As part of our partnership with west elm, Obus' founder Kylie Zerbst was recently invited to share her thoughts on building a conscious-brand, being a responsible consumer, and how personal style is evolving in a socially conscious day and age.
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In front of an audience of design lovers at west elm's Prahran store, Kylie was joined on stage by west elm's head of visual merchandising, Rhys Duggan (the stylist behind our makeover!), and freelance stylist, Heather Nette-King.
Alongside a lively discussion about supporting companies that are transparent about their manufacturing, or sourcing materials that are organic, recycled or biodegradable, there was agreement between the panel about purchasing with intent. In both fashion and home wares, purchasing one special item that will last, instead of multiple‘throwaway’ items can mean a lot when it comes to being an environmentally-minded consumer. Kylie talked about always shopping with one's own values front-of-mind – whether that be supporting a local business, a business that focuses on the labour rights of its workers, one that is female-owned, or that is transparent about its product supply chain.
Rhys talked about the changes west elm are making from a social and environmental perspective. Their Vice President of Social Consciousness travels the world to ensure the artisans who make west elm's handcrafted items such as rugs, vessels, and cushions operate in in good working conditions and are, of course, paid fairly. She is committed to ensuring west elm continues to move in this direction and makes meaningful impact on these communities. They also discussed west elm's shifts in product manufacturing to establish themselves as a leader in the ethical and environmental homewares sector, such as ensuring all bedding is organic and GOTS-certified by 2020, and assisting over 50,000 workers across the world with continuing education and health programs.
Overall, the message of the evening was about how two brands, in different areas of design, can align and strive for better. Both Obus and west elm have brand values that permeate everything they create. There is still a lot to fix in the fashion and homewares industry and as a brand, Obus tries to continually improve each season – in whatever way we can. We hope that we also inspire others to change their habits and mindset, too
For Craft Victoria’s annual Craft Cubed exhibition, artist Louise Meuwissen took inspiration from our NIGHT BLOOM collection colour palette and using reclaimed jewels, beads and sequins, created a beautiful custom piece for our City store window. Join us inside her studio to learn more about her process and inspiration.
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Tell us about your creative background. What led you to the work you are creating now?
I’m trained as a painter, and for a time was making a lot of paintings focusing on consumption and waste. By the third year of my degree at the VCA I was experimenting with embroidery, and now I work predominantly with textiles and found objects.
Essentially I started this style of work by ‘painting’ with found materials – collected yarns, beads and textiles The work I make still has painterly concerns like texture, colour, composition.
These works were really well received, and I enjoyed making them, and so this element of my practice evolved from there. For the past 6 years I have been experimenting with and refining sculptural textile works and wearable objects.
I’m also a collector by nature, and have always loved the treasure hunt of second hand shopping at op-shops and markets. I’m attracted to objects that contain a certain level of care, communicate something of a specific time or place, or otherwise feel particularly precious. I love things that are handmade, have bold or unusual prints, are made from luxurious materials, or evoke some sort of nostalgia.
The visual language of dress has always fascinated me, and is something that I had a lot of fun with in quite a performative way, with my extensive collection of vintage clothing and adornment. I still have a lot of fun with dressing – but now I direct much of this energy in to the work I make.
What I make now feels more sustainable for myself and the planet, while incorporating these other important aspects of my life.
Your work is so detailed and intricate - how long does it take to complete each piece?
Oh, thank you! I try to make them as detailed and intricate, and dense as possible. It really varies based on the scale of the work, the scale of the beads, and whether I am working in a colour palette that is more complex or subdued. I take a lot of care in the beads I select in each piece, forming the composition as I work. With the addition of every bead, I have to make a choice. But on average, I would say that to make a small wearable piece takes me between 4-30 hours, whereas the biggest sculptural piece I have made, Ecologies of Time, 2018, took 9 months to create.
Excitingly, the piece I have just made for the Obus City store in the Nicholas Building is the largest wall piece I have made! This piece took a couple of months to make from start to finish; from meeting with the incredible Obus team at their High St head office and looking at samples of the new collection, to conceptualising the piece, seeking materials and finally making the work. I hand sew all the sequins and fabrics individually. So, it takes a while!
