Sticks + Stone and sustainability

Sticks + Stone is not your average fashion label. In a world where fast fashion has unfortunately become the norm, Jacky Stickler champions ethics and sustainability with her Brisbane-based label. Although Sticks + Stone only launched recently in 2017, Jacky has emerged with an aesthetic beyond her brand's years, reflecting both the perils and beauty of the environment.

Who or what influenced your relationship with fashion growing up?
I grew up in Queensland, Australia where I formed a love for the outdoors and an affinity with the environment from an early age. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt, who worked as a seamstress is a sweatshop for a decade, before saving up enough money to open a clothing store, to enjoy and amplify fashion on her own terms. These things have always stuck with me and after spending the first decade of my career as a marketing specialist, I gravitated back to my roots and began working on a path that was more aligned with my passion for positive social contribution and environmental practices. 

Did you study fashion or are you self-taught?
I spent the first decade of my career as a marketing specialist working across some of Australia’s largest alcohol brands. Whilst this was a highly enjoyable and sometimes wild ride, I felt that I was lacking fulfilment and so I sought to carve my own path. Fashion is something that touches all of us and the ability to connect with fashion lovers from a large diverse group of people via the label, really lead me to the position that I’m in today. I’m a kinesthetic learner and everything specifically related to fashion that I have learnt to date, has all been on the job via my debut collection. I’ve been fortunate to find a great group of people to help guide me on my way. For all the other stuff, I’ve been able to rely on my transferable skills from my marketing background which has made things a bit easier – yay!

Where are your garments designed and made?
Everything is designed and made in Australia. It’s core to our values as an Australian label that we are utilising local talent in an ethical way. There are so many wonderful artisans in the local fashion industry and we love to support their craft and livelihood.

When did you launch?
We launched in April 2017, and phew, we made it! It’s such a lot of hard work and you literally put your heart and soul into it. It’s all made worthwhile when you see fashion lovers in their Sticks + Stone garments and chatting about how much they love our message and what we’re trying to achieve. The follow up to our debut collection is dropping now. All items are crafted from 100 per cent GOTS certified organic cotton and crafted in ethical Australian production houses, just like our debut collection. This collection focuses on the idea that there is a lot more that unites us than divides us; we are all human beings with so much more in common than we think. Keep an eye on The Fashion Advocate website for more coming soon!

What does a week in your shoes look like?
Life is quite busy these days! I spend a few days in the design studio working on ranges, which I find the most enjoyable part of the process. I manage a lot of different elements of the label, so I am often out and about collecting new textiles and trims as part of my research for up-coming ranges or working with our production houses. I’ve been working on an exciting collaboration with another local Brisbane artist, which captures my attention for a day within the week, watch this space for more detail! I also like to keep busy with an industry event once a week too, I love chatting with other fashion lovers and keeping in touch with what’s happening out there.

Explain your brand and products to our readers?
Sticks + Stone is a sustainable and ethical clothing label, designed and made in Australia. We’re for the active, progressive girl who likes to live consciously, and the girl who enjoys a busy lifestyle as she balances her professional, personal and social priorities. The label draws inspiration from the creation of meaning in otherwise mindless day-to-day actions. It is a movement toward conscious and purposeful actions that consider social and environmental outcomes which facilitate our collective ability to create progress in areas of value. The label’s aesthetic boasts a soft elegance, volumised via key silhouettes that reflect both the perils and beauty of the world around us. The collection is balanced with simple silhouettes for effortless comfort and minimalism, with fresh design features.

Why are you passionate about local manufacturing?
The fashion industry in Australia has struggled over the last decade with many clothing manufacturers shifting their production offshore to China and Bangladesh for a fraction of the cost. It is more important than ever that the fashion industry is thriving in Australia, to ensure manufacturing environments and support the livelihood of talented Australian workers, which in turn will support the local economy. Sourcing, manufacturing and selling within Australia also leaves a smaller environmental footprint. Knowing the story behind a handcrafted garment is such a magical thing. To think of all of the time and effort that has gone in to crafting an item to be treasured, creates a sort of romance with the garment and an affinity for the wearer to those that produced it and the environment that it came from. This is something special that I think only local handcrafted manufacturing can really offer shoppers.

