Amy is the woman behind Australian fashion label, Vege Threads.
Tell us about Vege Threads and the ethos behind the brand.
Vege Threads is an ethical basics label that offers simple designs made from 100% organic and natural materials. I try to promote a mindful design process through my brand, and ensure that my supply chain is fully transparent.
As a business owner and designer, I believe in creating high quality, versatile garments and building a business that has strong social and environmental foundations. Vege Threads was created not just to provide aesthetically beautiful products for ‘conscious’ consumers, but also to be a platform for education.
Why have you chosen to produce locally and become accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia?
Producing locally has always been my ultimate goal. I value transparency, and want to contribute to rebuilding local industry. I hope to show others that onshore production is not necessarily a premium option, and that it can offer many benefits.
Making Vege Threads locally has connected me on a personal level to every aspect of the design and making process. From design to pattern making and toiling samples; sourcing fabrics; visiting local knitting mills and dye houses; it’s been such an incredible experience to be involved in every stage, right here in my own backyard. I speak daily with my makers, visiting them and discussing developments and improvements.
You don’t have this experience working offshore; you’re really disconnected from the product you're creating. I saw Ethical Clothing Australia as a further positive, a way to connect with like-minded labels and people. It’s comforting to affiliate with a body that is ensuring workers’ rights are met.
After working in the industry for many years, I know how many things can go unnoticed in manufacturing. I felt Vege Threads would benefit from having an association with Australia’s only textile, clothing and footwear accreditation body, and this has definitely been the case.
In what ways do your personal values shape your business?
I believe Vege Threads has been built on my personal values and beliefs. I am a very strong willed, stubborn individual, so when you’re able to channel that in a positive way you see great results. I have a very open mind when it comes to ideas and ways of doing things, but when it comes to compromising quality or human rights I have zero tolerance.
I spent a great deal of my early twenties travelling and seeking information about the fashion industry. It was a real eye-opening experience, and set the tone for my ethos when starting Vege Threads. I felt I had a responsibility as a designer to think about where and how I was going to make my clothing.
I am conscious of my environment and its uncertain future, and understand the importance of producing ethically. My designs are to be carried through seasons, over many years, and cater to varied age groups. They are aesthetically pleasing but also practical. This all seems like a lot, but I think Vege Threads’ success has shown that it’s possible to build a brand with strong core values and vision.
“ I love the craftsmanship of good quality fashion. It takes incredible skill to create a well-made garment, and there seems to be a growing appreciation for that.”
How would you describe your relationship with clothing / style?
I have always viewed clothing as possessing both form and function. In the past I struggled to justify spending money on something that would be a ‘one-time wear’ or wasn’t something I felt comfortable in. Growing older and feeling more at ease in my own skin, I embrace a style that reflects my relationship with clothing.
Vege Threads is a prime example of this—the clothing makes you feel good, but it is also aesthetically pleasing and flattering. I’m seeing more brands now with a similar approach: producing garments made from natural materials in classic, wearable shapes. It’s so great to see. I think more women are now understanding that they don’t have to compromise comfort for style.
What does ‘slow fashion’ mean to you?
For me, slow fashion is about mindful design and slow execution. It really is the opposite of ‘on trend’ or ‘fast’ fashion. It’s not about a quick turnaround or ever-changing designs. It’s about designing for longevity, in both the style and the materials used.
How has your attitude towards fashion changed as you've aged?
My attitude towards fashion has developed significantly over time. I was never a fast fashion consumer, but in my youth I of course followed trends alongside my peers. I grew up with my dad running a sports retail store, so from an early age I was exposed to the reality of clothing consumption, and I questioned it often. I loved to create but I personally didn’t see myself in the fashion industry until later in life.
Over the years I have I voluntarily put myself in situations that have allowed me to be exposed to the good and the bad; this has inevitably shaped my attitude towards fashion. I have worked for fast fashion houses in London and Australia, a fair-trade label in Paris, and visited factories in Indonesia, India and Australia. Being exposed to things like poverty, un-monitored dye houses and bleach baths in the middle of desert has been quite shocking. My views are a direct result of my experiences. I now know how fashion as an industry is directly impacting our world, in more ways that I had ever imagined, and I can't unlearn this.
Have you developed a personal uniform?
Those who know me well know I’m not overly focused on the way I dress. As I’ve grown up and become comfortable in my own skin, I feel much more at ease embracing my personal style, whatever that may be. I would say my uniform is very relaxed and practical—maybe sometimes too much. I don't wear anything I’m not comfortable in. These days, all I tend to wear is a combination of organic jerseys and natural linens.
Who / what do you look to for style cues and why?
I have some style icons, but these have developed more personally as I am inspired by friends, designers, and people whose mindful choices are in sync with their style. I met (and was fangirling over) my dear friend Kara of NEST when I was 17, and she has been an icon of mine ever since. She has an effortlessly chic style—she considers everything she buys and mixes designer investment pieces seamlessly with op shop finds. She supports a lot of local designers, and pulls off jeans and a simple tee better than anyone I know! I like to look to styles that are not defined by age, body shape or temporary trends.
"I believe Vege Threads has been built on my personal values and beliefs. I am a very strong willed, stubborn individual, so when you’re able to channel that in a positive way you see great results. I have a very open mind when it comes to ideas and ways of doing things, but when it comes to compromising quality or human rights I have zero tolerance."
Is there a garment that has had a special place in your life, or is linked to a treasured moment?
I have a beautiful linen dress that I picked up at a vintage market while living in Paris. I was an avid vintage shopper for many years but sold everything when moving, so literally have nothing else left from that time. I was interning when I bought it so had little money, but I saved up and knew it would be something I would treasure. It reminds me now about the beauty of saving up to buy one valuable piece—how much more you appreciate and take care of it.
What in particular do you love or dislike about the fashion industry?
There are possibly too many things I don't like about the fashion industry to mention. What I do like, however, is its ability to evolve and the focus on detail and quality that is being taken on by new designers and labels. I love the craftsmanship of good quality fashion. It takes incredible skill to create a well-made garment, and there seems to be a growing appreciation for that.
When you look to the future of fashion, what do you see? What daunts / excites you most about being an emerging label?
The future of fashion for me is both daunting and exciting. My role is to constantly explore new ways of running Vege Threads, while also acknowledging the realities of this industry. I am aware that we are staring down the barrel of some pretty serious issues in terms of environmental damage caused by the fashion industry. We are going to face a lack of water in future years, as well as the depletion of natural resources. We need the big players of fashion to step up and start driving change.
As an emerging label, it’s wonderful to see so many 100% onshore brands starting up and using natural and alternative materials. I think if the larger brands can see the benefits, both environmentally and commercially, then the industry has real hope for long term change. Imagine a world where child labour doesn’t occur; where we’ve implemented fair trade practices all over the world and where more businesses are investing in alternative processes and materials. I may be too hopeful, but my business relies on a positive attitude. I’m here to fight the good fight.
Photography Claire Summers
Production and Creative Sigrid McCarthy
Learn more about Vege Threads