It's sometimes difficult to tell the size and scale of a piece when we see images online. What is the smallest piece you've worked on, and the largest?
The smallest pieces I have created small stud earrings – little wearable sculptures – these measure about a centimetre across, and the very largest Ecologies of Time, 2018 has a diameter of a meter. At the moment most of the pieces I have been making are sculptures for the body. I have been making brooches and bangles, and these are usually about 7-15cm in diameter. I am excited to start some really large scale exhibition pieces in September!
Louise used textiles from our NIGHT BLOOM collection as inspiration for her piece.
You use preloved and reclaimed beads and accessories in your work. What draws you to working with these materials?
Beads are in abundance, and there’s the thrill of the hunt. I also get gifted a lot of them.
I’m drawn to objects that circulate in society and are targeted at women that are highly labour-intensive to manufacture, but also highly disposable – like jewelry. I’m interested in unpacking the complexities of the dynamic of how we sell images to people, of how we sell aspiration and notions of beauty. I hope to use these discarded materials, both high and low brow, to make works and sculptures that walk a fine line between ugliness and beauty - and have a sense of accumulation and weight.
Louise Meuwissen's installation will be on display in the Obus City store window at Shop 5, 37 Swanston Street Melbourne until the end of August, as part of the Craft Cubed Festival.
Your work is currently on display in the Obus City store window for the Craft Cubed Festival. What was the inspiration behind the work you created for this space?
I was really inspired by the bold forms, colours and painterly compositions of Obus textiles. I wanted to make a large scale work that would compliment the spring collection, and respond to the architecture of the Nicholas Building (the ceiling is amazing!). Undulating circular forms and voids are a consistent motif in my work. I was thinking a lot about yearning and desire, about eyes and looking, and about peacocking.
How do you integrate art into your everyday life?
I treat being an artist like my job – I love what I do, and it’s the main focus of my work life. Everything else fits around it. It’s more of a question of how I shape my life around my art!
My partner is a writer, curator and artist too. So it’s something that we do a lot of together, it surrounds everything that I do – I’ve made a conscious decision to build a life around art, and so work at it every day.
See more of Louise’s creations online at louisemeuwissen.com or on Instagram, and of course at our city Shop 5, 37 Swanston Street Melbourne until the end of August.
Today we reveal something a little bit special that has been happening in Obus' studio HQ in Northcote, Melbourne. With the help of our friends at west elm and Haymes Paint, our head office and design studio in Northcote, Melbourne has had a makeover!
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Like our founder and creative director Kylie Zerbst, our head office team have a mutual love of colour, pattern and clean design. Over the years we have DIY'd updates to the space, freshening it with colour and adding functionality. But needless to say, when our friends at west elm offered to give our design studio a little bit of love, we jumped at the chance to add some of their beautifully designed products to the mix.
Our brief to west elm's Design Crew was simple: freshen the space with warm, tonal colours and select a range of products to ensure an efficient, productive workspace for Kylie and the design team. The results of their makeover blew us away – it's amazing what a few intentional and homely design touches can do to elevate a busy work space!
Obus founder and creative director Kylie Zerbst's desk in our busy Northcote studio. Kylie wears our BITTERSWEET DRESS (due August). Photo: Mike Baker. Styling: Rhys Duggan for west elm.
The place where our inimitable print designs are conceived, Kylie's desk was a key focal point for our studio makeover. Awash with collected inspiration and the tools of creative process, some key west elm additions like the Aluna Chair and the homely touches of the Asymmetry Lamp have added comfort to the space, while the Lacquer Tray keeps desk flotsam and jetsam contained!
[Above] Details from Kylie's Desk, including the Aluna Chair and Asymmetry Lamp from west elm. The studio wall has been refreshed in Wood Rose by Haymes Paint.
Always a hive of activity, the studio mezzanine is our team meeting space and design hub. Formerly a photography space, the white walls have come alive with colour. Painted in Haymes' Wood Rose, the north wall of the mezzanine now feels connected to the studio below. Directly opposite, the fireplace has been reinvigorated in Haymes' Comanche Dust, a team favourite hue! With a new set of comfortable Slope Chairs, some custom-upholstered Modern Stacking Stools, an Arched Floor Mirror, and a Sunstone Jute Rug to absorb noise, the space now feels like a design partner and a warm, comfortable space to meet.
