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Posted on April 28 2017

Tonight I attended a small ethical gathering in the Inner-West of Sydney at the creative workspace of Bobbin & Ink an event held for Fashion Revolution Week. Working away in my own bubble I caught a glimpse via instagram about the talk and last minute managed to grab a seat BUT couldn't hang around for the look to be amazing clothes swap.

Working by myself I really wanted to hear what other makers challenges are. For us so far lack of media exposure, not getting out in front of the right customers is now leaving me to garner thoughts of producing offshore... but this can't be the only way to go??? 

The discussion and Q&A panel consisted of a diverse group:
Kirsten Lee

UTS Fashion Lecturer and Fashion Revolution committee member
Jessica Parker
Retail Manager of social enterprise and fashion label/store at The Social Studio
Osha Shealey
Local maker of The Bilbo Afloat

Each panel member talked about what challenges they face in their business and how they go about working in the most ethical way they can. Everyone's situation was unique and I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives. I did find it ironic how we are concerned about low wages and conditions outside of Australia, but accept that it is ok not to pay ourselves a wage when starting up a new business here... I do this myself. 

People often look at me as I am really brave or stupid for having started Madge at this stage in my life with no prior fashion experience. I am very optimistic, and hope others would love to know that we are designing, printing and making all here in Sydney. Currently designing and budgeting for a new collection I find myself wondering how we will survive doing it all here, that we too may have to look offshore if retailing doesn't improve and our media exposure.

Offshore making isn't all bad to me, as long as it is ethically made I am ok. In Australia we don't make a lot of things such as a variety of zippers, button's or have the ability ot make womens tights anymore I recently found out! Recently I spent hours sourcing where to find and make women's tights only to find there is not a single factory in Australia doing this - does this not alarm anyone? The closest I could find was one in New Zealand and colours are so limited. Another hole I see in the supply chains here including my own, is sourcing of ethically made fabrics which is something I am constantly working at improving upon.

I own Madge with my partner, and we have no financial backers or outside funding and see no government grants coming our way. Now having produced our first collection entirely locally, I understand and sympathize why businesses go offshore. I am an optimist and will keep trying to keep to making locally. I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand years ago, sticking to my ideals may be all her fault for putting big ideas into my head but having seen how well Kowtow does it there are ways to do it well offshore.

Working in our store I've encountered people who are curious as to where I am making, and do want locally produced but often are not prepared to pay for it. Though the best part of running the business is when I do meet the customer who gets Madge, appreciates and loves our work.

My favourite take-away from the night was the Guppy Friend, a clean ocean filter bag for hand and machine washing. The bag rescues the plastic fibers being released from washing that pollute our waterbodies and food supply, the bag prevents microfibers from entering into rivers and oceans. This is something I definitely want to look at for our own home use, though thankfully we do not have many garments that are made from plastic fibers. Learning about how plastic fibers are harmful has further encouraged me to continue to use natural fibers for Madge - and yes linen does crumple!

Next year I will definitely keep my eye out for more events like these, and look forward to visiting Bobbin and Ink again soon it was my type of space.guppyfriend

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