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Eco Gang | Rosie Bourke: The 16-Year-Old Behind Youth Eco Fashion Label ‘AntiVice’

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Editor’s note: We have lots of talented and interesting eco-conscious readers from across the globe. In this new feature, we want to share their stories, in their words to inspire you to be better, to do better, to help you reach your unique version of ‘eco’ brilliance. If you are a loyal reader and have a story that you would love to share with the rest of the community, please get in touch! (This piece has been edited for length and clarity.)

Every story that I’ve read so far, about ethical entrepreneurs and fashion line owners, they all seem to have some specialist university degree – fashion design, sustainability, business management even. This puts me a bit on edge – because I haven’t even finished high school yet.

My name is Rosie, I’m 16 years old and I’m starting my own ethical fashion line. It’s called AntiVice.

Eco Community | Rosie Bourke- The 16-Year-Old Eco Fashion Entrepreneur Behind 'AntiVice'

Images supplied.

It was the Rana Plaza building collapse when I first learned about fast fashion. At the time, I was about 12 or 13, and I was horrified, not just that people had died but that they had died as a result of something everyone knew about, but didn’t do anything about.

I started asking family members and other adults that I knew, and they all seemed to say, Yes, sweat shops exist but what can we do about it? At this stage I had already become a vegetarian, and I think my mentality was, If I can do something about animal cruelty, I can do something about sweat shops! Looking back, I think that’s the beauty of children, they have a sort of simplicity that gets straight to the action, even if they don’t fully understand all the ins and outs.

“So I started with what I knew – that the Rana Plaza collapsed because the manufacturer and the companies it supplied didn’t care enough. So I started buying from companies that had promised not to participate in unfair working conditions. I started shopping at places like Cotton On and H&M, that had denounced these poor conditions.”

But I have a very long memory. I think about a year or so later, I was in Cotton On and looking at some top – I think it was black with stars on it – and questioning how this company could be behaving ethically when they were selling the top for $15. So I did my first real lot of research into the ethics of Cotton On. I was was shocked. I don’t think I bought anything for half a year after that! Now I know that doesn’t seem like a very long but when you’re 14, thats a millennium.  And then I starting discovering real ethical brands, the ones not greenwashing. As I got older I became smarter about how to see through misleading advertising. Of course the amazingness of Just Approved and Good On You helped. Which is how I got to today, four years after that building collapsed, still learning more about the ethicalities of fashion and the fashion industry… and launching my own sustainable fashion label!

The 16-Year-Old Behind Eco Fashion Label 'AntiVice'

The motivation behind starting my fashion brand AntiVice is purely a selfish one. When I first discovered and became committed to buying ethical fashion, there were a myriad of options as a pre-tween. Now, as a fully fledged teenager, there seem to be an ostensible lack of ethical stores selling my kinda gear. The gear I actually want to wear. I’ve gotten into op-shopping and that’s great, but there are just some things that can’t be op-shopped. So I launched AntiVice.

Ethical fashion brands seem to focus on babies to pre-tweens and then jumps to offering clothes to people aged 30+. Now that’s probably because most kids my age can’t afford anything over $30 for everyday wear, and the ethical market as it stands isn’t aimed at a young person like me. And I understand why this is – fashion is a lot more expensive when you actually have to pay the people who are making it a living wage.

But it’s not only that. It’s also the styling. Young people tend to want party wear that they can dance in, and well, we also prefer ‘clingier’ clothing, you know the type that clings to our bodies. I think a lot of brands are doing an amazing job, but I don’t think they are helping the hippie stay-at-home yoga mum who has time to hand wash everything and who makes her own hummus stereotype that people have about sustainable fashion. I really hope to challenge that. 

And it has been a work-in-progress, but I’m nearly ready to launch my website and begin selling… finally! All of my products (all five them) are vegan, made in a GOTS and FLO cert approved factory, where water is recycled, and no toxic chemicals are used. I, above all, wanted to avoid any possibility of greenwashing. I wanted to be able to sell products that I believed in, and that I could back up with independent certification.

Rosie Bourke, Australian Teen Eco Fashion Entrepreneur

Two of the items are tops, one of them is a dress, there is also a skirt and a bodysuit. I just adore the bodysuit, I think its my favourite of the five. The starting price is $30, for the two tops. The others are a little bit more expensive but still affordable. That’s want I want to offer – low cost, vegan, fair trade and eco-friendly tops. The clothes also happen to be made from organic cotton. And all black, because, well, I’d never be caught dead in an outfit that didn’t have some black in it (it’s the millennial way…).

Thee tops are versatile from winter through to summer, so they will easily suit a capsule wardrobe, and can be worn casually or all dolled up. They are made without frills, buttons clips and ribbons so they are less delicate and easier to repair. They are made for youth, because I fit into this category, and I wanted millennials to have more options. And not just an if you spent less on avocado toast you would be able to afford this kind of option – a real alternative for young Australians.

I decided that the brand should be vegan, because I’m vegan. My mum is vegetarian, so I was exposed to that sort of philosophy from a young age. She never forced any of her choices on me though, she just sort of let me find my way. And then when I was about nine years old, I couldn’t get the image of baby chickens being ground up out of my head, so as a result I couldn’t stomach meat anymore. I think its worth noting that the extent of my meat intake was party pies and sausage rolls. I was hardly a meat connoisseur. After that I became a pescatarian and eventually after significant begging, my mum agreed that I could become vegetarian, as long as I made sure I was having enough of my nutrients. I sort of gradually became vegan a couple of years ago. I just sort of went, I can, I think I should and so I did.

Eco Gang | Rosie Bourke- The 16-Year-Old Eco Fashion Entrepreneur Behind 'AntiVice'

I think my greatest challenge in starting this fashion business is my complete lack of knowledge about anything! A particular problem I’ve had is my lack of knowledge of the fashion industry’s jargon. Only recently did I almost not pay someone because I didn’t realise what a remittance was! I am forever causing delays and sometimes I feel like this would all be a whole lot quicker and smoother if I wasn’t involved. But I guess my ego and stubbornness keeps me going. Then there’s the issues of setting up my website. I’m trying my best, and I’ll admit that Square Space is very intuitive, but I’m struggling with it a bit. I’m sure I’ll get there in the end, I think my persistence makes up for a lot of my ineptitude in this entrepreneurial journey.

Now while I designed the concepts for each of the outfits, it was an amazing woman named Vicki (from England) who turned them into fashion sketches and tech packs. I was so lucky to have her on board, I had no idea what a ‘tech pack’ was and it happens that they are vital for manufacturing. So I started off with about 12 or so designs, and she really brought them to life, made them practical, and if I say so myself, a lot more aesthetically pleasing.

As you’ve probably guessed, I am a daydreamer. But I think that being able to live in your head is one of the best talents a person can have. You can create fictitious worlds out of a few moments of calm and quiet. I really think that this is an under-appreciated talent – it’s not a quality that’s valued by a capitalistic society, as it doesn’t directly make money. But it does have value. I mean, this business was just a daydream in my head a couple of years ago, and now garments are being shipped from India, soon to arrive, and be available and purchased by you (fingers crossed).

“I want to make a better world, and I see no need to wait til I’m 18 to change the world. We create ripples of change as soon as we are born, and we are capable of redirecting the world in our image of kindness the moment that we set our minds to it. That’s what I’m setting my mind to anyway.”

To track Rosie’s entrepreneurial journey, or if have questions about her youth eco label, feel free to connect with her on Instagram.

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