Monday, June 16, 2014

Made in Oz

If you have followed the CC&SIN blog from the start you will know that we are not just any other blog. As up comers in the fashion industry we want to utilise a platform where we can talk about our careers, we want to give a real account of the positives and negatives that our affect our business decisions day to day. For other aspiring designers or those interested in the fashion industry I want to provide and share helpful information on major challenges that emerging designers and even established designer are facing in this ever-changing cut throat industry.

Keeping an Australian-made fashion brand afloat is a tough gig these days. Today there are an increasing number of iconic Australian brands that have closed up shop due to increased shop rents, volatile global supply chains (Zara, H&M, Topshop, ASOS) and changes in purchasing patterns by retailers. Brands such as Ksubi, Lisa Ho, Kirrily Johnston & Bettina Liano have had to restructure or have found themselves in involuntary administration.

As an emerging designer I have had my fair share of mishaps and disappointments with wholesaling and the challenges that come with manufacturing in Australia. Designers who rely solely on wholesaling partnerships are discovering how difficult it is to survive in an industry where long lead times require an investment in production which is no longer offset by retailer deposits or full payments. Unfortunately due to the Global Financial Crisis the new rule of thumb amongst retailers is a payment term to the designer of 90 days or more. This means that all the risk is now with the designer as we have to outlay all costs for production. With retail struggling due to the amount of sales they are losing to online purchases there is always the risk that the retailers may not go through with the order or finalise payment if they have had a bad season, leaving the designer with unsold stock. With the constant fear of uncertainty amongst the retail industry, retailers are dropping labels left right and centre and are too afraid to take chances on the new comers.

For those of you that do not know my brand “Sinead James The Label” I am 100% Australian made.  Being Australian made allows me to supply quality-controlled products, with the benefit of increased service standards as communications run through local people & provide short lead times, which as you have read above long lead times can bring a business crashing down. I can proudly say that our staffs are all paid above the award wage, all staff are treated fairly and that there is no use of slave labour as seen in some manufacturing companies off-shore. However, in saying this I am one of only a small minority that chooses to manufacture here in Australia. Because of this local manufacturing has now shrunk to a minute level as most clothing production is taken off-shore to China, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia allowing no connection to the local scene.

Sadly, it is becoming an economic necessity to make garments off-shore, I will not lie, and it is also an option we have looked into. For companies that manufacture in Australia and are competing on price alone face a battle that is unbeatable.  People in today’s society are no longer aware of what the costs are to produce garments overseas. A lack of education in the process involved with creating a garment, including the hours it takes to make, is unknown to most. People used to have more of an idea but as sewing is a dying trade in Australia that knowledge is disappearing at a fast rate. Consumers simply do not understand how long it takes to design, pattern make, grade, sample, cut, sew, press, dye and transport a garment as well all the marketing costs that are associated with selling a garment. With a struggling economy consumers are spending their disposable income more wisely and discerningly, purchasing primarily on price. But is that really being wiser?

There is little information available for consumers to make a difference. If consumers were further educated on the process, quality differences & costs involved in production within Australia and the unethical treatment of workers overseas would there be a shift to Australian Made labels? Consumers whom are paying under $10 for a dress or t-shirt should really think twice about where their new clothing comes from. With a factory collapsing in Bangladesh that killed more than 1000 people you have to ask if a $5 t-shirt is really worth it? This is not the first time either!

 I want to make clear that I am not against overseas manufacturing, with rising costs here in Australia it may be a move “Sinead James The Label” will have to take in the future to keep my business sustainable. I personally feel that when labels move to off-shore manufacturing that all ethics, social costs etc must be acknowledged & sustained. As a consumer that would certainly ease my conscience and help my buying decisions.

So how can us little fish overcome these barriers of entry into such a fickle industry? The current business model that so many of us fashion labels follow is out of date, flawed, in the scheme of profit & risk it seems to put the retailer first not the designer. I believe the key is to find innovative and fresh ways to reach & sell to your audience and not to rely heavily on retailers.

xx Sin

Manufacturing snap - Sinead James The Label

How important is Australian made to you?
Have you really ever thought about why some garments you purchase are so

Let us know your opinion!

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