As much as I love interviewing ethical designers from all around the world - it's always very special when I get to chat to someone based here in Australia! In 2007 designer Kelli Donovan and photographer Sean Watson went out on a limb and launched their own ethical fashion label - Pure Pod.
I recently spoke to Kelli about the ups and downs of starting an eco-fashion brand. Theirs is a story of dedication, creativity and determination that I found to be very inspiring...I hope you will too!
Q. Why are sustainability and social ethics an important part of fashion design for you?
We don't believe sustainability and ethics should be a choice as a manufacturer and designer. We think it is an integral part of design. We all need a healthy planet to live and survive so why should it be something we ignore when manufacturing products. We all have the responsibility to do the right thing as this planet is borrowed from the next generations. If we stuff it up what are they going to do? No powerful organisations, huge amounts of money or large armies are going to bring back a healthy planet are they?
You can make beautiful things with the right choices and feel good about making them. This story then makes our stockists and customers feel good about what they are purchasing, knowing they are making ethical consumer choices! We have a close relationship with many of our makers, printers, cutters, pattern makers. Many of whom we have been working with for 8 years now and we always want to make sure they are okay and enjoy their work.
It's a tough trade sitting behind a machine or printing or cutting everyday! If they are working in terrible conditions this would only make it worse on their mental and physical health. I believe this feeling will come out in the clothing and then to the wearer! Fast fashion is great at this! I just couldn't do it any other way. Why make ethical and sustainable clothing you are passionate about if the story behind it doesn't match the beautiful eco garments? Just doesn't make sense, so to me there is no choice!!
Q. How would you describe Pure Pod's aesthetic in 10 words or less?
Life style, passion, nature lover, adventurer, slight touch of vintage, dreamer, compassion, clean cut styles that will last the test of time, a life long story behind it << Hee hee slightly over 10 words ;-) Love the answer though!
Q. What are some of the challenges you've faced as an eco-friendly fashion brand? How did you overcome them?
A huge challenge is to make in Australia. It is getting harder and harder to survive as a brand. Many of our wonderful crafts people are retiring and there is not a younger generation coming through, plus these people are taking with them amazing skills that younger generations do not know.
Also being Australian Made doesn't get as much media support as a Fair Trade or offshore made ethical brands. These brands are wonderful but we love our makers and know if we stop giving them work they won't survive and many won't get other work as they are too old in their fields to start another career.
Cash flow is always a big one for all designers, retailers and suppliers. This one we all have to juggle constantly and often paying ourselves last after everyone has been paid and looked after! Ethical and eco fabric suppliers — it can be very hard somethings finding eco-certified fabrics which are good quality and wear well, wash well and stand the test of time. Sometimes real eco-organic veggie dyed fabrics can be much softer than a hard wearing synthetic fabric. We need to educate our customers that this is the case.
Q. What's your favourite piece in-store right now (I think mine is your Amazon Dress)?
My current favourite is the veggie and herb dyed, hand block printed, organic cotton Mandala Peplum top. I have both colourways - mud sport and the indigo spot. I can't take them off. The fabric is so soft on your skin and beautiful for hot days. It can be layered for cooler days and looks great with pants or a skirt. We have sold this to many different shaped women and they all look amazing wearing it. Even larger busted customers have loved this top. They were hesitant to put it on but once they did they took it!
The fabric is hand block printed with mineral, veggie and herb dyes. These dyes are virtually at Ayervedic medicine levels, so they are good for your skin and body. As our skin is the largest organ in your body it is smart to put things on it which are pure and organic as much as possible as chemicals from our clothing and skin products can go into our skin.
Q. If you had to choose another profession — what would it be?
I am also a yoga and Pilates teacher so I think I would go into the health and well-being industry more and learn also to paint or sculpt! I love making people feel relaxed and get in touch with their bodies and mind, and release stresses from their everyday lives. The best feeling is when my students sit up from the Savasana (relaxation) at the end of class and they are all dreamy and relaxed! It's almost like they have gone out of their busy minds and back into their bodies, a grounding feeling! This calms the nervous system and mind!
Q. Who or what is currently inspiring you?
I love all the amazing artists, crafters and designers we meet in the designer market circles, through different groups I am a part of and just in everyday life! I am not always into following famous people but those who are making a difference in their everyday lives for the better!
Q. What does 2015 hold for Pure Pod?
This year we have a strong focus on our children's collection - 'dirtgirlworld' organic and ethical kids clothing. We are launching it at Kids In Style in Sydney on 19th February. We are producing the collection for the ABCTV 2 kids show 'dirtgirlworld.'
We are very passionate about it as we have a little 4 year old girl called Ruby. We want to make families and parents aware of their natural surrounds and to take care of the planet from every purchase to every step! This show teaches kids about the natural world, recycling and just getting outdoors and having fun! Plus it is a fun program with music, colour and learning. Get outside and get grubby!
You can connect with Pure Pod via Facebook and Twitter - KBC x