Future Fashion - Unlocking a Circular Fashion Economy in Aotearoa.

Aug 31, 2023  |  5:30 - 6:30 pm

Mindful Fashion held a dynamic panel discussion held during the Auckland Climate Festival and on the official schedule for New Zealand Fashion Week 23:Kahuria.

Hosted by Mindful Fashion, this discussion brought together experts from across the value chain to discuss innovative ways to unlock circular systems from a unique Aotearoa New Zealand perspective. From designing for local circular systems and using regenerative materials, to exploring circular economy from an indigenous perspective, incorporating circular business models that keep garments in use and establishing scalable recycling solutions, this panel covered it all.

While our speakers each brought their unique perspectives, there was alignment on the key challenges and opportunities.

Key insights from our panellists:

  • The value of the industry needs to be honoured - the creative, artisanal, skills and cultural value it brings. People have lost touch with the true value of clothing.
  • For local circular systems, we need to think of spirals rather than circles.
  • There is a tension between making fashion accessible and cutting people out that needs to be navigated in any circular transition.
  • As a small island nation, we need to think about scale in a different way. The scales of a fish are a fitting metaphor, each individual is small, but they all work in unison. It’s about collaboration and we can all play a role.
  • The need for policy and legislation - industry is asking for it and are looking for Government to put it in place.
    • Businesses spoke about the need to incentivise and recognise the design and creativity at the top of the creation process, rather than focus on adding more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.
    • Disincentivise the rapid sale of new product.
    • Government are the largest procurer of product in NZ, they need to take responsibility for this.

Facing into a climate crisis, the need for systems change is clear. It was great to be able to bring this conversation to a wide and engaged audience at NZ Fashion Week and build further momentum for a circular change with the fashion sector in Aotearoa.

As part of the Auckland Climate Festival, the event also shone a light on the actions New Zealanders can take to bring a low carbon future to life.


Emma Wallace | Managing Director, Kowtow

Bringing with her an extensive 25 year background in the industry, Emma joined Kowtow a decade ago and alongside founder Gosia Piatek and the team, has grown the Wellington clothing brand internationally. Driven by a passion for sustainability and making positive impact, in 2019 she stepped into the role of Managing Director. Emma joined the board of Mindful Fashion NZ in 2023, contributing to their work of supporting a circular, innovative and collaborative fashion industry in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Emily Miller-Sharma | General Manager, Ruby

General Manager of Aotearoa fashion label RUBY & designer for Liam, Emily Miller-Sharma is a passionate advocate for the local industry & sustainable business practices. Emily’s design process has always been an investigative one, from exploring what can be achieved using the bias in patternmaking to pushing for meaningful change in the clothing industry.

Johnnie Freeland | Ngaati Te Ata Waiohua, Ngai Tūhoe

Johnnie is a wayfinder, systems navigator and whakapapa centred designer.
He brings together more than 30 years’ knowledge and lived experience of serving community and in guiding and navigating a range of Iwi, Māori community and public sector organisations in working to achieve better outcomes with Māori. He utilises mātauranga Māori in designing Oranga Motuhake/well-being pathways, with whānau, hapū, iwi and organisations.

Vanessa Thompson | Director of Supply Chain, Go Well

Vanessa Thompson is the Director of Supply Chain and Textiles at Go Well Consulting, a Sustainability consultancy working with a variety of businesses to identify innovative opportunities to move towards a more circular, regenerative and inclusive economy. Vanessa’s expertise helps clients to evaluate and understand the complexities of their supply chains, introduce new and innovative materials, and realise the potential and opportunities that circular business models can play in realising a fairer and more sustainable fashion industry.

Madeleine Chapman

Madeleine Chapman is editor of The Spinoff and a former senior editor at North & South magazine. She is the author of Jacinda Ardern: A New Kind of Leader and the co-author of Steven Adams' bestselling autobiography My Life, My Fight.

Madeleine will be moderating the discussion.