We Need To Support Local Production While We Still Can

by: Rosie Dalton | 7 months ago | Features

Image: local designer Momoko Hatano in her Sydney studio. 

Shopping ‘local’ is a concept that's bandied around a lot at the moment – especially in relation to food. But it's one that we often forget about in the context of our wardrobes. At Well Made Clothes, we would argue that this is actually a critical space for this sort of consideration, though – because the forces of globalisation have meant that many local fashion manufacturers are now struggling to survive. And, as a result, we are left with an industry that's dominated by low cost overseas production, which comes at a high cost to people and the planet. It is for this reason that ‘Local’ is one of our eight core values underpinning the site.

To meet our ‘Local’ value, brands must prove that a minimum 80% of their Cut Make and Trim (CMT) production takes place in their country of origin. In addition to this, all our brands must adhere to a rigorous code of conduct that requires them to meet minimum labour and environmental standards. In other words, the local garments that you see on Well Made Clothes must be sewn and made onshore, thus reducing resources wasted and increasing quality control.

As an Australian company, we believe in supporting the underdogs in fashion – and supporting them while we still can. So with local production now unfortunately in decline, it is now or never to help keep the onshore fashion industry alive. "A lot of family-owned businesses are having to shut down because there's just not enough demand for their services," explains well-made designer Jillian Boustred. "So it's really important to support Australian-made labels in order to keep the industry alive," she says. 

Our ‘Local’ value doesn't just mean supporting Australian fashion, though, because we have shaped this with respect to a brand’s country of origin. But a lot of our local brands on Well Made Clothes are from Australia, or from neighbouring nations like New Zealand. So supporting these brands means helping to keep jobs and industry onshore. Which is important because, as the Australian Financial Review points out, local manufacturing ultimately contributes to our gross domestic product and exports.

Beyond this, though, supporting locally made fashion also means taking control of our wardrobes in the sense that local brands often tend to have greater control over (and visibility of) their supply chains. "I have a really good relationship with everyone I work with – from the fabric suppliers, to pattern makers and seamstresses," Boustred says. "I have a lot of respect for them and think this is what makes the production process responsible."

Making clothes locally can mean tighter margins and smaller production runs for designers, but from a consumer perspective, it also means higher quality and more original designs. The reason so many brands are now turning to overseas manufacturing, of course, is because it is much cheaper. But keeping manufacturing alive onshore means you can have a good understanding of where your clothes came from and the working conditions of the people who made them. 

This is is about more than just saving jobs. It is also about retaining creativity in the local fashion industry and ensurng that brands can become more adaptable overall. As Nobody Denim explains: “Our commitment to manufacturing in Australia allows us to respond immediately to current trends, customer needs and keep jobs in Australia." Individually hand customised in the brand’s Melbourne factory, a pair of jeans by Nobody Denim is thus extremely high quality and uses the very best fabrics, sourced from premium denim mills around the world.

Similarly, local jeweller Momoko Hatano crafts all of her beautiful pieces in a Sydney studio and labels such as Miss Crabb and Penny Sage are helping to support the local New Zealand fashion industry through progressive design and luxe fabrication. But these brands are the exception rather than the rule unfortunately. In fact, according to the Council of Textiles and Fashion Industries of Australia92% of clothes sold in Australia are actually imported. And primarily, garment manufacturing takes place in poorer developing nations, passing through many different hands and even continents before making it into our wardrobes. Which is an approach that is very resource-heavy, while also complicating the supply chain and making it more difficult to keep a close eye on.

So in many respects, then, supporting locally-made fashion is not really so different from buying local produce. It allows you to give back to the community and the economy, while also reducing the energy wasted in transporting your goods. Perhaps above all, though, it allows you to gain greater insight into how your goods were made and under what conditions. As we become increasingly detached from the actual makers of our clothing, shopping local represents a way to reconnect with the people who make our clothes and, therefore, take greater control over our wardrobes. 


You can shop locally made fashion over here.

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