Our move into the 21st century saw the Australian manufacturing sector slow to a crawl. The boom of the eighties and nineties was gone, brands picked up and moved their processes off-shore.
But now, 20 years later, there is a change. Manufacturing is returning to Australia and many new and emerging brands are looking to Australian makers first.
What is driving our return home? We spoke to local creative Courtney Noble of Noble Label to discover more about the shift in Australian fashion. Noble Label has a sustainability-first mindset, a brand which started in Australia and will stay in Australia - and Courtney shares how these sustainability and consumer demand are sending our beloved Australian fashion industry homeward bound.
Do you think more brands are choosing to manufacture locally?
Definitely. When we started Noble a few years ago, our fabric cutter would tell us how much work had slowed down. He used to have a booming business in the eighties and nineties, but then everyone began moving their production offshore. But over the last year he has been completely flat out again as new brands come to him in search for local manufacturers to make their production.
Why do you think many brands are now starting to or keeping their production local?
We think brands choosing to make local has been on the increase as customers demand more transparency from the brands they shop with. If you’re a small business like us, it’s far easier and less expensive to visit our manufacturers when they are local or in the same country, rather than travelling overseas a few times a year.
As a fashion designer, why do you think local manufacturing is important?
For us at Noble, having a strong relationship with our makers is a really important part of the process. It ensures that any hand that helps in the making is properly paid and working conditions are not compromised to get product out the door. As emerging designers we have so much to learn, so being on the ground with our makers helps us refine our production process without having to make costly mistakes.
Another great thing about making locally is also not having the headache of working out logistics. It’s much easier for us to arrange a shipment across the city or interstate than from the other side of the world.
Is it a more sustainable choice?
Producing locally allows us to have smaller order quantities which helps to eliminate waste of unneeded products. It has also reduced our carbon footprint and allows us to do small-impact measures like not individually wrapping products in plastic.
We are also able to salvage our fabric off-cuts and turn them into smaller products like scrunchies and tote bags so nothing gets wasted.
What do you wish more people knew about local production vs international?
While there are many pros to producing locally, we can’t forget about certain skills and crafts that come from artisans overseas such as embroidery, weaving and hand-looming. There needs to be a balance between global and local production so that we don’t lose these specialised skills and techniques.
It’s also important mentioning that using local manufacturers isn’t always attainable for every brand either. We are fortunate to be able to make our clothing in a bustling Sydney hub of manufacturers and suppliers.
Do you have any advice for shoppers or for other emerging designers?
We are at a pivotal point where shoppers and brands alike are re-evaluating their practices and purchases. As online shopping increases, brands and customers are able to have a more direct relationship with each other, so understanding what the customer wants as a business is much more accessible.
As a young brand, we’ve seen how customers react when we post a photo of our makers at work or our deadstock fabric warehouses we visit. For us transparency is key, and our customers rely on us to be responsible, both socially and environmentally.
For us, producing locally is a great way to access that kind of transparency customers are looking for.
Images: Noble Label