The Future of Manufacturing in Australia

The kids clothing in Myer was crappy.

I have worse words for crappy but since I am trying to keep this blog at a PG rating, you can use your imagination.

Staying up to date with industry trends, I’m always ducking into stores and checking out what brands they carry, where garments are made and inspecting quality.

I went to Alannah Hill and everything was made in China.

I went into Leona Edmiston and everything was made in China.

I picked up a couple of pairs of my beloved Bonds trackies and knickers. Both were made in China. Long gone are the days they were made in Australia.

I went into Saba and everything was made in China.

The only garments I saw were made in Australia and proudly displaying so were from a women’s label called Cue. This company has been around since 1968 and is still Australian owned and production is done in Australia too. Their garments cost a bomb but are really well designed and made. I still have a shirt of theirs I paid about $100 about 5 years ago.

Problems I see with manufacturing in Australia are high wages, high shipping costs and geographic isolation.

I have a younger relative in Australia who works as a check out chick at Coles (a large supermarket chain) and she earns about $20 an hour. I worked as a check out chick about 15 years ago when I was still in high school and I was earning about $9 an hour. The US minimum wage is (depending on city and state) around $7.75 an hour in 2013.

Australia is a huge island in the middle of the Pacific. The closest land neighbours are New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The closest continent is Antarctica. None of the aforementioned places are a haven for textiles or manufacturing. Everything is imported and that’s why everything costs a bomb. It’s the first complaint I hear when I tell people I am Australian “Oh I love Australia, but it’s SO expensive!” Low population combined with geographic isolation prices goods at a premium.

There was a set up I saw on the south end of King St, Newtown (a trendy suburb of Sydney) about 10 years ago. I can’t think of what the shop’s name was but I remember that I was fascinated to see that there was a production facility in the back. Through some kind of flimsy curtain, stitchers were sewing with rather fast sewing machines.

It wasn’t a sweat shop. It reminded me of something trendy you would see in Elle Decore with lots of natural light, white walls and a huge cutting table in the middle.

There is one small boutique, funnily enough right down the road from the place mentioned above, that still does their own production in Sydney. It’s called Dragstar and they have been in business for 21 years. ¬†They still have cool clothes and the style is timeless.

Kathleen Fasanella is right. There are merits for doing your own production. I’m determined that I will be doing the same very soon. I’ve already started actually, doing custom dresses taking an approach to choose your size, style and fabric with what is available from Darling Betty.

The Age (a newspaper in Melbourne, Australia) recently ran a story on an interesting jeans outfitter. It’s worth watching and it’s completely based on Kathleen’s ideal model.

If only I could have something similar for Darling Betty. Production in the back, retail in the front. Choose your size, style and fabric and come back in a few hours and it’s ready for pick up.