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Afends co-founder Jono Salfield on sustainability, transparency and growing their own
By Jenny Ringland
Like many success stories in the Australian creative landscape, sustainability-driven street and surf label Afends was born in Byron Bay. Its co-founders Jono Salfield and Declan Wise met as teenagers, eventually became housemates and in their 20s started a screen printing business to create merchandise for punk and hardcore bands.
“The original vision for Afends was a lot more raw and edgy than it is today. We were printing merch for Australia’s best hardcore/punk bands, and the brand reflected a lot of the same aesthetic,’’ says Jono
“As the years progressed, we matured ourselves as humans and the brand followed suit. Fast forward to now, we aim to have full transparency with supply chains; we only use responsible fibres, mainly hemp, and we design collections the way we want to.
Afends, if it was a definition in the dictionary, means, sustainability through innovation action, and positive change, be defined by what you create, not what you destroy, explains Jono.
“People have definitely become more aware and conscious about sustainability in recent years, and we feel it’s something you can’t ignore,’’ he says.
“I feel the perspective of sustainability is changing as it should. The first step is being transparent. If you’re a company that can’t be transparent with your supply chain, then you must have something to hide. From there, it’s about innovation, constantly questioning the process, how you treat the people you work with and critiquing the way you make your products.’’
Jono says one of his biggest bugbears is the misconception that organic cotton is the saviour of the fashion industry.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s far from solving the environmental emergency that lies ahead. Afends is just touching the surface as far as being “sustainable”, I don’t think it’s possible to be a “sustainable” brand in the fashion industry as it is today. We feel that as long as we can make better quality products that have less impact and messages that empower people to change, then we are doing something,’’ he says.
Jono and Declan first started experimenting with the use of hemp as an alternative to cotton in 2014. Since then they have established themselves as pioneers, experimenting with the use of its fibres and heroing its 90 day cultivation cycle requiring no chemicals or pesticides, and significantly less water than other natural fibres including cotton.
“We have spent years researching hemp as a greener alternative to cotton. It was the super fibre that drove the world back before the industrial revolution. We could have kept growing hemp and supporting greener initiatives but instead went down the path of conventional cotton,’’ Jono says.
Most recently Afends has purchased 100 acres of farming land near Byron Bay with the plan to cultivate their own hemp, build their own processing facility and educate the community on how it’s possible to work in harmony with the environment.
In September the first seeds will be planted, which with its 90 day cultivation period, will mean it will be ready for harvest in January.
“Then in a couple of years time there’ll be a collection which is Australian grown hemp and that will mean we’ve grown it ourselves. Hemp is a magic plant, and we want to fly the flag for the industry – and hope it has a positive impact,’’ Jono says.
“We’re not here to save the world because we’re just making fashion clothes but we’re going to try and make a difference.’’
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