Kit Willow A winning formula
WellBeing|WellBeing #196
Two years after being fired from her own label, Kit Willow started again from the ground up. Second time around, though, she is reshaping a broken industry and forging a fresh outlook in which makers, market and Mother Earth all benefit.
AMY TAYLOR-KABBAZ
In the world of fashion, it’s rare that everyone wins. The thirst for fast fashion often means that while the consumer may think they’ve “grabbed a bargain”, further down the line those cheap garments have cost a lot to both maker and Mother Earth.

But according to one of Australia’s bravest sustainable fashion designers, Kit Willow, we are finally starting to turn a corner in the fashion industry’s war on the planet. Alongside a new wave of brands, Willow is reshaping the industry with ethical models and clever sustainable fabrics, heralding a new era of shopping in which everyone benefits.

Endings and beginnings

Willow is something of a warrior in the Australian fashion industry. Like the clothes she designs, her story is one of resilience, power and reinvention.

At just 23 years old, Willow began her eponymous clothing line with a small collection of lingerie. The brand quickly gained a cult following and expanded into ready-to-wear. By 2011, eight years after the brand’s launch, Willow sold a controlling stake in the company to Apparel Group + Co and stayed on as creative director. At the time, she believed this was the investment and direction the company needed in order to grow, but it soon became clear her new business partners were not aligned with her vision for the brand, and by 2013 Willow was terminated from her employment by the company she founded.

In an interview at the time, she said: “My heart has broken; I feel that my dream and my achievements over the last 10 years have been taken away from me. It is devastating, not just for me but for each and every good person who has worked tirelessly to grow Willow.”

Eight years on, she sees the bitter split differently; it was the forging in fire that allowed Willow to rise into her new brand KitX, a luxury fashion brand created with ethically sourced, sustainable materials.

“I started Willow when I was 23. I was young and I would get really stressed. The business took over my life — if something went wrong, I couldn’t sleep. It would be like the whole world was ending,” says Willow. “It was heartbreaking at the time, and if I didn’t go on to create KitX, I could have ended up bitter. But out of that truly terrible decision-making on their part, I am certainly better off.

“What I’ve learned now is that when it comes to business, nothing is all-encompassing because there are solutions,” continues Willow. “[The split] taught me that there’s always a solution. You can shift things and change it up and start something else. Nothing envelops me with stress like it used to.” Including, it seems, taking on the insurmountable task of convincing consumers to shop differently.

According to Clean Up Australia, Australians dump 15 tonnes of clothing and fabric waste every 10 minutes. That adds up to 800,000 tonnes, or 31 kilograms per person, every year.

A new world order

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