BEHIND THE BRAND: WE INTERVIEW JANETTE LAVER, GOLD COAST DESIGNER
Why Mary is an internationally recognised Australian label with an aesthetic that is hard to miss. The Gold Coast-based brand merges art with fashion through its innovative use of digital prints, and it reflects a relaxed coastal vibe with soft silhouettes and flowing fabrics. Below, designer Janette Laver shares her inspiration, her personal story and her passion for her Australian owned, designed and made ethical fashion label, Why Mary.
Who or what influenced your relationship with fashion growing up?
A lady who managed the local swimming pool with her partner when I was in my early teens! She made her clothes and growing up in a small country town, my friend and I thought she was the coolest woman we had set eyes upon. She then opened a little boutique in Surfers Paradise selling her own clothes as well as truly beautiful vintage dresses that she sourced from all around Australia. Thinking about it, it was probably the first vintage clothing shop on the Gold Coast. Pam was a massive influence on my love of fashion and all things different. My admiration for people who could design and make their own clothes continued, so when the opportunity came along to study Fashion Design, I embraced it.
Did you study fashion or are you self-taught?
I studied Fashion Design part-time for three years at Gold Coast TAFE, then secured a sales position with Lincraft, furthering my understanding of fabrics.
What led you to the launch of your brand and when did you launch?
While raising my daughter, I had a client-based dressmaking business as well as creating one-offs from leftover fabrics and recycled garments. The label has grown organically from a range of unique pieces to launching a small collection in December 2014 at the Gold Coast Turf Club.
Describe your brand to our readers?
The Why Mary brand is all about being unique in your own style and standing out from the mass-produced fast fashion that has consumed our marketplace. The brand steps away from following trends and pushes these limitations to design collections that encourage conversation and awareness. Signature designs often include minimal silhouettes which compliment bold digital prints, giving the brand a creative and artistic essence. All garments are made with attention to quality and detail and follow ethical business practices.
Where are your garments designed and made?
All garments are designed and sampled in-house. Manufacturing is also in-house as well as outsourced locally on the Gold Coast, Australia.
What does a week in your shoes look like?
I try to schedule the week in advance assigning specific jobs to each day. Most mornings I focus on admin and the afternoons are in my studio working on design and production. I work long hours most days however I do take time out for yoga, walking my dog, family and the occasional social event.
Why are you passionate about manufacturing your brand in Australia?
By choosing to manufacture locally, we are supporting the Australian economy, keeping jobs onshore and helping the expansion of other small businesses. High Australian standards ensure products are manufactured in transparent, safe working conditions with fair wages. Logistically, time frames and quality control are more efficient enabling smaller, frequent collections to suit supply and demand for the brand adequately.
Explain the process of one of your garments?
I use art or photography as inspiration for my collections. I enjoy the challenge of choosing images that will work in symmetry with the fabric and design. It’s quite a process and takes considerable time and patience. Once I have my images and colour palettes, I start working on the design, keeping in mind the placement of the print and functionality of it. The completed patterns are digitized, and the edited images are dropped into the pattern for sublimation by the printers. We always do a sample run to ensure layout, colour palettes and sizing are correct. Placement print is a labour-intensive process however it makes the garment unique.
What do you think about fast fashion?
The statistics are alarming! The environmental impact from throwaway fashion is a serious problem across the globe. Child laborers are recruited to meet insidious consumer demands, and this is nothing short of a human rights issue. I’ve become very passionate about this, and I’m proud to be a member of The Dress Collective promoting sustainable and ethical fashion.
How do you define ethics and how do you apply ethics to your business?
Ethics are your moral principles, how you conduct yourself and treat other people on both a personal and business level. I was lucky to grow up in a family with high moral values, and I believe I’ve stayed true to these values. My ethics for my business are to be courteous, professional, community and globally mindful, honest, fair and reasonable at all times.
How do you define sustainability and how do you apply sustainability to your business?
Sustainability looks to protect our natural environment, both human and ecological while driving innovation and not compromising our way of life. Sustainable fashion is ethically sourced, made with longevity in mind and has a minimal impact on the environment. My designs target a niche market of women who are looking for something different. Why Mary pieces are kept for a long time because women love them. I plan on re-using stored off-cuts and dead stock to create a small collection of up-cycled garments promoting sustainability and conscientious consumption.
What challenges do you face as an Australian made brand?
Competing with the ridiculously low prices of clearly unethical offshore manufacturing which produces poor quality throwaway fashion. We need to re-establish a consumer mentality to buy and support quality Australian made and ethically produced garments. How is it that a call out fee for a plumber or an electrician is anywhere between $70-$80 or we can easily spend that on a night out, yet in our current fashion market many consumers consider a tangible item of clothing at this price to be expensive?
Brand highlights or achievements to date?
- Showing in The Dress Collective VAMFF Off Site Runway in 2016
- Set to showcase in the Sunshine Coast International Fashion Festival 2018
- Short-listed to be included in an international mentoring and marketing program through the Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival 2016
This is one Australian made fashion brand on the rise, and it's a journey you don't want to miss. Support Australian made fashion and shop the full range from Why Mary, which is Australian made, handcrafted, sustainable, ethical, vegan, child labour free, cruelty-free and transparent.