Q&A: Charne Esterhuizen of MAAK Talks Sustainable Fashion
Charne Esterhuizen is a local Canberra fashion designer making her ‘MAAK’ on the world. Charne’s brand MAAK, is based off of the South African word for ‘make’. Charne has been known for not only working with many famous Australian artists, but also is succinct with the future of sustainable fashion.
In 2017, Charne created a 3D printed dress to the runway for Vancouver Fashion Week, which had never been seen before in Vancouver. Making headlines nationally and internationally, Charne shot to fame and wanted to use her platform to tell a story, and incite a call to action from her followers. Charne’s brand is considered a slow fashion label, putting her in the small basket of ethical fashion brands. This is achieved by not mass producing her products, hand making everything, and using recycled materials where she can.
Charne is beyond knowledgeable about how our fast fashion world is effecting consumers, workers and the environment, and is passionate about educating others in how they can reduce their fashion footprint. Here we discuss 3D printing, the future of sustainable fashion and the future for MAAK.
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Q: Why are you so passionate about sustainable fashion?
A: Ethical and sustainable fashion is very important to me and my brand. This is due to many factors but some of the main ones are the majority of fabrics available for designers and consumers are man made. You may think that cotton is a sustainable fabric but it actually isn’t. To create cotton shirts, you have to waste tonnes of water a day. Manufacturers dye cotton shirts with synthetic dye and preservatives to make the colour last longer, making this process unnatural. I would like to show and educate consumers about what the fashion industry is doing to the environment and show that if people don’t change their buying habits our planet will suffer, and in the end our future generations will suffer.
Q: What are your thoughts on factory production and do you think their conditions have improved over the years or not really?
A: To me there is a lot of issues revolved around factory manufacturing. Based off Australia’s manufacturing history you can see that some clothes used to be made locally, finding one or two factories within Australia, but now due to consumerism they are barely making it through. Customers want cheap prices, fast service and due to platforms like Instagram, they are wanting to keep up with weekly trends more than ever before. This is pushing peoples need to fit in and all of these things have major impacts on local factories and consumer’s mental health. This is where Australian manufacturing declined, we could not keep up with offshore manufacturing. The labour is cheap overseas where companies make up to 80% profit, labour costs and maintenance is non existent. Some companies have dedicated their support for workers over the years but it is extremely difficult to track from another country. Some manufacturing facilities use a new ‘ethical move’ to get designers to invest in their company, but they rarely know if these companies are actually giving their workers fair trade or good working conditions.
The fabrics available today are all bad to an extent. The majority of what we wear has some type of plastic within it. This plastic is very harmful to the environment; the dye manufacturers use is also harmful. All the clothes we wear have some sort of dye or stabiliser in them so that the colour’s last longer. When manufactured this dying process causes issues to our ocean due to water dumping after the dying process is complete. Major fashion brands burn their unwanted stock, this causes gasses to build up in our atmosphere and warms the planet.
From the early days of manufacturing the population was considerably less, today our population has grown dramatically. The need for a consumer to be accepted within society for a cheap price has caused the fashion industry to become the second most wasteful industry in the world. The industry used to be third behind food waste but has since increased to a point where we can’t keep up with fashion waste. Even second hand stores can’t keep up and are starting to not accept garments any longer, except pieces that might sell.
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I’m bringing some more exciting goodies soon.🧵 After brainstorming on my new collection, I wanted to express something visually that means so much to me. I’ve decided to create a few looks that’s better for the environment and limited stock. Fashion is such a wasteful industry and we need to start changing things to better improve our environment and its people. Let’s make a change together Photography @jennywuphotography
Q: How did you get into 3D printing, and why is it such a sustainable option for fashion production?
A: I saw a way to improve the fashion industry within 3D printing, keep in mind the technology is still developing. The idea of 3D printing is a starting point for what the future might hold in sustainable fashion. 3D printing has benefits to scan the consumers body and produce something that fits exactly to that person, which reduces waste. It has the ability to mass manufacture or rapid prototype, but the ‘fabric’ available isn’t sustainable. Due to this I have tried to connect with Wollongong University to engineer a fabric that can be printed by itself, which has led us to look into Bio Printing. Bio Printing is mainly known in the medical industry for reprinting organs for patients who need transplants. I want to use Bio Printing in fashion by mass manufacturing garments made from plant cells. If I can mass manufacture this at a cheaper price in the future I could overrule the mass manufacturing facilities causing waste. If the garments are printed with a plant base cell, this would help the environment recover from the damages already done and help global warming decrease or slow it down. This is where I am known to be a futuristic designer, this is a future plan and can only be achieved when technology allows it.
Q: Your piece at Vancouver Fashion Week shot you to fame, what has happened for your career since?
A: Ever since Vancouver I’ve focused on my brand and what I can do now to help the environment. I have been looking at ways to manufacture small amounts of garments that consumers want and will wear more than once. I’ve looked at fair trade and manufacturing garments with small families in need overseas, but still haven’t found the most profitable for the environment until now. At the end of June to Mid July this year, I will be launching a voting checkout where I will only showcase three looks. This will allow customers to vote for their favourite piece where the winner will be hand made in a few sizes and sold online. This has many benefits as if people vote for what they want, we can eliminate unnecessary fashion waste for garments that don’t actually sell.
Q: What do you see as the future of environmentally sustainable materials that will take affect in the industry?
A: Hopefully we will have future fabrics available that would be accessible for designers and mass manufacturing facilities to benefit the environment and we can think of new ways to try and abolish water waste, landfill, air pollution and unfair trade in the fashion industry. At the moment there are only a hand full of fabrics that are available that are truly sustainable, they are extremely hard to get and also pricey meaning the cost for the garment would be higher then what you would find in a fast fashion store.
Q: What can businesses and individuals alike be doing to reduce their fashion footprint?
A: It is important for people to research where and how their garments are being made. You’d be surprised some well known fashion labels like Nike have had bad manufacturing standards. You want to be making sure the fabric content is sustainable and the manufacturing strategies are ethical. Support slow fashion labels, wear your clothes more than once and wear them until they end their cycle. Support local fashion designers and don’t buy clothes because they are cheap, they are cheap for a reason. For businesses they need to focus on wasting less, even on things like threads and finishes and with pattern making paper and old samples they should try and reuse them and revamp them.
Q: What can we expect to see from MAAK in the future?
A: This winter MAAK will be launching a voting channel of three selected looks, people have two weeks to vote for their favourite item and from there the winning look will be made. Only 15 garments from each look will be made and no more. This will ensure unique styles and exclusivity and will be better for the environment. I am still working on individual pieces for clients in the music industry and will be working on those for special events.