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During the past three decades we have seen a steady decline in the state of the Australian fashion industry. What was once a thriving, dynamic and progressive movement has splintered and dwindled. More recently we have seen the decline in the Australian fashion presence due to international imports flooding our market.


There is something deeper that has been happening to our industry, and something we, here at tanner + teague, are fundamentally opposed to. And that is the vast majority of companies taking their fabrication, and garment construction off shore. It is a regular occurrence to witness the closing of yet another fabric mill or production factory. “I have been working in the industry both in Australia and abroad for many years and have seen numerous factory owners closing their doors” Sam Fisher, head designer. The issue here is primarily profit margin (greed). Fashion houses presuming they can cheapen their make expense without reducing the sale price, selling a product that has been made more cheaply offshore to an Australian customer for the same price as what it was when previously made locally. There are numerous labels who even in the last 5 years have taken their once Australian made product and are now producing their items abroad.


We believe that keeping manufacturing alive here in Melbourne is a good thing. Not only is it important for employment, but its critical to retain the knowledge base. Many of our factories are operated by migrants who have brought with them a wealth of knowledge around their given industry. The first migrant waves were from Europe, bringing with them skills that had been passed down through generations. More recently migrants from the likes of Vietnam (originally French trained) have supported our industry with extremely high skills and craftsmanship. It seems obvious that if there is no employment to support this skill set then the skills will become redundant. There will be no incentive for the next generation to learn these highly specialized skills.


As local manufacturers disappear the result becomes offshore, aside from sending Australian employment abroad, it also impacts on the capacity to produce. Minimum quantities enforced by international factories mean that the nature of the shops also change. Making products in large numbers, means you must sell in large numbers, therefore the diversity of stores able to support these numbers reduce. It also rules out the ability for small start-up designers to meet these minimum requirements, which further reduces diversity.


Where this leaves the choice for our local consumer is pretty clear. There is so much more behind the clothes we are purchasing and the lives/families that it impacts is huge. This is our outlook that we truly believe in and we hope to inspire the next purchase you make to be one that is fundamentally local.

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  • Philippa Gell

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