Tayla Parnham, the designer behind 'Fabric of Nature' talks about the connectedness of fashion and our environment.

First of all, can you tell me a little bit about the name of your label, ‘Fabric of Nature’ and what it means to you?

Fabric of Nature the name was originally inspired by a quote We evolved as creatures knitted into the fabric of nature, and without its intimate truths, we can find ourselves unraveling” (Diane Ackerman). The quote reminded me about how we become disconnected from nature in our busy lives.

We need to slow down sometimes and appreciate the natural environment, finding that balance between nature and human made lifestyles. We need to work with the natural environment rather than against it to be sustainable.

Why do you think fashion is such a good conduit/avenue to communicate the importance of nature?

Fashion bridges the gap of connecting to the land. My collection has natural dyed silk items to mirror the fragility and beauty of nature, but I also incorporate clothes typically worn in landscapes like farming and other heavy-duty workwear worn out in the bush to add bit of a human-made contrast. Fashion can be easily communicated on a global scale that is seen and worn by everyone and what better way to communicate importance of saving our environment and appreciating the environment.

What kinds of materials, fabrics and processes do you use and work with in your designs?

The materials incorporated in my designs are typically silks, cotton, recycled industrial workwear like faded denims and wool. I use various textile processes on the natural organic fabrics such as natural dying with eucalyptus leaves and rust dying. With a lot of the work wear it is recycled clothes from op shops that are deconstructed and remade. Some of my work is creating delicate pieces of lace like items using dissolvable fabric  that involves extensive amounts of time machine stitching rows and rows of thread in grid to keep its own shape.

What does sustainability mean to you both in fashion and in the way we choose to live?

Sustainability for me is having a balance in your lifestyle controlling your ecological footprint to minimise the impact for the future. It is about making choices for the long term like purchasing reusable containers rather than an easy fix with single use and understanding the benefits in doing that. Sustainable fashion is about understanding the materials you're wearing, processes it took to construct it and how it can be worn and at the end of its life what footprint it leaves behind - in most cases with clothes it goes to landfill. But by using natural fibres they breakdown and decompose overtime faster and leave less of an ecological footprint. I try to incorporate items of clothing that can be worn different ways to not be restricted with its look but be fluid and dynamic typically mirroring how natural landscapes behave to build upon that connection. Recycling op shop garment is a meaningful part of my life by upcycling garments you are preventing it going to landfill, bringing new life to something old but at the same time communicating the past story that garment had as well.

How did you decide and what influenced you to become a fashion designer?

Growing up I really enjoyed drawing and sewing, I was heavily influenced by my Grandmother who taught me to sew when I was younger, and I got my first sewing machine when I was 12 years old. I loved the idea of creating a garment that was bit different from the norm and enjoyed that no one else would be wearing the same outfit as me. Making clothes gave me a sense of pride and appreciation for the construction and processes behind it, that it takes a lot of patience and time to get it right. Throughout high school I loved the arts, textiles and sewing classes I took and decided to pursue it further at university doing a double degree in both arts degree in contemporary fashion and textiles and Bachelor of Science majoring in environmental management. Pursuing these fields didn’t make a lot of sense but has inspired designs that are unique, environmentally friendly and sustainable.

How do you implement sustainability into your day-to-day life?

I am currently working full time on a mine site as an environmental advisor where a lot of my job entails environmental management and protection of natural areas. Throughout this job I have been involved in recycling projects and minimising plastic onsite. On a daily basis I try to always be conscious of my decisions of waste and single use plastics, making sure to properly recycle and purchasing eco friendly items such as stainless-steel straws, keep cups and reusable containers and bags. Especially at work and home I try to encourage others to make the same decisions by refilling your water bottle instead of buying another single use plastic bottle.

What are some issues that are taking place in our environment at present - that people might not know about - that motivate you to affect positive change through your work as a designer?

Most of the environmental impacts I think people are more aware of now and are conscious of their impact to the environment through social media, legislation and news. I think one thing that might still not be as aware of is impacts of micro-plastics in waterways and in many of domestic products. There it a lot of hype recently about single use plastic such as plastic bags but not as much discussion on items such as plastic glitter or micro beads in face washes. Throughout my work I try overall to enhance the awareness and importance of the environment how fragile it is. A lot of this is done with symbolism using delicate silk fabrics naturally dyed that evoke fragility and contrasting to industrial workwear type fabrics such as denim.

What are some of the hardest message to get across to consumers about ethical and sustainable fashion? And why do you think this is the case?

The hardest message is trying to change peoples' attitudes towards fast unethical fashion and persuading them to sustainable clothes purchases. Even though they are the cheaper option, they're not necessarily the best and always cause more environmental harm. People need to understand where and how their clothes are made to get a better appreciation for the art of construction and the time it takes to make quality grade items. It can be challenging because a lot of people cannot always afford the sustainable fashion prices and therefore op for the fast fashion option.

What can we look forward to on the runway at this year’s EFWA18?

I have used same textile techniques and construction as my previous collection pushing the ideas a little further. Keep an eye out for more naturally dyed silk garments with eucalyptus leaves, deconstructed denim work wear and inspired topographic map designs. I look forward to displaying my hand felted merino pieces this year - I'm little nervous as have never worked with this technique before.

** Fabric of Nature will be making a runway appearance at Eco Fashion Week Australia for the second year in a row. 

Be sure to book tickets to attend, with shows in both Port Douglas + Perth this year**

- tommie magazine are official media partners for this event -