Elizabeth Park was 16 when she found a damaged old wooden hand loom she thought might serve for a high school art project. “I fixed the loom and used it to make my own lace,” she recalls.
The qualities already apparent in that enterprising teenager – initiative, a distaste for waste and a love of fine craftsmanship – rapidly flowered. Today, the Scottish-born Melbournian can look back on a formidable international career and is a leading authority in the field likely to dominate 21st century fashion.
On February 2, Elizabeth will provide expert advice at Fashion Exposed Now when she presents her seminar, “Sustainability – What your customers want to know!”
“Over the past decade, there has been a worldwide groundswell that has gone way beyond trend. There is a huge rising awareness of the vital importance of sustainability and the need to reduce the impacts of fashion,” says Elizabeth.
“The main drivers have been climate change and the need to protect human rights, and those concerns are especially evident among the younger generation. The Millennials now coming out of university are shopping with a conscience.
“Youth is showing the way. Just over a year ago, Greta Thunberg was a lonely girl with a placard. Now she’s a world leader in environmental activism.”
In November 2019, Elizabeth Park launched her consultancy, Fashion True Futures. Its message to the Australian fashion industry is potent: Real, lasting results – and profitability – can be achieved without harming the planet.
Ethical sourcing, environmentally-friendly manufacturing, product safety – Elizabeth’s expertise covers them all and more along with guidelines for maximizing the effectiveness of teams, operations and supply chains.
Raised in a tiny Scottish Borders town near Edinburgh – “the area is famous for its weavers” – she lost no time in gaining industry experience after graduating with a BSc (Hons) Apparel and Textiles degree from the Scottish College of Textiles in 1989.
For most of the next 12 years she worked as a technical executive for British fashion industry giant, Dewhirst. Three years as fabric and sourcing manager for London-based Monsoon Accessorize followed. By then, the Scottish pro had attracted keen interest in Australia and in 2004, she accepted a post in Melbourne.
The Country Road Group, Witchery, Mimco and Trenery – all have benefited from the dynamic Ms Park in areas including strategic planning, sourcing ,and social and ethical compliance.
“My career has been a journey across the world,” she says. “It has taught me a lot about sustainable practices and the problems that can crop up in fashion supply chains – for example, workers not being properly paid or buyers not being aware that seemingly compliant factories may be farming out orders to unauthorised sub-contractors.
“I don’t see myself as a campaigner. My role is as a consultant is to help businesses create the changes needed for our planet and its people.”
She has a couple of other key roles: mum to her musically gifted 14-year-old daughter and part-time lecturer at Melbourne’s Holmesglen Institute where she teaches professional practice to BA Fashion Design undergraduates.
Elizabeth Park’s seminar won’t be her only contribution to Fashion Exposed Now. Adding rich dimensions will be The Sustainable Edit, a designer showcase she is curating for the fair.
“It will feature both emerging and established designers who are leading the change in sustainable fashion,“ she reveals. “I thoroughly enjoy working with creative people.”
Story by Zelda Cawthorne
Fashion Exposed Now
Elizabeth Park, founder of Fashion True Futures, will present a Free Seminar Session, “Sustainability – What your customers want to know!” on Sunday February 2, 10.30-11.15am at Fashion Exposed Now, Australia’s only dedicated womenswear buying event. Registration is free and includes access local and international labels, seminars and round table sessions to help build your business.
Fashion Exposed Now
Free, trade-only event
Sunday 2 – Monday 3 February 2020
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne