Inside A Minimal Waste Supply Chain With Designer Dominique Healy

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 months ago | Features

Image: Dominique Healy.

Dominique Healy is a Melbourne-based designer specialising in effortlessly romantic designs. Hers are the kind of dreamy dresses and elegant blouses that you can wear to the office or out for date night. Fairly made in a Minimal Waste supply chain, these clothes are crafted from high quality natural fabrications and crafted locally in Dominique’s Melbourne studio. We are so excited to welcome this brand to Well Made Clothes, so we asked the designer to share her story and what ethical fashion means to her.

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us a bit about how your brand Dominique Healy first came about?
Dominique Healy
: I’ve been making clothing for what feels like my whole life. I think I may have been about eight when my aunty began teaching me to sew. It’s always been what I wanted to do. It took me a while to get to a point where I felt like I had the right tools to finally get started on my label. For close to ten years I worked for a really great textile company in New Zealand and then in Australia – ‘The Fabric Store / Wall Fabrics’. It was always so inspiring being surrounded by fabrics all day. I also had a tendency to collect quite a bit of fabric. I spent everyday thinking about what to make out of all of these beautiful fabrics and after a long time of thinking about starting a label and a fabric collection that was starting to get out of hand, I finally jumped in and got started. That was close to two years ago now.

Rosie: How has the team evolved since then?
Dominique
: Starting out I was doing everything on my own – the patterns, sampling and production. Last year I finally brought my friend Armeda on board, who is helping me with the in-house sewing. This is a large part of my business, so it was starting to get a bit impossible doing it all on my own. I have also just recently had another lovely woman, Zoe start working with us to help out with production.

Rosie: And how has your own background helped inform the design approach, as well as the values behind the brand?
Dominique
: With most of my working life spent at The Fabric Store, I was lucky enough to work for a company who has always strived to make their business more sustainable and ethical. In particular, I have adopted their philosophy of re-use. I work predominantly with deadstock fabrics, which has also informed how I design. I begin my design process by first finding fabrics. I love this part! Especially working with deadstock fabrics there can be a pretty wild variety to choose from. Once I have a nice little collection of fabrics, I begin to design. Working with deadstock fabrics also means there is a limited amount of fabric available – when it’s gone its gone, you simply can’t make more. This often limits what can be made or how many styles you can make in certain fabrics, so this also informs my designs.

Having made clothing for most of my life and having spent a lot of time with makers while working in the textile industry, I have a huge appreciation and love of the process of fabric to finished garment. This is why having a portion of my production in-house is something I am quite passionate about and will continue to keep as part of my business model.

Rosie: What does ethical fashion mean to you personally?
Dominique
: Clothing is something that should be enjoyed, not just for the wearer but also the maker. This relates to the environment in which the clothing is made and also, of course, that the people making our clothing are being paid a fair and living wage. 

Rosie: You make everything locally in Melbourne. Why do you believe it is so important to support the local fashion industry?
Dominique
: For me part a big part of what I love about designing clothing is making it. If we don’t support the local industry we will lose it altogether and, for me, this means we’ll lose part of the magic of the fashion industry.

Rosie: Waste is a huge issue in the fashion industry too. How do you try to limit your own waste through careful design and rejecting overproduction?
Dominique
:  Something I struggled with starting out was production minimums. This is also one of the many reasons I decided to incorporate in-house production into my business model. It means I can choose to make smaller runs of clothing, which would not usually meet the minimum requirements of a factory. With my ranges, I often produce a small amount of stock and then make to order when they run out. Some of the more special or limited pieces I only make to order. This means I’m left with very little (if any) stock at the end of a season.

Something I think anyone who makes clothing can relate to is the sadness you feel when seeing all of your leftover scraps once you finish cutting out. With this in mind, I came up with one of my staple designs the ‘Bella Blouse’. I designed the pattern for this blouse so that it would use as much of the fabric as possible without losing the aesthetic I was going for. These blouses leave very little textile waste, as the pattern uses about 95% of the fabric when cutting. I have since made many different variations of this blouse. Unfortunately, not all my designs use this much of the fabric but it is always something I always have in the back of my mind when creating a pattern.

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