The Benefits of Locally Made Fashion

This Fashion Revolution Week we spoke with the founders of tscudo and úton, two local clothing brands, about their decision to keep the manufacturing of their label in Australia.

FASHION

Liz de Vries

4/19/2022 4 min read

This Fashion Revolution Week, in the spirit of #WhoMadeMyClothes, we thought we’d ask the founders of tscudo and úton, two new Australian clothing brands, why they opted to have their products made locally.

The conversation that followed covered topics such as the history and current status of Australia’s textile industry, and the business and environmental benefits of having clothes manufactured locally.

And it turns out Kinga and Simon’s choices aren’t only about economics - it’s personal as well.

Keep on reading to get to know these beautiful Australian brands a little bit better.

Can you tell us why you decided to have your clothes manufactured locally? And what are some of the benefits?

Simon:

In this day and age, textile and clothing brands are fortunate that they can choose from a number of locations around the globe to manufacture their products, with pros and cons for each location.

For tscudo we chose Australia for a number a reasons. We feel there’s something quite special about visiting the location where our tops are made, talking to not only the factory owners, but also the printers, fabric cutters and machinists.

Producing locally is easier to manage than going overseas. For example, manufacturing here means we can order smaller numbers, so occasionally we’re able to run more specialised, ‘boutique’ productions.

However, for us the most important aspect of making locally is that we can support our local industry, community and economic growth. It’s also better for the environment. Let’s face it, clothing does more travel than you and me these days - and that’s even before we’ve purchased it.

Producing locally reduces each garment’s carbon footprint.

Kinga:

Supporting the local makers, creating jobs, knowing that our garments were sewn by valued workers who earn fair wages and work under safe conditions are obvious reasons for making locally.

For me personally it’s also important to have a very close relationship with the people I’m working with. I’m a pattern maker by trade and knowing, better yet, seeing, who puts my designs together, and how they handle my patterns and sew my garments is invaluable. My grandfather was a tailor back in Budapest and I remember spending a lot of time in his studio, admiring the fabrics, playing with his tape measure, and drawing with the chalk. I didn’t know at the time but that experience created a connection to the workroom I still draw inspiration from.

What is the current status of Australia’s textile manufacturing industry?

Simon:

The Australian textile industry is amazing. There are some fantastic brands across the country with some really talented minds.

However, the textile manufacturing industry has certainly had its challenges the last thirty years. In the mid 1980’s tariffs were lifted on imports, which up until then had kept competition from cheaper overseas prices at bay. This change saw most Australian manufacturing move to offshore factories in countries like China and India.

As a result we now have only minimal garment manufacturing in Australia, which over time has also led to a loss in skilled and specialised garment employees such as machinists. As far as manufacturing of fabrics is concerned there is very little (if not nothing) left in Australia.

Kinga:

There is a lot of interest in manufacturing locally. Both established and small start-up labels choose to make here as it’s a great option for accommodating smaller quantities.

Of course there is also the ethical side which is getting increasing attention. Great organisations like Ethical Clothing Australia do a very important job to promote local manufacturing and to ensure fair wages are paid and work conditions are safe.

What do you think will be the future of locally made garments?

Simon:

I believe the future for locally made garments is positive. I’m always surprised how many larger consumer brands make a small percentage of garments in Australia, which is fantastic.

Then there’s a large number of younger boutique brands who are choosing to make locally, which is largely driven by the growing focus on a sustainable product and future. This trend will not only improve the quality of specialised employees and talent, but feed important dollars into our local economy.

Kinga:

With the increasing awareness about global supply chain problems, such as abuse of workers rights and outrageously low wages, there is a shift towards demanding a more transparent process. Manufacturing locally provides the opportunity and resources that brands need to ensure ethical standards are met.

The power is in the customers’ hands though, they decide what to buy and what direction the industry takes.

Finally, since the COVID pandemic have you noticed a shift in consumer appeal for locally made? And if there is a shift, could it be related to climate change awareness?

Simon:

I think COVID brought many changes to our lives. It also ignited an attitude shift to what being a consumer is all about. Let’s call it a healthy mid-life crisis.

I feel we’ve all had time to reflect and gain some clarity on what we value, what we really need, where the products we purchase come from, and what do we do with them at the end of their life. These thoughts and choices are very much driven by our awareness of the environment and the changes we’ve seen.

When COVID spread across the globe we saw a reduction in normal every day operations and movement. I love the story from Northern India where, with a cease to local manufacturing and car travel, air pollution was reduced significantly, and for the first time in 30 to 40 years, the Himalaya was visible for some towns, even though the mountain range is only 100k away. There were many similar stories to this one. It showcases that our choices, no matter how small, can make big changes to the environment.

tscudo has always chosen to make locally. Feedback from many new customers is that when they discovered the brand, they were specifically looking for Australian made items.

Kinga:

Yes, there is absolutely a noticeable increase of interest in locally made products since the pandemic. The lockdown isolation, the conversation about the importance of supporting local businesses and supply shortages in several industries have all opened people’s eyes to the benefit and significance of buying locally made products. I think the buying power has always been there but people didn’t know the brands or what beautiful quality can be produced, still at a reasonable price.

Curious to learn more?

Image via Pexels.