Made in Australia: Fashion That Supports The Local Industry
Bondiwear is all about supporting the Australian fashion industry, with all of the shirts made locally, from the organic cotton threads right through to the designs and prints. But it is tough to commit to supporting the Australian fashion industry, and often there’s not a lot of recognition or appreciation for taking this approach to clothing.
Worse still, a lot of the labels and designers that commit to supporting Australian fashion and manufacturing end up in dire financial straits. In the past few years, several have even ended up in voluntary administration for their decisions to stay loyal to the local industry – particularly when it comes to manufacturing, as most companies choose to use offshore factories rather than individual or boutique services offered in Australia.
In fact, the much-loved Australian designer Josh Goot went into voluntary administration earlier this year, partly because of his passion for creating everything in Australia. As Jenna Clark wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald at the time:
“Goot produces his garments exclusively in Australia and uses a variety of premium fabrics including 100 per cent silks emblazoned with digital prints, Australian wool and bonded viscose nylons, and said that while it has made the path more challenging, it is of benefit to the local industry,” she explains.
Clark also suggests that this approach had an impact on both business costs and retail prices for the internationally acclaimed Australian desiger, noting that “an average Josh Goot item retails for about $700.”
While voluntary administration has not been the end of Josh Goot, it does show just how challenging it is for Australian designers and labels to keep everything local – a fact backed up by the history of manufacturing clothing in Australia.
But in many cases, people don’t even realise that a particular designer or clothing brand is making this kind of commitment to local industries until it’s almost too late. So if you have ever wondered which Australian fashion companies and designers are big on supporting the local industry, here is a rundown of some of the best.
Cue is one of the biggest Australian labels to publicly commit to supporting the local industry, with designs coming from its head office in Sydney and almost everything in its line of clothing made in Australia (exceptions are Cue knits, shirts, the “Cue in the City” range and accessories).
“Making it in Australia isn’t just feel good,” the brand says. “It keeps jobs onshore and ensures that new designs arrive in store each week.”
Cue works closely with the Textile, Clothing, Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) to maintain ethical workplaces in Australia and is also accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia. It says these measures, and the “great relationship” it has with its manufacturers mean that “customers can be confident that when buying Australian-made – Cue has taken practical steps to ensure that Australian workers involved in making our designs receive fair wages and work in decent conditions.”
“We’re justifiably proud of our work record – it shows in the high quality of everything we make and the dedication of our entire team to still making it in Australia,” it says.
Widely considered one of the most iconic fashion labels in Melbourne, DIZINGOF is a huge supporter of the local industry, both designing and producing clothing in Australia.
“DIZINGOF has long supported the local industry, remaining committed in utilising not only local design, but also local production of exceptional quality hand-made garments,” the website says.
The brand’s commitment to this process has helped it gain national and international recognition, with celebrities and public figures including Dannii Minogue, Alyce Platt, Prinnie Stevens and Angela Kennedy.
DIZINGOF’s creator, designer Haim Bzezinski, has been said to combine “his love of architecture and city environments to eccentric designs for the female body”, often drawing on Melbourne for inspiration and celebrating the local industry in the process.
3. Green Embassy
Developed by Perth-based artist and designer Zuhal Kuvan-Mills, Green Embassy is an Australian clothing label with a focus on glamorous, organic, handmade clothing.
The self-described “certified organic haute couture eco-fashion” label has featured on runways in London and Paris, as well as at the New Zealand Eco Fashion Week (2014) and Vancouver Fashion Week (2014, 2015).
“As Australia’s first internationally recognised organically certified fashion label, Green Embassy believes sustainability should be at the heart of the fashion and textile industry,” the Green Embassy website says.
The company says that production takes place entirely in Australia (“from single fibre to finished, wearable and fashionable art piece”) and is certified as a product of Australia.
“Green Embassy will not go offshore or to the factory line. We want you to have the pleasure of experiencing handmade artisan clothing that is crafted with care, great passion and love.”
4. Harriet Jane
Byron Bay designer and photographer Harriet Jane has combined her talents to create this eponymous women’s clothing label. All the designs are made using fabrics printed with Jane’s original photography, with a focus on silk, bamboo and organic cotton.
“The photos are only of nature, capturing some of Australia’s most beautiful landscapes, amazing beaches and flora,” she says on her website, adding that she is committed to sustainability for the label.
“All products are made locally in Byron Bay using recycled, organic or natural fabrics and the latest digital printing technologies,” she says.
“In order to overcome the sustainability challenges facing humanity, we need to find ways to behave in harmony with our planet and work to reduce the footprint left on the environment. That’s why Harriet Jane is all about celebrating the beauty of nature, to strive and inspire our customers to tread lightly and protect the world we live in.”
5. Infinity Jeans
Melbourne-based Infinity Jeans launched in 2013 and says it is all “for the love of denim and Australian Made”.
“Two years on from launching Infinity Jeans, we are not only excited with the superior product we have developed but also for keeping a dying (local) industry alive. Our aim here at Infinity Jeans is to produce all our garments here in Melbourne,” Director Chris Panagiotou says in a blog post on the label’s website.
