not! A slight price surge wouldn’t destroy your bank account. The wage of a garment worker is only 1 to 3 per cent of the total cost of most clothing, according to the ‘Clean Clothes Campaign’.

The dilemma:

How do we balance our love of fashion with a desire for sustainability and an ethical future?

The solution: Blockchain

The next stop in our journey is the wonderful world of Blockchain.

I know. It sounds suspiciously futuristic, a little Black Mirror-esque. But how can blockchain help in the fight for ethical fashion?  

AirRobe founder Hannon Comazzetto explains it like so: “it allows the tracking of assets on a secure ledger which everyone can see.”

In layman’s terms: it means we could use a digital fingerprint on each item of clothing to access a map of destinations it has journeyed. It could be as simple as scanning a handbag and unveiling a record of transactions showing each step in the life of the item from the manufacturing floor to the showroom. 

Blockchain technology could be an important enabler in increasing transparency in the textile industry and validating the authenticity of those shoes that drain our savings.      

Circular Fashion

As well as underpaying its workers, fashion has another issue to reckon with: it is the second most polluting industry in the world!

Some people call it “fast fashion”, the eye-rollers among us like to think of it as merely staying on-trend. But what’s equally in vogue, from runways to our Instagram feeds, is the power we all have to change this flawed model. 

Eco-friendly fashion is coming into style. Just ask Stella McCartney or Emma Watson. And the trend-setters have an important role to play. “Ultimately, more people will shop ethically if brands and taste-makers, such as social media influencers, make it cool”, writes Melissa Singer in The Sydney Morning Herald.

As Watson told Vogue Australia in 2018: “I want to look good, feel good and do good — that to me is a luxury.”

One solution is a recommendation of the iconic and timeless Stella McCartney, and it’s called circular fashion.

The circle of fashion is the beacon of light at the end of this dark tunnel. Dr Anna Brismar, the force behind Vestiaire Collective, defines it as such:

“It can be defined as clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.”

Basically, this means that rather than contributing to the 30,000 tonnes of material discarded each year, an item can be recycled, swapped, rented, resold or repurposed. AirRobe is championing this approach, providing a platform for consumers to share clothing, bags and accessories that are high quality and pre-loved. 

More and more designers are using sustainable materials for their ecological and elegant collections. Bethany Williams, Reformation and Amur, to name a few. 

Although a worthwhile investment, these high street brands can be expensive, and we’re not all Kardashians here. So, if you want to be in the market for these luxury garments, AirRobe is your best bet. 

Rest assured, ladies, as there are many avenues the fashion industry can take so that we can combat this sartorial situation together. 

Sign up to AirRobe to join the circular fashion movement.


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This week AirRobe had the pleasure of attending Consensus New York 2019, the world’s premiere conference on blockchain technology.

How blockchain can help the luxury goods industry

Blockchain allows the tracking of assets on a secure ledger which everyone can see. One of the hot topics at this year’s Consensus was authentication of luxury products: whether blockchain could be used to track luxury goods from their point of manufacture.

Why is this important? Because counterfeiting is a $100 billion USD cost to the luxury industry per year. Today, supply chains of luxury goods are non-transparent, making it difficult to verify authenticity. These data identity issues which fuel fraudulent markets are harming the entire fashion industry. 

So, what would a blockchain solution look like? Well, by applying a digital fingerprint (called a hash) to a particular item – for example a handbag – at the point of manufacture, a blockchain solution could be used to log each time the item changes hands. From manufacturer, through the supply chain, to customer, and beyond. 

Imagine if you could use your smartphone to scan a QR code built onto your pre-loved handbag, and it would bring up the life cycle of the bag; a ledger of transactions showing each change of hands. You could inspect the ledger of transactions and trace the item all the way back to the point of manufacture to check its authenticity. 

What the experts think…

A panel of thought leaders came together at Consensus to discuss the idea of blockchain as a solution for authentication of luxury goods. 
It was generally agreed that while blockchain is not the silver bullet to everything, it may well be a helpful tool in the fight against counterfeiting. However, the technology is still in its infancy and luxury fashion brands are worried about the reputational risk of diving into this new technology. Making blockchain work for this use case will take time but it will also take industry coordination, collaboration and commitment of resources. 

It was also discussed that beyond authentication, blockchain offers other benefits to the fashion industry. Creating transparent and audible supply chains will help combat other systemic issues such as cheap and forced labour and unsustainable work practices. 

Seizing the opportunity

Consumers are valuing sustainability and quality in what they purchase now more than ever. Millennials are alive to issues of sustainability and ethical supply chain. As an industry we are at an inflection point. At AirRobe we see this as an opportunity for change. It is up to the industry to harness blockchain and other emerging technologies to achieve these ends. AirRobe is up for the challenge. 

Click here to learn more about AirRobe.