How the Australian Fashion Council built a world-first industry trademark

We find out how the council is helping globally define and identify brands that are truly Australian through an innovative trademark and framework

Trust is a precious commodity – difficult to earn, but easy to lose – and becomes even more valuable when the provenance of an item or brand is play.

For over 65 years, The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) has worked hard to promote the local fashion industry and raise its profile among domestic and international buyers. Now the AFC is doubling down on its belief in the power of people’s trust in the local fashion industry with the creation of the Australian Fashion trademark.

Launched at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week (AAFW) in May, this world-first industry certification aims to help buyers globally define and identify brands that are truly Australian, and in doing so, drive greater sales of Australian fashion. According to AFC head of marketing and communications, Prue-ellen Thomas, the trademark realises the vision of AFC CEO, Leila Naja Hibri, and flows from her desire to help local fashion houses emerge strongly from the pandemic.

Thomas says one of the greatest challenges in creating the trademark was encapsulating such a creative industry into a single mark that the whole industry could be proud of.

“That process was about creating a unique identity somewhere between where the industry is at the moment, but also where we want to be, to push our industry into a space that we can really own and be really proud of,” she tells CMO.

Critical to the trademark’s development was an advisory panel composed of experts from multiple disciplines and global territories. This panel played a governance role throughout the development of the brand platform, supported by input and research from the national branding team at Austrade.

“There were lots of ideas thrown around, and perspectives put on the table. In the end, we landed in a really good place informed by a lot of research,” Thomas says. “Because this is a world-first, there wasn’t any best practice to work from or ideas to bounce off and guide us.

“And we landed on something that is really representative of our industry and Australia and progressive thinking. At the end of the day, that is going to drive attraction, demand and sales for our Australian fashion brands.”

Funds to create the trademark came via a Federal Government grant, with the trademark itself developed in consultation with AFC’s long-term partner and consulting firm, The Growth Activists (TGA). As part of the initiative, TGA created a set of criteria brands need to satisfy to qualify to use the trademark. These relate to place of manufacture, company ownership, Australian employment, and location for taxation purposes. Brands must meet thresholds in at least two categories to qualify to use the trademark.

Furthermore, certified brands must commit to authentic Australian design to uphold the creative integrity of the national brand, as well as provide transparency on social and environmental strategies to ensure the industry evolves towards inclusive, responsible and sustainable practices.

According to TGA managing partner and advisor, Rosanna Iacono, these additional requirements are designed to strengthen trust in the Australian brand well into the future.

“Some of the benefits we wanted to create were things like reaching new customers, especially in foreign markets, and helping build greater trust in the brands,” Iacono says. “That was why we didn’t want to make it just about aesthetics, but a combination of aesthetics and values.”

Culturally conscious

Iacono believes these attributes will be especially important when attracting younger customers to Australian fashion.

“We are really now seeing a tipping point from intent to action around values-driven purchasing,” Iacono comments. “A lot of businesses that are highly ethical are now starting to enjoy tremendous success. That is why a key component for the brands is to make a pledge around their social and environmental awareness and their commitment to doing something about it. We know that that is what the market is evolving towards.”

Thomas says an online business directory has now been launched to promote certified brands, with a supporting marketing campaign scheduled to launch in August, including partnerships with retailers. The AFC has signed up Vicinity Centres as its first commercial partner.

“This is just the very beginning of it - planting the seed and getting people to think about Australian fashion brands in a different light,” Thomas says. “We really see this as a group effort for everyone to drive our industry forward and create more demand for our Australian brands. And with our clear brand pillars, we think we have a really good chance.”

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