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Lois Hazel On How She Minimises Waste In The Supply Chain

by: Rosie Dalton | 8 months ago | Features

Image: designer Lois Hazel.

Lois Hazel is a Melbourne designer who is committed to minimising waste throughout the supply chain. Updating classic silhouettes with design elements that are both thoughtful and functional, her pieces are locally made onshore, often using deadstock fabrics that may otherwise end up in landfill. To celebrate new Lois Hazel pieces landing on the site, we asked Lois to share her brand story and how she minimises waste in her production process.

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us a bit about how Lois Hazel first began?
Lois Hazel: Throughout my studies I always toyed with the idea of starting my own brand, and I knew that if I did go down that path I would need to do it properly. So, when I finished my studies I was lucky enough to spend some time overseas interning for brands such as Marchesa in New York and Iris Van Herpen in Amsterdam, as well as a semester of study at the Paris American Academy in France. It was during this time that I really saw how fashion houses operated, and got a great insight into what it meant to run a fashion business.

During my studies, I also became increasingly aware of the negative impact that the fashion industry as a whole has on the world around us. I became especially aware of the terrible conditions that a large number of garment workers faced on a daily basis. This realisation led me to conclude that if I was to start my own brand I must do what I could to ensure that everyone would be looked after equally, be paid fairly and be able to enjoy life because of what they did.

So when I returned to Melbourne after my time away, knowing that I was finally going to start Lois Hazel, I made a promise that I was going to be honest with myself, the people I worked with and my customers.

Image: the Fold Drop Dress.

Rosie: Why are you so passionate about producing onshore?
: It allows me to have a direct and personal relationship with the people that make my clothes. It also gives me the opportunity to be closer to the factories, meaning I can pop in and check on how everything is going and ensure value and quality. I don’t have to wait until everything arrives to find out if something has gone wrong; I can work through any issues face to face. It's always super encouraging knowing that I am supporting our local industry. I love going to my factory and seeing all the people it employs and how happy they all are working there, and knowing they are being looked after and paid a fair wage. 

In saying this, I’m not opposed to working in other countries, but I think it’s really important to be able to visit, meet and talk to the people I work with face to face. The makers I get to work with aren’t just a business arrangement, or a name at the end of an email, they are all a part of the LH family and I want them to feel as much a part of its success as I do.

Image: the Fold Trousers.

Rosie: What benefits and/or challenges does this bring to the brand?
Lois: I have always made things locally, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to in terms of challenges/benefits. I don’t really see the challenges, as for me the benefits of being able to have a close and personal relationships with my factories and makers outweigh any issues that come up.  

Of course there are higher costs involved in getting things produced locally but if it means I know 100% that I am paying a fair wage not just to the factory owner or contractor, but to the workers themselves, it is worth it. Also there is some incredible talent on our shores and being able to work with them and see the quality when picking up my production is super exciting.

Image: the Fold Drop Dress.

Rosie: Can you run us through the lifecycle of your garments, from concept to creation?
: Each range often starts with a fabric. I find it really hard to imagine my garments without knowing what I’m going to make them out of first. I like to design pieces that are simplistic yet have a small detail that provides some unique character and differentiation. This might be a pleat, a gather or even a simple tie.

So once I have found a fabric that really sparks an idea, I develop a rough idea and start creating toiles, which I often tweak until I’m happy with the shape, fit and fall. Then when a final sample is made and the pattern is finalised, it is either made in house, by one of our extremely talented seamstresses or at one of the local factories that we get to work with. 

Image: the Smooth Rib Tee.

Rosie: How would you describe the local fashion community in Melbourne?
Lois: Wonderful! It is such a great hub of creativity and encouragement. 

Rosie: Why is minimal waste important to you and how does this extend through to your garments?
: Fashion is one of the top 5 most polluting industries in the world, so as a designer it is my responsibility to ensure that I am doing something to tackle this. I don’t think I can just choose to be a designer or run a business in this industry without acknowledging my responsibility to ensure I am aware of the waste that I produce.

One of the ways I do this is through using deadstock fabrics. I don’t think that using deadstock fabric is the final solution, but it does mean I am able to use fabrics that are just sitting around or may potentially end up in landfill.

Another way is through using certified fabrics. There can be a huge amount of toxins and water waste in fabric production, so through using fabrics that are certified by the Global Organic Textiles Standards (GOTS), I know that I am working in a space where waste is also considered. In the next collection I am using a beautiful GOTS organic cotton rib and hemp/GOTS organic cotton blend which I am so excited about. 

Finally, through ensuring that my garments are well made, and designed in a way that isn’t trend driven, they aren’t just going to end up in the trash after a couple of wears and washes. I love knowing that customers are still wearing their LH pieces from my first collection 3 years ago. I don’t want to design pieces that are just made for one season, but rather will be with their owner for years to come and hopefully even passed down through generations.

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