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Market Fare and Ethical Fashion – Consumers Want to Shop Local

It is on the dilapidated street of Horner Square in London 1991 that Elizabeth Taylor Choularton scoped out the location for her organic food marketplace. As she envisioned stallholders conversing with bustling customers, inspired by her recent visit to France’s Marche’ Biologique. French farmers market boasts of rows upon rows of fresh flowers and townsfolk selling their local artisans craft.

Very soon, Elizabeth was running a thriving produce market a few streets back in London’s Leyton, which is now Europe’s leading horticultural market housing over 115 stalls dealing in fruit, vegetables and flowers nearly every weekend.   

The sustainable industries, is not only a business for the growers, makers and community but also a way of living, a sense of artisan pride that no other commercial shopping experience can provide.

Elizabeth’s career as a market director and leading advocate for local and organically certified food has led a  resurgence in sustainable and ethical since coming to Australia 21 years ago.

The markets as a place that fosters community and thought and are fast becoming a cultural ritual. A place where you can learn new recipes or remedies or be inspired by the sounds of local musicians or the scent of organic fruit and ethically sourced ground coffee. The sustainable industries, is not only a business for the growers, makers and community but also a way of living, a sense of artisan pride that no other commercial shopping experience can provide.

Visit any shopping centre across the country and you are guaranteed to feel a sense of déjà vu. As you stroll past major retailers beckoning you in with their staged window displays and the supermarkets crisp shelving, neatly stacked produce arrangements, it begins to feel clinical. Have we forgotten where our clothes and food really come from?

The shopping centre phenomenon began in the late 1950s where local butchers, newsagents, post offices and bakers traded in local strip malls, back then community hubs. Today large, indoor, multi level complexes dominate masses of land, a one stop destination for shopping. The convenience of these mammoth centres means that all retailers are fighting for prime rental space, a battle for customer real estate.

Such commercially driven places fail to accommodate the sustainable industries. Instead the more traditional community-style experience between customers and shopkeepers is on the rise. The art of personable boutique-style retailing, and warm food exchanges at markets, boast of high customer satisfaction.

Friday Hut Rd is a few months old. This small clothing boutique took up residence in a corner nook store near Sydney’s Newport Beach. The arcade, nestled between street front stores and a local greengrocer, has housed the dreams of small business owners since the 1960s. From barbers to tailors, this location has been occupied by community artisans. The Friday Hut Rd team prides itself on a rare retail experience, person-ability.

The business seed lay dormant and unsown in the richly travelled and like-minded souls of owners Brittany Godden, Isabella Gillespie and Anna Townsend launching Friday Hut Rd as a collaborative venture. Upon moving in together, these three bare-foot nomads wanted to translate their experiences of living and travelling overseas into a creative outlet to inspire others.

Starting out in a growing sector of consumers who are craving for sustainable local products, Britt, Issy and Anna have made invaluable relationships with two dressmakers in India and Bali. The makers stitch together ethically sourced fair-trade fabrics into the brand’s unique casual unisex offering.

The store is an intimate space, quills of cinnamon – an Indian spice bazaar of sorts fills the amber-bathed room and a brightly painted mandala sits prime on the back wall. On wooden clothing racks strung with thick rope from the ceiling, Friday Hut Rd’s wares supports ethical consumer consciousness, Issy notes, “It is really important for people to become aware that big companies do not hold all the power. Coming back to the bare basics of trading and being confident in what you are wearing in the end will make you happier.”

Because of industry giants like Kmart, we live in a culture of fast disposable fashion. As consumers we don’t seem to think about where our clothes are made, by whom or at what cost to workers livelihoods and the environment. “When we travel,” Issy says, “we try and buy local. We visit the small rural places, the places where tourists wouldn’t go.” In Friday Hut Rd the girls are trying to live in the same way they travel growing a community of ethically conscious consumers with them.

An Oxfam study found only 4 out of 12 major Australian fashion retailers had taken action to ensure proper conditions for workers along their supply chain.

We made the business a platform where we could help people, build a place to express ourselves and grow creatively and those three things really came together.” A string of amber beads click against each other around Issy’s neck as she explains, “Building off other businesses we saw the underlying fact is to make money. There is no passion there right? The main way we focussed on being an ethical business was asking questions and this is what they (consumers) want.”

Started at the hands of skilled men and women who devoted their lives to their craft, the sustainable industries no longer exist as a part of hippie culture. As education and a certain consciousness increases there is a consumer demand for ethical awareness in all products we wear or consume.

“These healthier more sustainable living trends are fantastic and are really fostered at the markets.” Elizabeth said. She tells me the rise in veganism with raw treaties is huge at the moment as well as paleo living. Kale is still all the rage too. Over the years Elizabeth  has seen major shifts in Australian consumer food trends with the success of her Organic Food Markets.

The connection between primary producer and the consumer is so rich here. A few paces down the gravel road I can hear a man yelling, “Fresh chicken eggs straight from the farm!” His worn Akubra hat bears the telltale signs of hard work and dedication. “I can guarantee you won’t see that in the supermarket.” Elizabeth chuckles.

“I think it is heart-breaking when you see all these discounted clothes hanging limply on racks. It makes me think where do they all go? To landfill?” Elizabeth adds, and for people to truly turn away from mass consumerism people need to learn the consequences of our lifestyles as inefficient recyclers.

An Oxfam study found only 4 out of 12 major Australian fashion retailers had taken action to ensure proper conditions for workers along their supply chain. Criticizing specifically Cotton On and Best & Less for poor pay and conditions.

From a well-established business and one that has just flowered into the sustainable industries market, both Organic Food Markets and Friday Hut Rd are supporting the health, ecological and sustainably concerns of consumers.

Although major retailers employing sustainable concepts has risen as consumers demand it, shoppers are still choosing the more intimate experience. Perhaps they see through the efforts of corporate social responsibility, modern consumers want an identity behind what they are buying. As we become more educated about sustainability, if it’s better for the environment customers are happy to pay a premium for the experience.

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