True to this, Infinity Jeans’ main location is actually a factory in the gritty but hip Melbourne suburb of Brunswick, where it operates 7 days a week and offers customers up to 50% off retail prices, custom options as well as wholesale deals. While still a relatively new business, Infinity Jeans is stocked in boutiques in Victoria and NSW and are also sold by The Block Shop (a retail venture of the popular Channel 9 series).
6. Kirrily Johnston
Like Josh Goot, Kirrily Johnston is another designer that faced financial difficulties while designing and making her clothing line in Australia. But in 2013 – after 12 years of building Kirrily Johnston into a well-respected label stocked by the likes of David Jones – the acclaimed designer handed the business over to administrators.
While Johnston’s official statement explained that the decision was brought on by “a culmination of GFC issues and manufacturing bad luck… [which] tipped the business over the edge”, media reports also revealed that she had struggled with a local shoe manufacturer and fabric supplier.
“With retail stores really suffering because of the amount of sales they are losing to online purchases, many boutiques treat local wholesale orders as if they are trading on consignment,” she said in a statement at the time.
“This situation makes running a business almost impossible when you have paid for those products up front every step of the way.”
The good news is that Johnston is back, having collaborated with Australian label Cooper St and retailer Husk for collections released in 2015. Although there’s no word on where these collections are manufactured, it is great to see this designer find her feet again after such strong support for the local industry.
Brunswick-based designer Kristy Barber launched Kuwaii in 2008 as “beautiful alternative to mass produced fashion”. According to online retailer Lo and Behold – which stocks Kuwaii – it is also one of the few established labels still manufacturing almost everything in Australia (“including their shoes”).
Barber has also said that Kuwaii is about creating clothing and footwear that are “meant to last and be cherished by the owner”.
“We try not to take much notice of trends, only creating pieces that have a place in your wardrobe for a lifetime, rather than a fad-based item that could easily be disposed of,” she explains in an interview for the Abbotsford Convent blog.
“We also choose to manufacture both our clothing and footwear locally in Melbourne, which is a huge part of our ethos and something we believe in very passionately.”
8. Ngati Fifi
Ngati Fifi specialise in skirts. Specifically, reversible wrap-around skirts which are “funky on one side but classic and formal on the other”. All the skirts in the range are handmade in Australia, and the online store actually lets you choose what’s on the reverse side for many of the designs.
Ngati Fifi is also sold at markets, including the St Kilda Esplanade Markets, Castlemaine Artists Market and the Rose St Artists Market, with more details of where they are selling available on the Ngati Fifi Facebook Page.
9. Queensland Swimwear
As the name suggests, Queensland Swimwear (QSC) is focused on swimmers. The brand says it focuses on “superior fit (especially for the fuller bust), quality and an unrivalled service”, with ranges for women, men and children (via the Little Valentine label).
“Not only are our swimsuits made locally in Australia to support the industry, but are also made by the best,” the website says.
“[Founder] Leigh Mason, has vast industry experience in good fit, technical design and is one of Australia’s leading bra and swimwear technical specialists.”
All QSC garments are made at the company’s design & development studio in Brisbane, with new designs developed throughout the year and collections released each season. The label is stocked around Australia and also has an online store.
This family owned business has been running for over 40 years and sells a range of affordable and exclusive designer clothing in sizes from 10-18. While it stocks a range of brands including Joseph Ribkoff, Verge, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans and Seven Sisters, the Roxanne label is 100% Australian made.
“The Roxanne brand prides itself on having Australian made garments exclusive to its stores,” the website says.
Roxanne has 5 stores in Melbourne: Little Collins St Melbourne, Elizabeth Street (near Bourke Street Mall), The Block Arcade, Swanston Street (opposite Melbourne Town Hall) and North Balwyn, and also sells directly through its website.
11. Sunrise at Bondi
This well named swimwear company is a collaboration between designer Leigh Mason and Bondi lifeguards Trent “Maxi” Maxwell and Ryan “Whippet” Clark of Bondi Rescue fame.
Sunrise at Bondi describes itself as “an authentic active swimwear brand for men and women that captures the essence of Bondi; inspired by the colours of the Australian sun and ocean” and is both designed and made in Australia.
With prices starting from $54.95 (for women’s tops or bottoms and men’s swimwear), it’s also fair to say that Sunrise at Bondi is a local brand that won’t break the bank – and could actually be cheaper than some of the better known international swimwear brands out there.
Woolerina makes Australian Merino wool clothing for women, men, children and babies, sourcing and producing everything in Australia. Warwick Rolfe founded the company in 2005 – after years of nurturing his “life-long passion for the beautiful Merino fibre”.
The company has gone on to develop direct relationships with Merino farms and now sources the very best quality wool for all garments.
“Woolerina is committed to building and maintaining relationships within all aspects of the production line from the early processing of the raw wool, right through to spinning, knitting (yes, this still happens!) and dying, through to garment construction,” the website says.
Woolerina is accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia and is a licensee of the Australia Made (and owned) logo and sells directly through its website.
These 12 Australian fashion labels and designers highlight just how varied the Australian industry is, and show that there are still ways to make clothing locally and affordably. While it is often challenging to find Australian owned and made fashion, the more people support labels like the ones above, the better the chances are that this side of the industry will stay afloat.