14 May 2018

In an industry grappling with excess waste, we uncover the stories of two fashion stores determined to make a difference.

Having co-founded car sharing service GoGet in 2003, entrepreneur Bruce Jeffreys has his sights set on disrupting a new industry — this time, the business of sustainable eyewear.

Reimagining existing materials in new ways is the secret to Jeffreys’ success, and as the owner and co-founder of Dresden Optics, he’s closing the loop on plastic waste – one pair of frames at a time.

All of Dresden’s frames are made in Sydney using recycled or recyclable materials. Old fishing nets, milk bottle lids and beer keg caps; even discarded Lego pieces are all getting a new lease on life. “We like to experiment with different types of industrial waste...It was amazing to see we could make frames out of it.”

Dresden makes high quality glasses with a universal and modular frame design, meaning consumers can change the look of their frames with different colour combinations, and parts can be easily swapped to suit your style. Created in as little as 20 minutes at prices ranging from $49, you can be inclined to scoop up multiple pairs.

The result is a unique, Earth-friendly alternative to traditional, more costly eyewear. “I didn’t know much about the industry when I first started. What I did know was that glasses were fragile, expensive and took a long time to make. I wanted to figure out how we could make a frustrating process much easier. We’re the exact opposite of the industry. The industry works more for itself than for the customer and that’s what we wanted to change.”

With six locations across Sydney and Melbourne, Dresden is proving that sustainability and business success do see eye-to-eye. The company has recycled more than half a tonne of material to date while continuing to expand, recently opening its first international store in Toronto.

“It [sustainability] affects everything we do. Even the small bits of plastic generated when we’re grinding and smoothing out a frame are collected and recycled. For us, it’s just the way business should be done.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Eric Phu and Zoltan Csaki, co-founders of custom clothing brand Citizen Wolf. The startup is disrupting the fashion scene with on-demand, custom-fit, ethically-made pieces.

Citizen Wolf uses only natural, pre-shrunk fibres to custom-design tops and tees. Since opening their first store in April 2016, the team has used technology to a give old-school tailoring a much-needed makeover. “Tailoring is awesome but you never walk out of a tailoring appointment thinking, ‘Gee, that was fun!’ You walk out there thinking, ‘I just hope they get it right.’ We’ve spent a lot of time on improving that experience,” says Phu. improving that experience,” says Phu.

IInstead of measuring tape, the brand has an algorithm that analyses your height, weight, chest size and age and automatically generates a custom fabric pattern. Csaki says that means you get the perfect t-shirt every time. “Citizen Wolf gives you a different relationship with your clothes. When you buy something that you know everyone else is wearing and that won’t last, you just don’t care about it. We invite you into the creation process and you end up having a much deeper, stronger emotional attachment to that garment.”

That emotional attachment is what both Phu and Csaki hope will stop the revolving door of ‘fast fashion’ – trendy, inexpensive garments typically made from synthetic fibres.

Experts say Australians buy an average 27 kilos of new clothing and textiles each year, much of which ends up in landfills after only a few wears. “Most fast-fashion garments are worn an average of two to three times before being discarded. It’s the fashion equivalent of fast food – instant gratification while ignoring the consequences.”

Citizen Wolf says it measures its clothes in years, not washes. Garments are produced locally to minimise the environmental footprint and its micro- factory and shop in Darlinghurst is open to customers who want an up-close look as their clothes are made.

“You can’t afford to buy cheap because someone, somewhere is paying for fast fashion. If it’s not you, the consumer at the checkout, it’s the environment and it’s the people behind that garment.” Both Dresden Optics and Citizen Wolf say they are working toward becoming zero-waste businesses. Now, your new look can have style and substance.

You can find Citizen Wolf now open on Steam Mill Lane.