Australian fashion is an industry is uniquely tied to its surrounds, a market inspired by the unworldly beauty of our environment. This rings especially true for bassike.
The idea for this label was born in Sydney's Northern Beaches, in the quiet suburb of Avalon - an unpretentious haven of beach lovers where shoes are optional and the woman next to you in an artsy kaftan is probably an executive at one of the big four.
It's a place of relaxation, an essence that was captured by bassike right at the beginning. A brand that began with a little pop-up shop right at the entrance to Avalon, it started with a range of simple organic cotton pieces designed for the Avalon lifestyle. From its humble beginnings, bassike has now fused with the Avalon identity. And it's been said a Bassike tee is now a necessary passport stamp to enter the Northern Beaches district.
Now, as one of Australia's most iconic designers, bassike has moved out of its original store to a new location, aptly, in the heart of Avalon. And it's just opened.
We spoke to the founders ahead of the store launch: Deborah Sams, founder and creative director and Mary Lou Ryan, founder and director of sustainability and supply chain. Together the pair shared with us their unique origin story and a few of their favourite local coffee spots.
Can you tell us about the Bassike origin story?
Lou: Deb and I launched bassike in 2006 with a range of organic cotton jersey pieces. We made a conscious decision back then to use organic cotton in our very first collection, and to this day we are still committed to using sustainable fabrications and supporting the local industry by producing garments in Australia. The idea behind bassike was to create classic, quality wardrobe staples, with the versatility to work back with pieces you already own season after season – we wanted luxurious pieces that you could easily wash and wear every day.
Why did you set up shop in Avalon?
Deb: I grew up on the Northern Beaches and live there now with my family – so it’s the only place that has ever felt like home to me. Our original Avalon store actually begun as a guerrilla style pop-up, but it became such a cornerstone of the community that it remained in that same location for over decade. We are excited to have just opened at a new, larger location in Avalon with lofty ceilings, and an abundance of natural light. It’s a calming and beautiful space that truly aligns with the bassike aesthetic and elegantly ties to the beach side location.
Tell us about the area? What is special to you about Avalon?
Deb: “Life is pretty peaceful and earthy up here living in what many people refer to as ‘the bubble’. It’s a wonderful part of the world and has had a big influence on my designs and the feeling of the brand.”
Is this a place that inspires you?
Deb: Growing up at Whale Beach I have a deep connection with the ocean and environment, and this is reflected in the way I design bassike collections and the lifestyle of our bassike team, friends and community.
For the visitors, where are your favourite place to get coffee or eat?
Deb: I love The Hungry Ghost and Franks Bar for coffee, they are both opposite our store. Alma shares a laneway with our new bassike store and is great for Mexican food and a margarita or two.
Some of my other local favourites include Bistro Boulevard for delicious French food, Bookoccino, Haven and Sarah for fresh blooms and Composition By Office Elias for browsing vintage furniture and homewares.”
Describe your perfect beachside outfit?
Deb: Anything in our sustainable linen for cool cover ups over Summer, or our vintage printed cotton pant with a bassike organic cotton jersey t.shirt or tank – I’ve been collecting vintage prints from my travel destinations for years and they’re always perfect for the warm weather.
How do you stay creative?
Deb: I need peace, quiet and thinking time to get into a creative space. This year I have been working from home more than usual which has allowed me look at the world with different eyes. I think that we are going through a major shift and re calibration right now, which is important to tap into.
The environment around you plays such a big role in the bassike identity. So, is sustainability important to the brand?
Lou: Yes, our philosophy has always been centred on high quality design, construction and a commitment to sustainable and ethical manufacturing. Being made in Australia is core to the bassike DNA, and something that Deb and I are very passionate about.
One of the most poignant decisions for us when we launched the brand was the use of GOTS certified organic cotton; it’s better for our health, for the farmers in the supply chain, and the environment through the ban of insecticides and pesticides. Our organic cotton jersey that was developed exclusively by us for that very first collection is still part of our collections today – almost 15 years on!
Today we work with some of the best suppliers, from all over the world – including artisan denim makers in japan who recycle the water used in the indigo dying process; a vertical go green certified cashmere supplier that owns their farms, dye labs and garment knitting factory for supply chain transparency; and a local, solar-powered garment factory that also ensures the beauty and benefit of a short supply chain – all bound by a code of conduct and sustainability commitment.
How does sustainability play a role in your designs?
Lou: Every day we work alongside a talented team of local pattern makers, knitters, cutters, washhouses, pressers, fabric suppliers and tailors, many who are family run businesses like our own, and have been part of the bassike story since the beginning. It definitely influences our designs, but it’s often not until people join our business and become part of this process that we are reminded this is pretty unique in our industry and how much more involved, creative – and challenging – making in Australia, from scratch is. It’s all we have known, and we wouldn’t do it any other way!
What can we expect in the future from Bassike?
Lou: You will continue to see considered collections that keep quality design and sustainability top of mind – we are constantly evaluating how we can improve our processes and lessen our impact on the planet. We are also working hard to continue to grow the bassike brand both at home in Australia and further aboard.