Pure Pod is a Canberra-based fashion label built on sustainability, ethics and a love of the environment and human nature. Last year the company joined forces with BMW and worked together on all things sustainable.
The Naked Team spoke to Pure Pod Founder Kelli Donovan to find out how it all began….
First things first... why is sustainable fashion important to you?
The impact we have on the environment is one of the most important areas for us. As the fast fashion industry increases its mass production amounts, high levels of unwanted waste from the manufacturing and textile processes are created. This makes it harder for the planet to cope with. Pollution from the huge amounts of chemicals used in growing fibers, making them into textiles, the dying process, transport pollution, left over textile and clothing waste, packaging, unwanted left over shop and warehouse stock that eventually becomes landfill and left over production waste from making plastic and metal garment trims like zips, buttons, toggles etc. All of these elements play on our minds when we are making our Pure Pod clothing in our slow fashioned process.
We are also passionate and concerned about the human side of manufacturing and the cost it has on people's lives, bodies and families. Not only does fast fashion have its victims of sweatshops, unhealthy working conditions and unsafe production and manufacturing processes but local industry is struggling to survive. There is a lot of emphasis on offshore production sweatshops and the people working in these terrible conditions.
It's exciting to see such a huge global movement towards changing these sweatshops into safer and healthier places for local people to earn a decent wage for their families and livelihoods. But there is a 'white elephant in the room' not being talked about much in Australia and that's our local production. Many people working the Australian fashion industry are doing it tough as more and more cheap product is being imported into Australia. Local designers, pattern makers, printers, cutters, makers are finding it harder to earn a living working in their trades. Many of these people have been working in this trade their whole lives and are unable to retrain due to their age. Those working freelance and running their own businesses out of big mainstream industry are finding there is less work or the consumer is not willing to pay the price for beautifully made products. There is a small minority of consumers happy to pay the extra cost for beautifully-made, quality products but not enough to keep an industry thriving.
What was the very first thing that inspired you to create a sustainable fashion label?
I had a catalogue in the late 80's from Espirt that was an early version of an Eco fashion label. They made a natural textile clothing line with hints of Eco fashion in there... I think I still have it. Catherine Hamnett is a well respected and passionate ethical designer I have always loved too. She has always been an inspiration to me and a true ethical pioneer long before it was a trend!
What was the process involved with creating your sustainable label?
We started at the end of 2006 when there wasn't many designers in Australia doing this type of clothing and not many people understood what we wanted to do so it was quite hard to find organic and ethical textiles. Once we did find a great supplier and got our first shipment in I started playing with designs and making rough samples. I put some inspirational music on, opened up the doors to let the beautiful spring garden smells in and began the process!
Once we made our first rough samples we got them made professionally by local makers, had them hand printed, photographed and designed a catalogue with order forms and got out there to start the selling process at trade shows, ringing shops and door knocking!
What inspired Pure Pod's aesthetic and style?
We wanted to create clothing that women would love and fit well. Our clothes are made with quality and are simple styles that don't follow fast fashion trends which means they can be worn for many years. We love hand printed organic inspired designs on our lifestyle designed clothing.
How has the style evolved over the years?
We have changed over the years and found styles our customers love to wear. Our customers often dictate to us what we make so we know things are loved and are not creating unwanted clothing. We do a lot of hand printing which is loved by our followers. For a while we used a lot of yardage prints as it was easier to produce but we have ventured back to hand prints with our lovely textile artist Anne Leon. We have worked with her for about nine years now. Overall, our product has become more sophisticated and established since we started.
Last year you announced a partnership with bigtime car manufacturing company BMW… How did this come about?
We were introduced to Emma Crowther in Canberra from the Rolfe Classic BMW Canberra dealership. Her enthusiasm and passion was infectious! She loved what we were doing and felt it complimented their ethos for their new BMWi cars which were launched in 2014-15. The BMWi cars are sustainable and innovative, amazing cars! Emma Crowther introduced our brand to BMW Australia and the other dealerships and a wonderful sustainable partnership was established.
How has this collaboration benefited the label?
Pure Pod was honored to have such a respected brand behind us and to help give us exposure we wouldn't have normally received. They sponsored us to show our collection in your 2015 Undress Runways shows. It is fantastic to showcase our ethical clothing with the BMWi electric cars and show consumers there are options out there which can help reduce pollution and start sustainable conversations for change.
What were some of the biggest challenges working with BMW?
I think fear to make sure our product was something we were proud to show with such a huge global name! Emma was fantastic support and very encouraging. We also made pieces using the BMWi car seat leathers. This was a mind bender in itself!! But lots of fun!
Where do you see sustainable fashion going in the future? And how does Pure Pod aim to keep up with the ever-changing industry?
We hope sustainable and organic fashion will become the norm in the future. We have seen huge shifts in the industry since we started 9 years ago. Since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh there has been a huge global movement for change..... It is incredibly hard to compete as a small ethical designer against huge fashion companies and the new collections they constantly release - the best thing Pure Pod can do is make and design the most beautiful products we are proud of and that our customers love and to help influence people to buy ethically, buy less and buy what they love.
And a random question to finish off the interview - if you were given a million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it?
Wow so many things!
I would find areas in our industry which I was passionate about and help support these areas with funding and help to make them happen. Like education about ethical manufacturing, environmental issues etc. Maybe help other small designers like myself with a small kick start program - a way of passing it forward if you like, as I know how hard and how much money, blood sweat and tears goes into ethical fashion.
I'd also use the money wisely by producing the most ethical collection I could and to ensure the money keeps turning around and growing our business. This in turn would create local employment and would help encourage other consumers, businesses, students and consumers to buy ethically and responsibly!
My dream studio would have a shop front, organic tea house, education room for ethical talks and to learn about sustainable design and a yoga studio. So many people I talk to need a place to zone out from our fast paced world and feel good about where and what they are buying and how they are living. This kind of establishment can help fuel this creative happy thinking which had a ripple effect in our communities.
I might also go on a long yoga retreat after 9 years of hard work!