Start-up Profiles

Why this founder in QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s Fashion Accelerator almost ditched the “horrifying” industry

Dinushi Dias /

Queensland startup founder Evie Willsteed is on a mission to create better alternatives for fashion lovers in an industry where the profit of many popular brands come at what she says are “horrifying” costs.

“I watched a few documentaries about the fashion industry and thought: oh, that’s horrifying I can’t partake in this anymore,” she tells StartupSmart.

Willsteed is one of four participants taking on Australia’s $28.5 billion fashion industry in QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s five-month Fashion Accelerator, which will culminate in a pitch before industry heavyweights like former David Jones chief executive Paul Zahra and Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Edwina McCann.

Read more: Former David Jones CEO Paul Zahra to share “big business wisdom” with startups in new role with Creative Enterprise Australia

Willsteed describes her venture, Genkstacy, as “an ethical street wear label”.

The brand takes inspiration from Japanese street style, hip hop and New York fashion but is focused on organic, ethical and sustainable manufacturing processes. It will launch near the end of 2017.

After completing a Certificate 3 in fashion, Willsteed says she became so disenfranchised with the industry that she almost gave up on it altogether.

“At the time, I was quite disillusioned with the unethical elements of the fashion industry,” she says.

“Not knowing how to get around those, I decided I was going to leave fashion for a little bit.”

However, the founder was brought back to the sector while studying fine arts, when a project on organic cotton led her to the discovery of an increasing number of sustainable alternatives in cloth and materials.

Having spent the past year on research, Willsteed decided to apply to the fashion tech accelerator after hitting a wall “on the resourcing side of things”.

But one month into the program, she says she’s confident about bringing the brand to market this year. Other labels expected to graduate with Genkstacy include Suzzi K, Gloria Dulcie and Miss Summer.

With the launch of her brand, Willsteed wants to build a community of followers who share and live by ethical and sustainable fashion.

“Day to day, we’re working on our own businesses and applying things that we’ve learned in our mentoring workshops which we have once a week,” Willsteed says.

“We get these amazing mentors who come in and teach us from their life experience.

“I’m most excited about getting more of a clear direction on where to take my business.”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a freelance journalist and a former StartupSmart reporter and multimedia content producer. She is the co-founder of Melbourne-based production house Dinushi & Power.

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