[Above] Studio mezzanine – before: Formerly a photography space, the mezzanine was functional but not particularly visually inspiring.
[Below] Studio mezzanine – after: A revitalised space! Rug, light fixture, stools, mugs, chairs and planters by west elm. Fireplace painted in Comanche Dust by Haymes Paint. Photo: Mike Baker. Styling: Rhys Duggan.
A big thanks to the west elm and their Design Crew – especially Rhys, Lexi, and Chantal. Their classic, high-quality design pieces will have a home in our studio for years to come!
Proud of your new Obus purchase? Share your style on Instagram so we can see, and you'll be in the running to WIN a $250 Obus gift card!
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We love seeing you out and about in your Obus. Our clothing has always been designed for with comfort, everyday adventuring and the special times in mind. It's lovely to see how you style your purchases across the seasons and bring creativity to your wardrobe.
Which is why we want to see more of YOU! If you're on Instagram, snap a pic of you in your Obus threads and tag us @obusclothing #obusontour. If you take a snap from today until Sunday 14 July, you'll be in the running to WIN a $250 gift voucher!
This competition is not endorsed by Instagram. Valid entries must tag @obusclothing and use the hashtag #obusontour from 27 Jun-14 July 2019 inclusive. Winner will be drawn at random and notified via Instagram week beginning 15 July. Prize is not redeemable for cash.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence is a community organisation that works to alleviate and prevent poverty in Australia - an organisation Obus has worked with for many years. This Winter, we are proud to partner again with Brotherhood in raising funds that support children and families to thrive.
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Our 2019 Winter Coat Drive offers you two ways to support the Brotherhood. Donate a pre-loved coat at our Northcote, City or Fitzroy stores; or add a $2O ‘Brotherhood Gift’ to purchase online or instore.
In return for your donation, we'll give you 20% OFF any coat purchase!*
How Brotherhood of St Laurence help families and children
Astonishingly, 1 in 6 children in Australia live in poverty. Poverty is not just having too little money to live on. It can also mean they or their families being shut out from other aspects of social and economic life that people commonly take for granted: a job, a home, education, or being connected to community.
With your support, the Brotherhood of St Laurence can provide more children and families with quality educational services and learning environments that enable the next generation to achieve their potential. Their programs and services support disadvantaged people of all ages to build better lives for themselves.
What can your donation achieve?
$20 can provide four children with a nutritional breakfast every day for one week, helping them to be school ready
$20 can provide educational children’s books for our early childhood programs, helping parents to become their child’s first teacher
Coats that are donated instore will be on-sold to Brotherhood's Community Stores (op shops).
Join us in helping to provide a brighter future through education for some of Australia's most vulnerable children and families.
Find out more about Brotherhood's education programs here, or shop Obus coats here.
*20% discount will be automatically applied at checkout to any Obus coat. Sorry, no rainchecks. Discount cannot be used in conjunction with other promotions, discounts or vouchers. Promotion ends 11.59pm AEST Monday 10/6/19.Photos courtesy Brotherhood of St Laurence.
In premium organic pre-washed Turkish cotton,our LEGACY and COMPANION denim pieces will make you feel good inside and out. Today we share some behind-the-scenes details about who, where and how these lovely wardrobe heroes are made!
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The development process for our denim capsule began late last year. After extensive research, we sourced fully-accredited organic cotton denim from Turkey. This denim is made from BCI-accredited cotton (an initiative to facilitate a better, more sustainable way of growing cotton) and is dyed using processes that minimise water wastage and chemical run-off by 85% compared to conventional denim production.
Next, we designed four styles that would at once be throughly modern as well as wardrobe pieces you'll love for a lifetime. And we were sure to include our standard high-quality detailing like gold press studs and heavy-duty stitching, while adding some extra special design features that we knew you'd love, too!
Then it was time to look at local production. We sourced a maker who is experienced in working with denim and couple apply the design details we wanted. Lucky for us, we didn't have to look far: just the next suburb over from our design studio in Northcote is our maker, Vinh and his team. Gotta love local! We were lucky to visit his workshop just as the buttons and finishes were being applied to the COMPANION JUMPSUIT, LEGACY JEAN, LEGACY JEAN SKIRT, and COMPANION JEAN, before being pre-washed for that ultra-soft and lovingly weathered denim look.
