Over the past five years, the fashion industry has woken up. While the facts have always been there, it’s only recently that the mainstream market has become aware of the human rights issues that are entrenched in fashion, and environmental degradation that fast fashion is responsible for.
For Sarah Garrett-Hodoniczky though, sustainable fashion is something she’s spent the last 15 years advocating for. Her Brisbane based label, Rant Clothing, launched in 2003, and from day dot it has delivered high-quality, Australian made, ethical and sustainable women’s clothing, designed for comfort and longevity.
To celebrate five years in the Australian fashion industry is a feat for any brand, but Sarah has recently celebrated her 15th birthday and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Happy 15thbirthday! What are you doing to celebrate?
We’ve done a trip down memory lane by posting past collections and pictures on our Instagram feed, and we printed some cotton tote bags with imagery from our 15 years of Rant Clothing. We also went to Queenstown in New Zealand for five days, because we can barely get away together!
For those who don’t know Rant Clothing, fill them in. What’s it all about?
We have always believed that fashion can be made sustainably and locally, and that garments can be made with love and care. That in turn transfers through the garment to the customer, and we have kept this in our core ethos for 15 years at Rant. Sustainable Fashion is our online store that we launched in 2012 to be able to sell our two labels direct to the public. We also wanted to show that ‘sustainably made’ doesn’t mean forgoing style.
What was the first year of business like?
We started with a $2000 credit card. Jason worked full time, while I stayed home and made belts and accessories to sell to retail stores. We then reinvested any money back into Rant to produce the next lot. After six months, we were able to make our first collection; a top, a skirt and a pair of pants that I didn’t have to sew myself. We kept reinvesting 100% so each range could be more extensive.
What does an average week in your shoes look like now?
So much easier then it used to be! An average week is so much better than 15 years ago. I still sew all the belts myself in-house, and I design the new ranges, buy the fabrics, make the patterns, make new samples and wash all the stock as it comes in. Each day I pack all of the orders to be sent out and I have direct email and phone contact with customers, wholesale and retail.
What do you know now that you wish you knew 15 years ago?
I wish I had the knowledge that I have now about production pitfalls, fabrics and manufacturing. There are no shortcuts to learn this, only the harsh reality of a fabric not performing in production the way it worked when you sampled it.
It’s rare for a label to survive five years in the industry, let alone 15. What do you put your success down to?
Hard work, long hours and not giving up. I didn’t draw a wage for seven years and had virtually no holidays. Every six months you have to reassess everything in your business to see what you can improve. The world changes very quickly and you have to be one step ahead. I believe that to be a successful designer you have to be able to sew and know all aspects of your craft or business. I never ask anyone to do something that I can’t do myself.
How do you stay inspired season after season?
I like the torture of pushing myself further. I like the torture of making constant improvements. For example, if we have a fantastic pant style, I like to think about how I can make it even better. I don’t look to general fashion to be inspired, most of my inspiration comes from nature.
What one staple sustainable piece of clothing should every woman own?
A pair of Nellie pants, made from Australian bamboo jersey. They wash up time after time, and look fantastic without fading or pilling, and they can be worn for any occasion. They’re an overall awesome garment, in fact I’m wearing them now.
Your garments are surprisingly affordable considering they’re made in Australia with GOTS Certified Organic Cotton. How do you keep costs down to achieve such a customer-friendly price point?
Everyone involved in our production gets paid fairly with Australian wages. We put our garments out at a fair price without putting in margins for a later discount. We are producing the garments to be sold at that price, not to be sold later cheaper, or with a free gift or with discounts to sign up to newsletters etc. Also on the more expensive garments, we make less as we focus more on the dollar value rather than the percentage.
How do you measure your positive impact?
Customer emails; the best response is customer emails and their stories. When a customer enjoys wearing a garment so much it lifts their spirit and changes their whole day, that’s beautiful. Seeing the joy of wearing a locally made product, with environmentally friendly fabrics is just the icing on the cake. Customers also tell us that people stop them in the street to ask where they got their clothes from!
Support sustainable fashion and shop the latest Rant Clothing range at sustainablefashion.com.au.
The Fashion Advocate x