Aidan Mohapatra and Ariel Hersham are launching Type Three Solutions and are challenging the sustainable fashion industry
By Lucy Roff
It’s no secret that many of the faces dominating the Australian sustainable fashion sector are those of a considerably privileged background. They are often middle-aged Caucasian males, or in some cases, they have a billionaire in the family.
Fashion student and designer Aidan Mohapatra – and business partner Ariel Hersham – want to set a new precedent. They ask, how can a brand extend itself beyond the concerns of growth and output? How can a brand represent more than one person or place?
The solution is Type Three.
Aidan has launched Type Three Solutions, with a vision for change, saying, “I never saw myself in sustainability…and I know for a fact that the people who invented sustainability, tend to you know, some of them look like me.”
While thorough research is lacking about how much diversity there is in the business of sustainability, you don’t need to look far to find evidence of a lack of inclusion in Australian businesses more generally.
A report published in 2018 found that of the 372 chief executives from Australia’s top 200 publicly listed companies, 97% were Anglo-Celtic or of European heritage. While some time has passed, and Australia has undergone significant societal changes, we likely need to consider the historical context for businesses such as Type Three.
Aidan tells me Type Three is a Melbourne based brand using basic silhouettes to create higher-end, everyday essentials, made as ethically and sustainably as possible.
“They’re clothes for kids who are not represented in sustainability, even though their backgrounds are probably cultures that have a lot of sustainable practices historically.”
These ‘kids’, are people like Aidan from a diaspora, who are looking to see greater representation in the industry.
Studying a Bachelor of Fashion and Textiles, he majors in Sustainable Innovation at RMIT in Melbourne. In this degree, students explore modern global supply chains and the impact of imperialism.
To say the least, this has caused a lot of distaste for Aidan.
The impact of western colonisation has been highlighted in numerous incidents. Particularly via the advocacy campaign #PayUp – led by Remake, a non-profit organisation working to stop harmful practices on people and the planet in the business of fashion.
In March 2020, millions of garment workers were laid off and dozens of multinational fashion brands refused to pay for roughly $40 billion worth of finished garments. This came as the world was rocked by the outbreak of COVID-19, and many of the world’s largest fashion companies cancelled their orders. The Guardian reported over 1 million garment workers in Bangladesh were fired or furloughed as a direct result.
A very real and concerning power imbalance became apparent.
To give some further perspective, in 2019 Oxfam reported that 0% of Bangladeshi workers and 1% of Vietnamese workers were paid a living wage – this being the amount of money required to meet basic living standards which vary country-to-country.
PayUp Fashion writes, “It’s time for a new paradigm. The only future for the fashion industry is a sustainable, inclusive, and economically empowered one.”
As someone who is leading us into the new ‘paradigm’, I asked Aidan what is the inspiration behind the brand? They tell me it’s rooted in a manifesto, a collection of beliefs.
“I got the idea from this book called Biomimicry, which is essentially how can you mimic nature and the world through industrial techniques, and a type three species is an ecological theory or system, which is one that returns everything it takes from the planet in equilibrium. Some of our most vital plants and animals in the world are type three species.”
Thereby posing the following questions: what if there was a clothing brand that existed in the same way? Could a fashion label support ecological equilibrium?
Aidan is humble about admitting a desire for Type Three to be successful, he says it’s about creating a brand that seeks to challenge the industry, and not simply become an extension of it.
While Aidan is at the beginning of their journey and knows there are going to be many more lessons, they still encourage young creatives.
“I’d say bet on yourself, even if it goes wrong.” He says it’s scary having no one telling you what to do but added this is also what makes it an amazing experience.
Ultimately, the Type Three Solutions Founder and Creative Director say it’s important to create a brand that can act as a vehicle for others alike to engage in.
“I really do believe in the power of fashion.”
“I think there’s so much opportunity, and so much we haven’t even thought of yet…the way we interact with clothing is untapped.”