We couldn't be happier with the results of our new denim capsule, and we hope you love them too. Be quick, they won't last long!
SHOP ALL DENIM
In an array of colours, SEVEN SONGS encompasses all the good feels of campfire songs and storytelling in one outstanding Obus print. It's the final print of our Five Senses collection, so we thought we'd do something special for you to celebrate it's upcoming release!
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Ahead of it's launch, we're offering you the chance to WIN a sensational Seven Songs prize pack. Our lucky winner can choose their favourite Seven Songs print pieces, plus any of our socks, stockings, gloves and scarves*.
HOW TO ENTER:
Simply SHARE our Seven Songs post, and tell us your all time favourite song!
Share your favourite pic from this post on your timeline, and tell us your all time favourite song. Don't forget to include the hashtag #obussevensongs in your post so we see your entry.
Entries close 11.59pm AEST Monday 27 May. Good luck!
*Giveaway terms & conditions
Prize includes items of winner's choice from our SEVEN SONGS styles and selected accessories up to a max $800 RRP. Not redeemable for cash or store credit. Entries accepted via Instagram & Facebook. Instagram & Facebook do not officially endorse this giveaway. Winner notified on 28/05/19.
During #FashionRevolutionWeek we’ve talked a lot about how we create our garments, but ethical considerations don’t end there. Everything from ensuring you’re receiving a high-quality garment, to managing waste is part of our commitment to creating clothing with a small ecological footprint.
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At the tail end of the design and manufacturing process, we get the finished product delivered to our warehouse. This happens about once a fortnight, and we’re always excited when it does!
Upon delivery from our makers, Laura and Sam check over the garments to ensure they are up to our production standards.
But before these pieces go out to stores, we need to ensure the final product is up to a standard we know our customers expect.
Because we take great pride in the quality of our garments, quality control is an important step between receiving the final product from the makers and sending it into stores. This is where the keen eyes of our production assistant Sam and our warehouse assistant Laura come in handy.
At this stage, all the information for the products online are also finessed, including garment measurements, photographs and product descriptions. We know you might not always be able to make it into our stores to try before you buy, so we put effort into ensuring you can make a confident choice with your chosen size and style – just a couple of things that extend the life of our clothing.
If you’ve ever wondered why some sizes and styles sell out quickly, here’s your answer: We intentionally keep our quantities small, meaning you get a limited edition product that is worth cherishing.
Our jewellery now arrives both from our makers and from us when you order online without the inclusion of single-use plastic packaging.
If there’s one thing you get when you buy something online, it’s (often) an excess of packaging, right? Of course there is a functional element to packaging – noone wants their purchase to arrive at their doorstep damaged! But we also don’t want the efforts we go to when creating ethical clothing to be undone by poor attention to packaging our products
Packaging has been a focus at Obus for the last 12 months, with our team researching and designing packaging that can be used to post out online orders and be either recyclable, reusable, and/or not wholly made from plastic materials. As well, we have worked with our makers and producers to deliver product to us packaged in recyclable materials or in ways that reduces the amount of single-use plastic waste.
CAPTION: Our cardboard clothing swing tags are recyclable (and you can even bring them back to us for re-use!). Shoes arrive from our makers without superfluous plastic packaging. And if you choose to leave take your shoes out of the box before you leave one of our stores, rest assured that box will be put to good use in our production studio for housing bibs and bobs.
Fabric offcuts are inevitable part of clothing production. While we strive to make the most of each piece of fabric (even tweaking the design of garments to ensure fabric wastage is reduced), there will always be small leftovers.
So what do we do with those offcuts? Quite simply, we make things from them like scarves, beeswax wraps and other accessories. Yes, by donning a humble Obus scrunchie, you’re doing something to save the planet from fabric waste! Thanks, scrunchies (*whispers* We’re so glad you’re back.)
Extending the life of our clothing
As we mentioned earlier this week, built into our design ethos is a desire to make each and every Obus garment something to treasure – not just for one season, but for years to come.