Explain the process of one of your products?
We kick off our design process for a collection with a lot of ideation work. This is the fun part! We review trends in fashion, but we also review societal issues, popular culture, even the political landscape – to develop an idea or story as inspiration for a collection. These are events or happenings that are relevant to our customer and therefor interesting for them to become involved in, via shopping with Sticks + Stone. We complete all design development and patternmaking in-house with a small team of talented workers with decades of experience in the industry. We then utilise local production to handcraft the garments. All materials are hand cut and sewn individually by talented seamstresses on sewing machines. We then receive delivery of each item in studio, ready to send out to our customers!

What do you think about fast fashion?
There are many significant social and environmental issues associated with the fast fashion industry, in Australia as well as worldwide. Fashion lovers are generally kept in the dark in relation to how their clothes are made, and they’re unaware of the resulting social and environmental impacts. This is particularly frustrating as consumers are the ones that have the most power to effect positive change, by simply voting with their wallets. There is significant opportunity to educate and empower consumers to be curious and to look for brands that invest in ethical practices, and brands who prioritise positive social and environmental outcomes. This is our biggest opportunity to make inroads in relation to the resolution of social and environmental issues within the industry and we must capture the attention of the mainstream consumer to do it. I also think that this type of ‘fashion with a purpose’ model gives depth and substance to an otherwise largely extrinsically focused industry. It gives shoppers an opportunity to be a part of something of value and to treasure clothing for the fine material and craftsmanship that has gone in to producing it.

How do you define ethics and how do you apply ethics to your business?
I like to keep this one pretty simple – go with your gut and do the right thing. I think you can generally feel if something is right or not, it comes from within, from your moral compass. I also think that this extends to awareness and education. I think it’s up to an individual, group or organisation to find out what they don’t know and then know it. Being blissfully unaware isn’t an acceptable excuse or stance to take. We all have the power to make a difference and this shouldn’t be an opportunity wasted.

How do you define sustainability and how do you apply sustainability to your business?
Sustainability is a complex concept and typically carries a broad meaning and applications, even within the fashion industry. The sustainability goal for Sticks + Stone is to achieve a neutral position in relation to our impact of operating. An example of this would be our carbon neutral shipping service which offsets omissions related to the delivery of customer orders, neutralizing the impact. This is a common thread that runs through our business and it is a key operational priority.

What challenges do you face as an Australian made brand?
One of our key challenges is the cost associated with production in Australia. The fashion industry in Australia has struggled over the last decade with many clothing manufacturers shifting their production offshore to China and Bangladesh for a fraction of the cost. Australia enjoys some of the greatest working environments globally for employees, including high wage rates. This has a significant impact on the costs of labour and ultimately the cost of a garment. Whilst this is absolutely how the fashion industry should operate, it is difficult for a small start-up to compete with large organisations that are running at significantly lower costs.

Business highlights or achievements to date?
We’ve been featured on the Exhibition Runway show in Brisbane, which was our first. We have many more runway events booked in the future and have been working on collaborations with other local designers – plenty of exciting stuff!

Is there anything you’d like our readers to know?
In starting my own business, I had to curb my lifestyle habits, in order to invest all of my resources into the launch of the label. I have always engaged in social and environmentally friendly practices, but this experience of ‘forced minimalism’ really drove me to understand just how important it is. I’ve always had an inquisitive personality and the deeper I dug, the more compelling it became to make a difference. It’s easy to be blissfully unaware, however once you are awakened it’s really quite simple; how can you not take action? Now, my ultimate dream is to create a movement, a ground swell of positive energy amongst a generation of women wanting to be a part of something more. My aim is to inspire women to look and feel at their best and to use their positive energies for good. Whilst the clothing and the label will be important, I dream to contribute so much more in this space in the future.

Shop the full Sticks + Stone range and support an ethical fashion future here.

Sticks + Stone founder Jacky Stickler shares her journey in ethical and sustainable fashion

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