THE DRESS COLLECTIVE FEATURES IN ISSUE 4 OF Y.AMB MAGAZINE: MINIMUM OF TWO EDITORIAL
The Dress Collective recently featured in Issue 4 of Y.AMB Magazine, in an incredible shoot entitled 'Minimum of Two'. The editorial exposes some of our best Australian designers and shares a personal interview with our Co-Founder, revealing what we're all about, why The Dress Collective supports Australian made fashion, and we we love every single one of our Australian labels.
So what is The Dress Collective? How does it differ from the average on line store?
The Dress Collective is the new online destination for Australian fashion, but it’s more than just an online shop for Australian designers. The Dress Collective is a support network and creative foundation, built on a vision of positive and sustainable growth for the future of the Australian fashion industry. Our range of fashion designers and independent labels embody the Australian fashion identity, an identity that is innovative and unique. We also strongly believe in quality over quantity, so all of our designers produce their collections locally in Australia with ethical and sustainable practices in mind. Many of our Australian fashion labels produce small run collections or 'make to order', which means that when you shop online from The Dress Collective, you are actively reducing production waste and fashion pollution. The Dress Collective is unique because we embrace slow fashion and Australian-made fashion. There are plenty of online shopping destinations, but only The Dress Collective offers a range of fashion that is locally manufactured with an ethical focus, fashion that is made to order to reduce manufacturing waste, and fashion that makes a difference for the economic growth of our own local communities.
What sparked the creation of the business? How did such a fresh look on Australian fashion come about?
I started my own label almost 10 years ago straight out of school with only Home Economics sewing knowledge; I slowly built my brand by going to the markets every weekend, working two day jobs, learning from internships and picking up sewing skills from my grandmother – so I learnt the hard way. I knew nothing about the online world, business aspects, marketing or social media, and it was hard. After a few years fumbling my way through it all, I studied fashion and business management, but learning everything the hard way taught me what to do and what not to do. It also made me appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that all designers put into their labels. In 2013 in Brisbane, I started Emerge Australia, running monthly fashion shows for emerging designers because nothing existed for them in the local fashion scene at the time. I worked with over 40 designers that year, getting to know each one closely. In 2014, we ran the Teneriffe Festival Emerge Australia Fashion Precinct with 42 designers across 7 runway events in one day, to a crowd of over 10,000 guests. Through countless conversations with designers and working on both large and small-scale fashion productions, it was pretty clear; new labels just need a supportive and reliable platform for national exposure. So, in June 2015, we launched The Dress Collective, and we’re now a happy growing family of 25 designers!
What's the driving vision behind The Dress Collective?
Our ethos is simple: to create a liberal and dynamic future for Australian fashion. By promoting ‘slow fashion’, Australian made fashion, and ethically and sustainably created fashion, we’re ensuring a future for our own industries. We want to create a market that our Australian fashion designers can thrive in, instead of struggle in. It’s incredibly important to support the local infrastructure and economy too, because the fashion industry employs one in six people and it’s not just about the designers. The fashion industry encompasses professionals in many areas – digital, retail, transport, events, primary industries – hundreds of thousands of people in Australia turn the cogs that keep it going. We’re also on a mission to educate Australian consumers about ‘slow fashion’ and why it’s so important to shop local and make responsible fashion choices. 67.5 million tonnes of clothing is made and released into the world every single year, and Australia’s contribution to the world’s fast fashion problem is sending over $500 million dollars of fashion clothing to the tip annually. The Dress Collective promotes slow fashion, exclusive one-off pieces, and made to order pieces, so by doing this, we’re trying to change the way people recklessly consume and throw out fashion.
How long has The Dress Collective been running? What were the biggest challenges you have faced?
