Arnsdorf Founder Jade Sarita Arnott On The Power Of Radical Transparency

by: Rosie Dalton | 6 months ago | Features

Image: Jade Sarita Arnott. 

Jade Sarita Arnott is one of Australia’s leading designers and, at the helm of Arnsdorf, she has been creating timeless wardrobe staples with exceptional details since the brand’s beginning. But, after working under the traditional fashion system for many years, Jade found herself fed up with the lack of transparency and relentless cycle of waste that’s typical of globalised supply chains.

This was the catalyst for Jade deciding to take a temporary break from fashion. And five years later, Arnsdorf was relaunched with a revitalised vision: to be the leader of transparent, traceable and sustainable fashion in Australia and beyond. We are so excited to welcome Arnsdorf to Well made Clothes and, here, Jade shares her inspiring story with us. 

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us about the evolution of Arnsdorf?
Jade Sarita Arnott: I originally launched Arnsdorf in Australia in 2006 and was stocked at premium boutiques across Australia and internationally. In 2010 the label relocated to New York and in 2012 the label was put on hold. Arnsdorf officially re-launched in 2017 as a modern retailer with a focus on transparency, traceability and ethical manufacturing.

Rosie: After operating within the traditional fashion system for many years, what was the initial catalyst for putting your label on hold in 2012?  
Jade: As the seasons went on I felt this growing sense of unease. We outsourced to external factories and although we had great relationships with the managers there was this barrier between us and the machinists, so I wasn’t really able to know whether they were being paid properly with benefits or working the right hours. At the same time, I was disillusioned by the constant cycle of sales and wastage, rushing for the new season. There was also a downturn in retail so a lot of boutiques we wholesaled to closed down or reshuffled and were unable to pay the designers. Despite still loving design, I felt the whole industry and system no longer made sense to me. I had just had my first child and it was a time of really prioritising my time and my energies. I needed to press pause and reassess my life.

Image: inside the Arnsdorf workroom in Melbourne.

Rosie: How would you describe the renewed vision for Arnsdorf?
Jade: The renewed vision for Arnsdorf allows the brand to operate in a space that feels purposeful and inspiring. Our vision is to be the leader of transparent, traceable and sustainable fashion in Australia over the next five years, while simultaneously creating archetypal garments for women of style and purpose. We had the opportunity to start with a clean slate and begin again with a foundation built on sustainability and an ethical supply chain. We rethought and improved on every aspect of the operation. Starting with creating our own in-house factory where our garments are manufactured. We started small and, as demand increased, so did our team and our factory. 

We source sustainable fabrics and deadstock fabrics. Initially we found it difficult to source denim that was both organic and dyed with natural indigo pigment, so we worked with a mill to create our own fabric that was both. We see ourselves as a modern retailer that customers can rely on for excellent service and quality. We offer complimentary alterations and lifetime repairs on our garments to encourage our clients to form long-term relationships with their Arnsdorf pieces.

We are also working to provide greater transparency and traceability throughout the industry. By providing a breakdown of costings for each of our products, as well as the name of each individual working on the garment and source of the materials used, we build trust with our clients and serve to greater educate the wider community about what it actually costs to manufacture locally and ethically.

Image: inside the Arnsdorf workroom in Melbourne.

Rosie: What does ethical fashion mean to you personally and how do you believe we can further this conversation?
Jade: Personally I cannot operate in an industry that operates at the expense of the rights and lives of others. Fashion and clothing has the ability to be transformative and empowering but this cannot happen if it has been produced by disempowering the most vulnerable people in the supply chain. 

Rosie: In what ways does this manifest itself through Arnsdorf today?
Jade: It manifests its way through Arnsdorf in everything we do here. We are mindful with each decision we make and have created an amazing little community at the factory. It’s a pleasant place to work and everyone is respected and valued in the role they play in the production of the collection. You’ll notice that on our website we provide full transparency around the cost and manufacture of each garment (we are about to roll this out in our Melbourne stores as well). In addition to this Arnsdorf has committed to donating 2% of our revenue to actively fund women in the developing world to gain new skills and empower them to start their own businesses. Throughout this year we have made a big impact on women’s lives throughout developing countries.

Image: inside the Arnsdorf workroom in Melbourne. 

Rosie: Can you tell us about some of the challenges and benefits of eschewing a traditional wholesale model?
Jade: Being vertically integrated, meaning we make in-house and sell direct to our customers, gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the women who wear Arnsdorf. It also means we can spend more on quality, sustainable fabrics and pay above the award Australian wage without worrying about factoring in a wholesale margin. It allows us to have a consistent cash flow and to produce in small batch manufacturing, quickly responding to sell through and recutting if needed without having to hold on to a lot of excess stock or wastage. The challenges have been learning how to operate a factory and not relying on large wholesale orders to sustain the business. 

Rosie: How does this help you to minimise waste and boost transparency with your customers?
Jade: Cutting in small batches or making to order allows us to minimise waste and, by being completely transparent about the costings, material source and people making each garment, we allow our customers to see everything.

Rosie: What advice do you have for women looking to minimise their impact?
Jade: Do your research before you purchase something, just as you might read the ingredients on the back of a packet in a grocery store, apply the same scrutiny to the clothing you buy. If a garment isn’t clearly labeled and honest about its origins, then think twice about putting your money and values behind that brand. Look for products made from natural fibres and also consider the washing and care of your pieces. Switching to an environmentally safe detergent and an eco dry cleaner can further reduce your environmental impact.

You can shop our exclusive Arnsdorf pieces over here.

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