Organic Crew: fashion that treads lightly

Introducing another partner for this year’s Trash Tribe expedition to Chilli Beach – the wonderful folk over at Organic Crew. You may have noticed our tribe rocking the beautiful organic cotton tees that Organic Crew created for the expedition. Read more about the brand below.

We love the story behind Organic Crew – can you tell us how you went from working in the corporate world to starting a sustainable, ethical and organic clothing brand?

The seed was planted when I was quite young and working at Esprit with a visionary leader who cared. His name was John Bell and he taught me that you had to be mindful of every part of the process and do as little harm as possible (to the environment, animals and people) whilst creating beautiful product.  More recently, I have worked for some larger corporates and seen firsthand the effects of fast fashion – I wanted to create a brand that manufactured the right way, stood for something, and inspired and educated.

Tell us why organic cotton is so important for the health of our planet and our bodies?

The way organic cotton is grown is better for the planet, the animals and the people who tend to the crops. The process uses way less water and the waste is clean. The effect of organic cotton on our bodies is non-toxic, which is so important as reducing the volume of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis is important. You need to do what you can.

Do you think there is a trend towards more companies using organic textiles, or is there still a long way to go?

Prior to starting Organic Crew, I ran a cold pressed juice company and could see the growth of organic in the food industry. I think there is a movement happening where people now care about what goes into their food and onto their skin. So the movement has started with food, then moved to skincare and now clothing. The skin is the largest organ in the body and therefore can absorb the most chemicals. People are beginning to understand the differences and effects.

Melbourne was the original hub of Australian fashion, why was it so important for you to produce your garments in Melbourne rather than offshore?

It was very important as I needed to be able visit the factory and oversee what was happening at every point. We have just been accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia who have very strict guidelines on the use of labour and conditions. I wanted complete transparency and having a factory located in Melbourne made this possible. It was also so nice to go “old school” in our approach. I grew up working in fashion and to be able to give these local factories the work when so many go offshore felt so good. One of our garment workers has been sewing in our factory for 38 years! Plus the quality is amazing, you will see this in our garments, they are made with love!

What advice would you give to other brands wanting to start using more sustainable textiles or produce in Australia?

It is possible and there are so many options in terms of materials. The margins are obviously lower given the local production but the quality is amazing and the people are so great to work with. It is definitely a growth category and demand is rising. I know our factory makes many well known Australian brands with more coming on board every day.

Lastly, why did you want to support the Trash Tribe expedition as a brand partner?

We are passionate about the environment and making a small difference where we can. We heard about the Trash Tribe whilst on holiday in Byron Bay and wanted to help in any way we could. Our beaches are the best in the world and we all need to look after the country we are so blessed to live in. We are so grateful that we could contribute to this initiative and hope that education and awareness will lead to cleaner beaches in the future.

@mishkusk wearing @organic.crew at Chilli Beach, Cape York

Surf Collective: supporting independent labels

There was a time when the surf retail industry was dominated by the big name brands, but now we see more and more smaller independent brands emerging – brands that care for the environment, brands that are more interested in slow fashion, brands run by surfers like you and me!

We spoke to one of our partners, Surf Collective, about how they’re supporting small independent surf brands.

 

Firstly, can you share with us the inspiration and story behind Surf Collective?
We were inspired to launch Surf Collective with a very simple, clear ambition… to promote and support smaller, independent Aussie surf brands. Our purpose is to provide these brands a greater voice, by connecting them to each other in one place, so customers all over the world can more easily find them. We’d noticed a number of small surf brands at local markets with some really amazing products. And whilst most had their own website, they struggled to reach critical mass and move beyond being a side gig. So at the end of 2015 we launched with just 12 small brands and now, less than 2 years later, have over 75 brands on board – across fashion, art, jewellery and hardware.

There certainly seems to be more smaller independent surf brands on the scene these days – have you seen a shift in the surf industry with more of these brands emerging? Or are we just more aware of them now?

I believe there are more of these smaller independent surf brands these days and hopefully we are contributing to people being more aware of them too! Technology such as the web and e-commerce have certainly helped budding entrepreneurs cost effectively get their businesses off the ground and into distant markets. Culturally too, people have changed. There is increasing consumer interest in an organisation’s philosophy – where their products are made, what environmental impact they have, what the quality is like and how profits are utilised. You only have to look at the growing popularity of Farmers’ markets around Australia to see evidence of this.

Do you think the average surfer is increasingly looking to support and engage with smaller brands these days?

I do…though not necessarily because the brands are small but because of what they are motivated by. The ‘average surfer’, like most people, wants to feel engaged and enjoy an emotional connection with a brand. To feel appreciated as a customer and know there is an interesting story behind the brand…that they care not just about making a profit but in making a difference. As companies grow they often lose sight of why they started in the first place – though Patagonia is a powerful exception to the rule! We’d like to think that as our collective grows, we will remain true to our
original brand ambition.

Not only does Surf Collective support independent brands, but you’re also encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs – can you tell us about your high school initiative?

Sure. Last year we approached our local high school, Barrenjoey High, and proposed a way we could help bring a subject to life for their students. The school was very receptive to the idea and suggested the Year 10 Business Studies class would be ideal. So we had the kids develop ideas for a surf-related product together with a marketing and business plan, with $2,000 up for grabs for the winner, to help bring his/her product to market. Some worked in a group and others individually. I spent some time in a few of the classes providing feedback before we put the kids in front of our
very own ‘Shark-Tank’ – a few of our local brand guys – to pitch their ideas. The eventual winner presented a great idea to recycle unwanted skateboard decks and convert them into wax combs – clever and environmentally responsible! We’re going to promote her idea on our website and in our retail collab, the Sneaky Grind Café, in Avalon Beach. The winner plans to make other products under her company, ‘The Coastal Upcycling Co. The program was so successful in engaging the kids
in their studies that we’re going to be repeating it next year!

You recently partnered with us to help fund our recent expedition to Cape York to remove over 7 tonnes of marine debris off a remote beach – why did Surf Collective want to be involved in this trip?

We just love what you guys are doing and we want to support causes that are close to our hearts and aligned with our brand philosophy. You’ve done an amazing job and we know it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential you have for meaningful change.

What can we expect to see next with Surf Collective?

We will continue to provide an online platform and new ways to support and promote our collective of amazing, independent brands. Each has a great story with products uniquely different to the mainstream offering. Our aim is to make more people aware of these brands and provide an easy
way to discover them. We’ll be doing more markets and events this coming summer and we’re also looking into some pop-up stores!

You can explore Surf Collective’s range of independent surf brands on their website: www.surfcollective.com.au