As a child, a few valuable life lessons were constantly repeated to me, one of which still rings true through my work and my approach to fashion: “Treat other people how you would want to be treated.”

Some third world fast fashion sweat shops pay their workers 12 cents an hour, so when that life lesson is applied to clothing, it’s clear that we shouldn’t support clothes made under conditions that we wouldn’t work in ourselves. That piece of advice is the basis for my business and the reason why I advocate for ethical, Australian made fashion, so when I come across brands who share my ethos and passion for a better fashion future, I’m overjoyed to share their stories.

Sarah Garrett-Hodoniczky is one of these people, and we’re kindred spirits. Our phone calls last near an hour, and our conversations are fulfilling, revolving around industry progression, who’s doing what in the ethical space, inspiring new fashion innovations, and how we can fight for what’s right. Sarah’s business was founded on the latter, as well as the need for a daily regime that allowed her to work in a rewarding environment without compromise. After managing a group of stores and designing for another label for 11 years, a manageable work-life balance was becoming harder and harder to achieve. But, with the birth of her son, she was inspired to launch her own label, and her businesses have only grown since.

RANT Clothing started in 2003, then we launched our pure cotton label, Bestowed, in 2011, and our online store, Sustainable Fashion, followed in late 2012. We now have one in-house staff member, as well as two sewers, a cutter and a patternmaker, and I also sew myself. We work from our home studio on the outskirts of Brisbane, where all production takes place.”

With two brands and a collective website under her belt, there’s no such thing as an ‘average week’ in Sarah’s shoes, but between herself, her husband Jason and their tight-knit team, it’s a buzzing business.

“Our weeks revolve around range development times; ahead of a new collection, we’re always madly preparing for its launch, we spend hours perfecting samples and sewing accessories to match the range, and then there’s organising and styling the shoot. A ‘normal’ week involves looking at fabric ranges, visiting our sewers to pick up stock, and washing garments in-house. I am in regular contact with our wholesale customers, and I also pack the orders for the online store. Jason and I pretty much manage all aspects of the business, with help from staff for the admin tasks or quality control for garments.”

And quality garments they are. If you’ve been searching for ethical or sustainable staples that will hold their shape, rich colours and feel, season after season, you’ll find more than one RANT piece to fill this wardrobe void.

“RANT has always been about working with beautiful natural fibres, exploring new fabrications, and producing garments that are designed for comfort and longevity, all the while being 100 per cent Australian made! With the rise of ‘eco fashion’, we launched Bestowed to build on the sustainable ethos that we started with RANT, but with the introduction of Australian made organic cotton knits. We’ve also created a natural, vegan-friendly range of clothing that suits the most sensitive of skin, as we prewash every garment in rainwater at our home studio, eliminating harsh chemicals that are usually used in the garment manufacturing process.”

It’s a rarity to find a label so fashion-forward yet so environmentally and socially conscious, but Sarah’s meticulous manufacturing methods tick every green-fashion box – ethical, sustainable, and Australian made. The RANT and Bestowed ethos is organically designed into each piece, creating a balance between wearability and accountability.

“Design always starts with the fabric in mind. When I’m coming up with a new design, we often draw on our library of shapes that have worked well over the years, but each piece will always be wear-tested to ensure it is flattering and comfortable, as well as wash tested if it is a new fabric or blend. Sustainability is about looking at all the resources used by our business, including water, energy and our raw materials, and it is also about finding ways to reduce, reuse, or recycle as much as possible. We look at everything; no plastic is used in the transport of our clothes, and we use post-consumer cardboard hangers that are reused, as well as recycled kraft packaging. Our home studio also recently won a QLD Premier’s Sustainability Award for the renovations our architect completed.”

Sarah doesn’t just talk the talk; she tackles the growing issue of fast fashion by ensuring her own business upholds high ethical and sustainable standards. She’ll happily tell you that it is as simple as treating everyone the same way you would expect to be treated, and she believes that the easiest way the understand ethics in the fashion industry, is to self-educate and look at the fine print.

“For people who are starting to rethink their wardrobe, looking at a few little details will quickly help you determine the true cost of your clothing. The best place to start, are garment labels, which will detail what fibres have been used; synthetic fabrics are derived from petrochemicals, and they’re non-biodegradable. Also, be aware of the washing instructions; cold water wash is best, and garments which require dry cleaning should be avoided. Finally, consider what country your garments are made in; buying local wherever possible is best.”

After successfully being in business for 13 years as the industry has morphed into a fast fashion mess around her, Sarah’s are wise words, and they come straight from experience. While ethical fashion is still a niche market, it’s one that is growing, and with guidance and good clothes on the market, it’s quite easy to make the right choice.

Survival for Sarah always has, and always will be about providing unique, well designed, ethical and sustainable options for her customers, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at sustainablefashion.com.au.

The Fashion Advocate x

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