The Dress Collective officially launched in June this year, but we’ve been piecing it together bit by bit over the last few years. We’ve actually experienced a lot of support, which we’re really grateful for, but there are always challenges with anything new! One of our biggest challenges is substantiating the price point of Australian fashion, which is often a lot higher than mass produced, sweatshop-made, cheap fast fashion. Many shoppers don’t seem to understand why an Australian made dress might be $200-$300, but when you consider that it has been ethically made by a trained machinist who works a normal 8 hour day and receives normal breaks, who works under an award wage with superannuation, in a studio or a factory that meets stringent safety standards, that's where the cost is. And when you compare that to a piece of fast fashion that’s been made by an 8 year old who works 12 hour days in unsafe conditions with no breaks and gets paid barely enough to eat with… It’s an easy choice to make, but a hard truth to communicate to consumers, and that’s the challenge the face.
What’s the family like behind The Dress Collective? Is there a particular kind of person you look for when sourcing your team?
The Dress Collective family isn’t just the team that works at HQ, it’s the designers as well, as it’s the reason behind the name because we are a collective. We have an absolutely incredible team behind the scenes at HQ who work unimaginably hard because they care about Australian fashion in ways I can’t even explain! But without the designers who share our passion, there is no collective, so we’re also incredibly lucky to have so many passionate, talented, creative designers on board with The Dress Collective who are just as determined to create a future for Australian fashion as we are. We’re all working towards the same goal and it’s really inspiring to know that so many creative people care about the same things we do.
We recently worked with you and your designers on the Bonnie Doon editorial, which has featured in this issue; does The Dress Collective get involved in a lot of shoots and creative events?
We love collaborating and we’re working on shoots and creative events all the time! There are a number of stylists, photographers and event planners that come to us regularly to work with our designers, so there’s never a dull moment. We recently collaborated with the Australian Academy of Modelling on one of their graduate shoots, and we’ve got several runway events and charity shows coming up in the New Year.
What's your favourite part of the job?
As a Co-Founder, there are a million and one things that go on every single day, and I love it all! One of the best parts though, is finding new labels; I find it so inspiring every time I see a new label and discover another way of designing, or another way of expressing fashion. Fashion is such a personal thing, and it’s just so interesting to see how different people communicate fashion in different ways, and I love it. Sharing the journey with designers is really special to me as well, as I speak with all of our designers weekly, talking about their news and how they’re going. It’s really personal and I meet a lot of truly creative and lovely people and it makes me appreciate what we have in Australia and the fact that we live somewhere with the resources and freedom to design and create the fashion we want to. It’s really unique.
What pre-requisites do designers have to meet before joining The Dress Collective?
The only prerequisite for The Dress Collective is being Australian made! We welcome students, non-students, designers who work normal day jobs and work on their label on the weekends, designers who make one-off pieces or make to order… When you’re starting out in fashion, there’s no such thing as your ‘average designer profile’, and we get that, so there are no limits other than being passionate about quality fashion and being Australian made.
If an Australian designer wants to join The Dress Collective how should they go about it?
Just get in touch! We’re super friendly and it’s a very simple process, because we look after everything online. There’s no messing around with your own store or working out complex web stuff, we do it all for our designers and it’s as easy as sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.
What does The Dress Collective most look forward to this summer?
We’re not so much focussed on trends and seasonal collections from our designers, because it can sometimes create the ideal of ‘past season’ or ‘out of fashion’, and we’d rather our shoppers think long-term about their purchases. But, as with every Australian summer, we love the swimwear collections that our designers come up with! Australia is arguably the world's best destination when it comes to coastal holidays, balmy beaches and summer sunsets, and the same reputation applies for our Australian swimwear designer. Australian swimwear designers are accustomed to the complexities of 40 degree salty days in the sun and the kind of swimwear over-use that only comes from living in a country surrounded by endless beaches. It is this understanding of our climate that influences the intricate design features and fabrications that make Australian swimwear so unique, and at The Dress Collective, we stock an incredible range of it! We're also super excited about our 2016 Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival event on February 13th, so stay tuned for more details.
To view the full 'MINIMUM OF TWO' editorial, head to Y.AMB Magazine.
Photographer: Andrew Gough Photography
Creative Direction: Sian Lee
Stylist: Rachel Dowling
HMUA: Love Hawkridge
Models: Naomi Piota (Folk Collective) and Emma Hakansson