FASHION diplomacy is essential to projecting Australia’s international reputation as a contemporary and sophisticated economy, Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, told a packed 85th International Wool Textile Organisation Congress in Sydney yesterday.
Ms Bishop told the 400-plus delegates that the fashion industry makes a significant contribution to the Australian economy, employing about 220,000 people and adding about $12 billion per year to GDP. The industry exports around half a billion dollars annually.
“We are showcasing our creativity in fashion weeks worldwide – from Melbourne to Mumbai, Sydney to Sao Paulo, Perth to Paris.
“I have directed our network of overseas embassies and High Commissions to play a role in promoting our design, innovation and materials to a global audience,” she said.
“There is no doubt that the wool industry producing contemporary wool textiles for the 21st century has a bright future in Australia and across the globe.”
Ms Bishop said developments over the past decade to improve the versatility of Australian wool have resulted in Australian producers collaborating with many of the world’s largest fashion labels.
In officially opening the IWTO Congress, Ms Bishop said the collaboration with the Chinese textile firm Nanshan Corporation, is proving a very effective way to transfer technology and longstanding craft skills.
“It’s a relationship that is set to flourish in the years ahead.”
The International Woolmark Prize connected the world’s leading fashion designers with high-quality Merino wool and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade now works closely with the Australian fashion industry.
“Last year the Department and the Australian Fashion Chamber committed to enhancing opportunities for Australian designers and producers in overseas markets.”
Ms Bishop said the Turnbull Government, within its National Innovation and Science Agenda, will establish a new CSIRO Innovation Fund to support the early stage commercialisation of ideas to help boost the Australian innovation ecosystem.
“CSIRO has already played a significant role in the wool industry and I see this as another opportunity to drive innovation, invention and ideas within the modern wool industry.
“The latest technology is being used to diversify the use of wool – making it more versatile and a more attractive resource.”
Ms Bishop said the Australian wool industry is leading a global wool renaissance, “indeed a revolution.”
“We are harnessing the versatility of our wool to respond to the constantly evolving demands and trends in the fashion and consumer world.
“With hundreds of millions of people joining the middle class in the Indian Ocean-Asia Pacific region, Australia is exceedingly well placed to seize the opportunities presented by the growing demand for high quality goods and services.”
She said Australia’s expertise in agriculture, science, design and technology is backed by creative and resourceful people who are finding new and exciting ways of maximising Australia’s high quality resources.
Ms Bishop lauded Australian Wool Innovation and its ‘The Wool Lab Sport’, connecting designers with manufacturers through the exchange of technical skills.
“AWI, and through its subsidiary, The Woolmark Company, is developing partnerships with international retailers, brands and manufacturers to increase demand – I hear that Adidas is now using wool in their latest jogging shoes.
“Wool is back in vogue – for outerwear, sportswear, high street, haute couture.”
Ms Bishop said wool producers are also embracing different forms, shapes, textures, colours and styles, meeting world demand for better quality materials and accommodating the different demands of more casual, informal workplaces and lifestyles.
New wool innovations are transforming the global fashion market, she said.
“The wool industry is a brilliant example of how a traditional industry can embrace creativity to become an exciting new industry.”