Undress Runways launches sustainable fashion label VIHN

I’m really proud to share the first Shift profile! What better way to kick things off than with one of my biggest inspirations, Undress Runways, as they launch a sustainable fashion label, VIHN.

Have you ever been to a fashion runway show? I hadn’t ever experienced a runway before I began following the young team behind Australia’s largest sustainable fashion show.

Launched in 2011 as a carpark runway show in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, Undress Runways’ aim remains to make sustainable fashion default. And they just keep going from strength to strength.

Forget their expansion into three Aussie capital cities and a magazine to boot, Undress Runways is on the verge of launching their own ethical fashion label, VIHN, pending their $10k crowd funding goal.

I caught up with Undress Runways director Edda Hamar to get the low-down on VIHN and the future for Undress.

What led you to develop the VIHN brand?

We really wanted to create a fashion label that made a direct difference to a place like Cambodia - where the garment industry is one of the worst in the world. We work so hard at Undress Runways to open consumers' minds to sustainable fashion and help people make better buying choices. This time we wanted to tackle something that made a difference to garment workers directly on the ground.

Another driver was to create a sustainable label that the Undress team was keen to wear. There is not a lot of variety available when it comes to sustainable fashion, especially for work-wear and event-wear.

VIHN on the Undress Runways runway.
How important is sustainability and ethics in what you are doing with VIHN? Do you see it as a distinct point of difference?

I believe that social and environmental impact is just as important as profit. The way I see it, there's no point running a business that isn't making the world a better place.

For VIHN, sustainability and ethics is at the forefront of what we're creating. Not only are we using sustainable fabrics and manufacturing in an ethical workplace but we're also funding projects at the workspace in Cambodia.

These projects include installing solar power, providing education to the workers and creating a child-care service to take pressure off families in the garment industry. With the sale of every VIHN garment, 20% goes to funding these projects. Win win!

What are your main sustainability/ ethical practices for VIHN?

In terms of our environmental sustainability, we will be using organic cotton, designing for low-waste and using recycled paper packaging. On the ethical side, we are producing in a workspace that values ethical treatment of workers in Cambodia. This workspace is called Lotus Silk and not only pays workers a decent wage and provides training for them, but they also provide accommodation when necessary.

Do you think it was harder to start VIHN based on ethical practices? Would it have been easier not to think about it - or was this not even an option for you?
Illustrations of VIHNs first collection, set to launch in September 2015.
We definitely wouldn't be launching a sweatshop fashion label! Materials that are sustainable/organic are more expensive than, for example, pure cotton.

That was one big realisation for us - there is no way we can produce a dress and sell it for $50, that's outrageous! Clothes that are ethically produced (where everyone has been paid a fair wage for their work), don't cost $10, $20 or $50. We were also careful to create a fashion label based on the needs of Lotus Silk workers.

They expressed that education and child-care would be valuable additions to their workspace, so we added those to the project list!

We really want to create a sustainable fashion label that sets a high standard in the fashion industry in terms of ethics and sustainability.

What are your future plans for VIHN and Undress Runways?

For Undress, we want to keep expanding and growing our showcasing designers - and take the show overseas! For VIHN, first things first, we just want to launch!

The Lotus Silk garment workers in Cambodia set to benefit from working with VIHN.

If you'd like to see VIHN get off the ground this year, head over to their StartSomeGood campaign page and pledge your support.

All image credits to VIHN.


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