Made to order: a move towards conscious consumerism

Powered by carbon neutral energy, biodegradable packaging and carbon neutral delivery, Melbourne label Olearia has thought about more than just good style.

Made locally and shipped from their North Melbourne studio, Olearia designers Ellen and Laura are challenging the traditional shopping experience with their made to order model.

While traditionally labels manufacture garments before releasing them in store or online, ready for sale when unveiled to the public, Olearia take a different approach: they showcase their collection to the public, and wait until sales come through before going to production.

“We (humans) have been conditioned to gain fulfilment through immediate gratification. The rise of the fast fashion industry has really made an impact on that behaviour and subsequently how we buy and interact with clothing.

“It’s exciting and challenging to attempt to reverse the actions that societal pressures have ingrained in us,” said Ellen.

Keeping production local not only supports their made to order model, it keeps Olearia sustainable and transparent.

“It’s easier for our partners to understand our expectations. For example, we choose to collect our fabric from one of our suppliers and in doing so, are able to opt for them not to wrap the roll in plastic,” said Laura.

In a world of fast fashion where the turnaround of new styles can happen in a matter of hours, Olearia keep to their values. While waiting for an order for more than a few days can seem foreign in today’s world, for Olearia it means only going to production for items people really want.

“We pattern-make and construct every garment in our studio based in North Melbourne. We currently ship each order within 1-3 weeks depending on complexity and fabric availability.

“Our skivvy was manufactured by CGT in Brunswick. They are a family-owned and operated business who specialise in high quality garment construction and small production runs”.

Olearia linen wrap jacket in chartreuse

Combining luxury style with sustainable practices, Olearia avoid petroleum derived synthetic fabrics due to its inability to break down, and instead focus on using deadstock fabric.

“Deadstock fabric is essentially an immense amount of fabric that is considered undesirable and therefore disposable by textile mills and garment factories.

“The reasons these fabrics become unwanted by these businesses can range from something not being completely accurate in colour to just an oversight in the amount that has been ordered,” said Ellen.

“In using deadstock fabric, we are utilising something that may well have wound up in landfill or being destroyed,” adds Laura.

“We designed our first (almost) zero waste garment this season, our silk/cotton wrap skirt, so I’m really looking forward to exploring more innovative and sustainable patternmaking techniques in the future,” said Ellen.

A case of the ‘chicken and the egg’, Ellen and Laura share what comes first in their creative process; deadstock fabric or designs.

“We are a little haphazard when it comes to our design process. First, we choose a few fabric pieces we love aesthetically and discuss how it will feel on the skin and how practical it will be for the consumer to wear and launder,” said Laura.

From there, both start designing pieces individually and draw on inspiration from others. Once they’ve both decided on the designs that will form part of their next collection, Ellen and Laura pair them with the fabrics they had previously selected and review how they work together.

“We will adjust designs if necessary to better suit the fabric,” said Ellen.

Olearia linen slip in chartreuse worn over the silk voile blouse

Talking sustainability, Laura shares their reasoning for choosing sustainable practices beyond their collection, such as how their studio is powered, what packaging they use and their package delivery partner.

“We wouldn’t consider ourselves a sustainable business had we not researched each and every component of our operations. We are always trying to be more sustainable,” said Laura.

“It’s important to remember that making clothing at this point in time isn’t inherently sustainable, so we design and manufacture high-quality, ethical clothing using natural fibres in order to ensure garment longevity,” adds Ellen.

Looking towards the future, Ellen and Laura are committed to continuing sustainability in style, exploring zero waste patterns and plant-based dyes, while considering their social impact.

“We currently donate $5 from every sale to the Malala Fund, a wonderful organisation with the aim of improving girls’ access to education. We are also now at expanding this contribution to Victorian-based charity Djirra, an organisation that provides practical support to Aboriginal people experiencing family violence.

“As we grow we would like to invest more time and energy into giving back to community, both locally and internationally”, said Laura.

Olearia wool trench and wool wide leg pant over the silk voile blouse

While it’s difficult to say whether made to order will impact or shift the fashion industry long-term, Ellen reflects on the universal shift towards a more conscious form of consumption currently underway.

“We do believe that consumer education and business transparency are integral in influencing these consumption habits. Hopefully the ability for the consumer to customise their garment and have it handmade with unique finishing touches becomes the norm again”.


Images courtesy of Olearia.

February 24, 2019