Sustainable Fashion: 100% Australian
Working from their home studio in Brisbane Australia, Sarah Garrett-Hodoniczky and Jason Hodoniczky started their first ethical fashion label, Rant Clothing in 2003. Determined to support local manufacturing in a competitive globalised market, Rant began as a small range of wraps and belts using upcycled fabrics that Sarah sewed herself. Their second label, Bestowed, launched in 2011 as a vegan friendly label produced using pure organic cottons. They then launched Sustainable Fashion at the end of 2012 as an online store to showcase their 2 labels and a range of accessories all selected to be ethical, natural and local. We caught up with this multi-tasking designer to find out more:
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your design background (and how does your partner Jason figure into the story?)
I grew up in New Zealand, though never liked the cold weather, so when I was 18 I moved here to sunny Brisbane. I have always sewed and made things. From a young age I made dolls clothes as well as things for myself to wear. I used to hand sew them all until my 7th birthday when I got my first sewing machine. My love for clothes lead me to the fashion industry, retail at first. I worked for a small group of stores that grew to 5 stores and we decided that we needed to design and make our own garments to have exactly what our customers wanted. I would work in the store all day, then go home at night, design and make samples of garments. This all grew too big, 13 stores and started to lose it’s unique feel. This was the perfect time for me to leave as my son was due and I was ready to experience a different world.
I met Jason 6 years later, we were total opposites, he was doing a PhD in Chemical Engineering. We had this connection and found that even though we looked at things in a totally different way, we were great together. He has a logical brain and I have a whimsical one. A year later we were living together and decided to start a label as my son was now at school.
How did you come to start Rant and what were it’s beginnings ?
Rant started in 2003 with a small range of wraps and belts. I would sit up all night and make them all myself, then sell them wholesale to stores, get money back to then buy more fabric. Gradually as we got more money behind us, we were able to start making a range of garments and got other people to help sew them.We worked until late each night after Jason came home from work. We were only wholesale until two years ago when we started to sell online. At this time, Jason left the science world to work full time in fashion.
How did Bestowed evolve?
It was created because we wanted to have a label that took our eco-credentials further and is 100% Vegan friendly. It is designed to be perfect for wearing in the tropics where it is very hot and humid. Bestowed is also perfect for travelling as it is so light and can be easily washed in the hotel room basin, hung up and dry by morning.You can wear the garments anywhere, out to dinner with nice sandals or even sleep in them because they are so comfortable. All the garments are pre-washed in rainwater.
What matters to you most as a fashion designer?
I want people to wear my clothes and love wearing them all the time. Also making locally is very important to me. The people who sew for us love doing so because they work from home, pick the kids up from school and work when they choose to. They are paid Australian wages plus holidays and super annuation (9% into a fund for retirement). They also sew the whole garment from start to finish. I think this makes the end garment ‘feel’ different.
What are your favorite fabrics to work with and why?
Natural fibres are the only types I work with. I get a rash if I wear polyester or other ‘plastic’ fabrics, so it made it easy to only use fabrics I can wear. I use cotton, linen, ethical wool , silk, and also cellulose based fabrics like bamboo, tencel, cupro and rayons. As they are plant-based, they are absorb moisture and feel silky on your skin all while having a nice drape.
You’ve now launched Sustainable Fashion, was it always part of the vision to also do retail?
We were selling our range of bamboo jersey basics called ‘epidermal layers ‘on our Rant Clothing website , but found so many people wanted the full range and no retail store had all the matching pieces . We also wanted to have our garments available at times when people wanted to buy them. Retail stores sell winter garments before it gets cold , summer before it is hot and always want to move on to new styles. My customers want to be able to get their favourite tee next year and the year after if they like the shape. Having SustainableFashion.com.au I can offer a better range and carry stock which helps the retail stores when they want to top up on styles.
If you could give advice to a young designer, what would you tell them?
If you are passionate about designing, then do it. Keep true to what you think is beautiful and do not tone it down too much to suit the market. You have to sometimes, but make sure it is still how you imagined the garment. You need to have drive as well as passion as it is not easy and you will probably work for a few years before you get paid. But you will be doing something you love and life should not be wasted doing a job you do not love, just for the money and security.
What is in the future for the brand?
I want to keep both labels at a manageable size so that they do not lose the essence that makes then different to mass produced garments. I want to find new fabrics to work with that feel great to wear and have less impact on our environment. I am excited that so many innovations are coming out and that the textile industry is evolving to meet the challenges.