Awards can have a knock-on effect that's not immediately obvious to a small fashion business according to Courtney. "We've never had huge PR or advertising budgets," she says of her own brand, "So awards are one of the ways we've been able to build our brand identity and just get the word out there about what we do."

Courtney's five-year-old fashion brand A.BCH took out Best in Category - Fashion Design at the 2019 Premier's Design Awards just months before the pandemic took off. "I might have been a unique case because of that timing," she laughs; "A lot of stuff happened in 2020!"

woman with hand to her cheek

Image: A.BCH founder/designer and circular fashion activist Courtney Holm. Photo: Gavin Green

In fact the horrors of 2020 and 2021 didn't deter the sustainable fashion activist from entering awards and eventually filling a virtual shelf with them back at A.BCH headquarters. "We had a lovely award ceremony at M Pavilion," she remembers of her Premier’s Design Award.

"Then we won a Women's Weekly Woman of the Future award (including a $35,000 cash prize) and the next year in 2021 we received the Australian Fashion Laureate for Sustainable fashion."

Add to that haul a gold award for fashion in the national Good Design Awards and Courtney was a bona fide expert on how A.BCH's complex backstory of circularity could be widely broadcast with more nous and effort - via awards, consumer education workshops and public speaking events - than marketing money.

"It's actually quite a process to apply (for the Premier's and some other awards), so you've got to factor that in to your time," she says. "But for me it's been really important. I'm trying to drive change in this industry; sustainability is the only way forward but we can't achieve that alone. We need other businesses to come along side us and we need to bring government alongside too, especially if we're going to be applying for grants in the future."

The Victorian Premier's Design Awards are recognised as the most prestigious and longest running state-based design awards in the country. Entries for the 26th round are free and close on July 29.

Design categories include architectural, industrial, communications, digital, tertiary student projects and of course, fashion. Designers of clothing, footwear, textiles, accessories, costume - virtually any facet of fashion - are encouraged to apply.

Alongside, A.BCH's other recent winners of the awards' fashion category have included Reborn by Homie, SZN, The Last Knitting Mill and designer Chelsea Hickman.

Entries for the 26th Victorian Premier's Design Awards close on 29 July.

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