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Fashion entrepreneur Camille Reed talks sustainability and building a strong brand

The Australian Circular Fashion Conference Founder, Camille Reed, reflects on her achievements in the fashion industry and shares her tips for building a strong brand.

Camille Reed

Camille Reed launched The Australian Circular Fashion Conference in 2018 after research that highlighted the negative impacts the fashion industry has on the environment. It was the first not-for-profit circular fashion conference in Australia, encouraging greater collaboration within the industry and suggesting resources to gear it towards circular manufacturing models.

Following a positive response from the inaugural event in Sydney, the conference will return in March 2019, this time to Melbourne.

Camille was one of 10 Australian entrepreneurs to be featured in a stunning photoshoot for International Women’s Day 2019, organised by the founder of Australian fashion label Mastani, Kudrat Makkar. The photoshoot celebrates the rise of Australian female entrepreneurs and aims to inspire younger and older generations alike to discover and live out their true purpose.

We caught up with Camille ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March to talk about what she enjoys the most about her job and what the photoshoot meant to her.

Q. What is the best part of your job?

A. Fulfilling a vision and building a community of incredible people who share the same passion to improve the current state of our planet. I enjoy the freedom to govern my own role, share stimulating conversations, and continually learn. Learning that we have a very small window to shift the perspective of negative environmental impact – to look at re-engineering an entire industry for the greater good of the natural ecosystem – blows my mind.

Sustainability, circular economy, responsible business practices and positive impact are hotly contested phrases when it comes to fashion. We’ve reached a tipping point in developed countries where producing products just for the sake of it can no longer be supported by the consumer or the industry.

The best part of my job right now is knowing I have seven international, highly acclaimed experts from various parts of the world travelling to Melbourne to participate in an event I created because I want to see the fashion sector improve their stewardship practices. These people, who are sponsoring, participating and partnering with me, have acknowledged and invested in my vision for this event. That is quite remarkable.

Q. What career achievements are you most proud of?

A. The journey, and what it has taken to get here today. There have been a number of mentors over the past several years, who gave me the ability to stand strong and harness my abilities. That being said, there’s still so much more to uncover.

I have had many achievements; a standout has to be running an industry event that saw 300 attendees participate in Sydney in March 2018. It was a first on so many levels: first time ever run in Australia; first industry B2B event of its kind; and first grand-scale education initiative on sustainability in Australia. Those who’ve been through the tiny seedling growth phase will appreciate this.

Another proud achievement is forgoing earning an income over the past 18 months to build a legacy. I’ve never felt disheartened or troubled in doing this. I am proud and thankful – this is a reflection of my debt to friends, family and loved ones in my world.

Q. What do you wish someone had told you at the start of your career?

A. Lots of things! Upon reflection, to be more diligent in my younger years and listen. My dear friend and mentor, Tina Banitska, once said to me, ‘you have one mouth and two ears’ during my time working for her.

The evolution of working, first in SMEs, then in large companies, then being self-employed, and now in a start-up, has made me more appreciative of those past experiences and to reflect, ‘I was still learning all those years ago, but thought I knew it all.’

Fortunately, through my partner’s career and strong business network, the shift from full-time employment to self-employed freelancing nearly three years ago was the rebirth of a career. They say you’ll have an average of seven careers in your lifetime. This is either number two or three. Learning about business and engaging with like-minded, passionate, clever, young people shone a light upon the fun you can have when building your own success story. If you’re open to always learning, then theoretically you can always ‘be told’ which ways can work because growth should never stop.

Q. Can you share your three top tips for building a company/brand?

  1. Be very clear on your goals and what your milestones are. Can you articulate your ideas clearly to someone in 5–10 seconds?
  2. Listen, educate, participate and network.
  3. Be open when starting conversations with others and be aware of what’s in it for them when you engage.

Q. How do you overcome doubts?

A. I take into account the success I’ve achieved to date, acknowledge the hard work it has taken to get here and, most importantly, know that if I could do it then, I sure as hell can do it now. Actions speak louder than words and this is one thing I think over often. It is based on a series of actions I have consciously chosen and I am where I am today as a result of those actions.

Words of affirmation are powerful and mindset even more so. The mindset is where action takes place. Fortunately, my partner, who is one of my greatest teachers and confidants, boosts my positivity and output.

Q. What does International Women’s Day mean to you? And will you be doing anything to mark the day?

A. International Women’s Day to me recognises the ability of the incredible force that women share. There’s an unwritten female language that runs deep; it nurtures success, empowerment, self-belief and determination. It represents that no matter what, from one professional woman to the next, we’re all extremely remarkable. I look up to women who are successful and powerful but still express a feminine flair in the details. International Women’s Day expresses the way in which we carry our confidence, the meaningful action we endeavour and how we can count upon having each other’s backs. To quote Beyoncé, ‘Who run the world? Girls!’

Q. Why was it important for you to be involved in the Mastani shoot?

A. The shoot was an incredible opportunity to be part of a powerful female collective. It’s not often you’re amid a strong group of self-made women whose stories embody discovery, growth and a celebration of life. We each represent a different notion of business. We had similar tales of ‘aha moments’ and massive learning opportunities.

It’s important to acknowledge the power that such events can bring and the level of support and nurturing. The Mastani shoot represented all these qualities. These women are mighty in their roles; they’re recognised for their intrinsic nature and there’s no better way to feel self-love and gratitude than through meaningful experiences like this.

I love fashion and the Mastani label. Kudrat is extremely gifted and her beautiful foresight to curate this special occasion was special. Having worked in the fashion industry for over a decade, it has reignited my passion for the design, artistry and personality behind pieces that have been created with intent.

I’m hoping what will come of it is raising awareness for a topic I’m extremely vested in. And so is Mastani. I also hope to build awareness to elevate the positive message fashion should be communicating, drawing attention to the inspiring opportunities I’m creating for the fashion industry and igniting action for environmental awareness.

Mastani International Women’s Day photoshoot credits:
Wearing Mastani Label AW19 collection – Edit 1 – available online Monday 4 March
Wardrobe – Mastani Label
Photographer – Liane Hurvitz
Stylist – Jessica Alizzi
HMU – Chantelle Baker
Location – Studio Gallery Melbourne
Artwork – Kerry Armstrong Art
Floral – Flowers Vasette
Jewellery – Fiorina
Furniture – Grazia & Co

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