Amy Roberts | Vege Threads
Interviewed by Tiarnie Gilbert
Vege Threads is an Australian clothing label focused on keeping things simple, local and made to last. Made with intention and purpose, every step is considered to ensure minimal effect on people and the planet. Vege Threads are committed to transparency and ethical manufacturing in their supply chain and are constantly re-modelling systems to reduce their footprint. Tiarnie caught up with Amy Roberts, the woman behind Vege Threads to talk about her label and focusing on the triple bottom line in the Australian fashion industry.
Tell us what Vege Threads means to you, and, what was your foundation when starting the business? What made you passionate to create a sustainable clothing line to begin with?
There’s three main considerations that drive me to create Vege Threads - environmental, social and economic.
Environmental - So much of the fashion industry is based on waste. Building trends that don’t last, look good for a limited time and then perish. But they don’t perish - they sit in landfill or best case scenario op shops. Vege Threads is also about what’s not so well known, the growing of commercial cotton and the destructive effects of pesticides and fertilizers in the developing world that poisons ground water and leaves local farmers sick, debilitated and in debt to the multinationals they’re growing for. I wanted to support industries that were taking into consideration these issues, avoiding the negative environmental effects from participating in the mainstream supply chain.
Social - An ethical business in both sourcing certified fabrics (and paying heaps more for them) and certified manufacturing means I’m ensuring workers’ rights both abroad and here in Australia. It’s so important to know who’s making my fabrics and garments and that they’re happy in what they do.
Economic - Having an accessible price-point is, personally, really important. Being affordable gives the consumer a reasonable chance to choose an environmentally-friendly and ethical product over a commercial brand. The other effect of creating a decent price comparison is that Vege Threads demonstrates to other businesses that they can afford to.
What is your background in the fashion industry, for those who don't know, and how did you end up where you are?
Vege Threads began while I worked for a fast fashion house after returning from France where I’d worked for an ethical clothing label in Paris. The differences, in both the garments and the workplace culture, between the two were stark and it just made me think about what I wanted. There weren’t any ethical / sustainable fashion businesses in South Australia or even Australia at that time (2012) so I started to look into what was needed to set up and run my own business. I wanted my role in the fashion industry to have intention and create positive change through my business model. This meant linking the idea of sustainability to the ethics around the production, have traceability. and work with natural and organic materials from day one.
Where do you see the fashion industry going forward, and how would you say it has evolved, both locally and internationally?
For now, producing onshore has been the most important goal, but I don’t think it’s completely the answer to fixing the problems with unethical practices offshore. Building local industry is key and the mores label that shift manufacturing locally, the better. However I am still working with some artisans in Indonesia with natural dyes and take pride in supporting these small businesses doing amazing craftsmanship and creating eco friendly practices. In terms of environment, it’s about educating and creating awareness in those countries. Unfortunately when it comes to things like cotton farming, most farms or seeds grown are owned by mass corporations with no investment in the health and wellbeing of the farmers or the environmental impacts of using things like pesticides. So I think we, as westerners , demanding these materials, need to be ensuring we are looking at our supply chains from start to finish ad that’s the most important thing.
Who would you say is more responsible for the way the mass fashion industry has headed (fast fashion)? The fashion brands or the consumers?
The consumer holds all the buying power, therefore they have the ability to say something with where/how they spend their money.
What are your proudest moments while running Vege Threads?
I would say I’m proud of how it's constantly evolving rather than a ‘moment’ as such.
And what is in the works at the moment for Vege Threads, any collabs coming up?
I’m going to focus on creating more transparency in the business. It takes a lot of work with each supplier to get them to open up. Fashion is an incredibly closed industry, full of secrets and I feel that bringing things out into the open will benefit Vege Threads and those people that we work with. I want the brand to be more than something they wear and I’ll focus on building a platform for people to become better educated on the ideas at our core - and to begin to consider the supply chains they rely on in their own lives and to maybe move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
What / who is making you excited for the future of sustainable fashion in Australia (except yourself of course)?
I honestly stick to my own course a lot of the time and try to distance myself from ‘fashion’. I really admire global change and companies like Patagonia who put sustainability at the forefront of what they do.
And lastly, what advice would you give to a person, whether sustainably conscious or not, for making the most positive choices when shopping fashion?
That it’s ok to ask questions.