Changing Australian fashion’s worst-kept secret could help struggling farmers | Lucianne Tonti


The country produces 90% of the world’s fine apparel wool but processes very little. Some in the industry are calling for a textile manufacturing revival

It may just be the worst-kept secret in Australian fashion. The country doesn’t process its own wool or cotton. Processing skills and infrastructure moved overseas in the 1990s, when tariff protections for textiles, clothing and footwear industries were significantly reduced, and China was able to undercut prices and offer more efficient ways to turn raw materials into marketable commodities.

Three decades on, and despite producing 90% of the world’s fine apparel wool, all but a handful of Australia’s wool processing plants have closed. More than 80% of Australia’s wool clip is sent to China and more than 90% of Australia’s cotton is exported – with the majority processed in Asia. Opportunities for innovation in the local fibre industry have stagnated.

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