It’s the key to reducing the pressure clothing manufacturing puts on the world’s resources: buy well, and be intentional about your purchases. Keep your items in tip-top shape and you’ll enjoy them much longer than a garment with an expiry date built into it.
Whether it's through our initiatives such as Swap Shop, or our offer to repair garments if they are found to be faulty, or sharing our tips for the best washing and general care of your garments – we're always looking for new ways to help our customers get the most out of their Obus clothing.
Thanks for following our FASHION REVOLUTION series!
While we realise the small size of our business can’t change the processes of a global fashion industry, collectively both yours and our purchasing power can.
We’re proud to be a part of a groundswell of businesses making similar ethical manufacturing decisions, and we hope this series has offered you insights into how we are making our business philosophy and practices more transparent and ethical.
Making a garment is one element of fashion production, but what about the materials these products are made from? In this part of our Fashion Revolution series, we take you behind the scenes of some of our local suppliers of fabric and hardware.
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At Obus, we like to design our clothing using fabrics that we trust to go the distance – in terms of wearability, comfort, and compatibility with our original prints. There’s a reason we feature cotton, linen, Tencel, Viscose, Merino wool, cotton jersey and denim in our seasonal collections over and over again. You love these fabrics, and so do we!
To talk about our favourite types of fabric could cover a dozen separate blogs, so we’ll keep it simple today and tell you about the fabric behind one of Obus’ best-selling products: our black TRAVELLER PANT. Yep, you know the one – you might even own a pair (or three!).
The sisterhood and the TRAVELLER PANT
While we produce almost all of our products in limited edition quantities, the TRAVELLER PANT is one style we continue to produce over and over again (because you can’t get enough of them!). We love the Cotton Traveller Pant in Midnight because it is made from GOTS-certified Organic Cotton. The cotton is dyed by our partners in Melbourne, before being made by our Melbourne makers (maybe we should have called it the MELBOURNE PANT?). Our Winter version of this wardrobe staple - the MERINO TRAVELLER PANT - is also dyed here and made in Melbourne.
Our cotton jersey and Merino fabric is produced and dyed in Melbourne.
You might recall we visited these folks last year – they also dye our Merino fabric. Raw wool for all our Merino collections is sourced from New Zealand and Australian sources where possible, and when we source Merino from Vietnamese producers, this is done so by a Bluesign® system partner, which means the company producing the wool complies with strict ethical and environmental standards right from the beginning of the manufacturing process.
Not all the cotton we use is organic, but we work hard to ensure it is ethically sourced. We are signatories of the Uzbek Cotton Pledge, meaning none of our cotton is sourced from Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan (these countries have a seriously poor reputation on human rights when it comes to farming cotton). Most of our cotton is grown and produced in China, and we’re moving toward ensuring all cotton suppliers are BCI Members.
Of course, cotton is not the most environmentally friendly base material – it uses a lot of water in its growth and production. To counter that, we look to other methods of reducing water waste, such as our move away from screen-printing our original designs onto fabric, towards digital printing. It’s a small step, but in adopting a developing technology we hope that in coming years it will have a big impact on the industry as a whole.
Buttons and trims and zips, oh my!
The Melbourne fashion industry is full of colourful characters, and none more bedazzled than Jim Ketoglidis, affectionally known by his business’ name: Jimmy Buttons.
Every month or so, our production assistant Sam will venture into Jimmy’s shop in Fitzroy seeking out the perfect button, elastic or zip to complete an Obus design. And oh my, is there a lot of options!
Self-described as ‘a magical Aladdin’s Cave full of amazing fashion accessories’, this Melbourne institution is an important part of the local fashion industry.
Jimmy Buttons has wall-to-wall-to-ceiling buttons, zips and other haberdashery in Fitzroy, with its namesake Jimmy at the helm.
Jimmy Buttons is open to the public, so you can go and see it for yourself (and say hi to his pups from us!).
Obus Corozo buttons – a little thing that does a lot of good
We want to give a shout out to one type of button we often use in our garments, because it has some pretty cool environmental credentials. It’s a corozo button.
Obus corozo buttons ready to be sent away for dyeing to match our forthcoming SEVEN SONGS print. They're dyed for us into custom colours in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
What is a corozo button? Well, corozo is a 100% natural product. It’s actually a nut that grows on the Phytelephas palm tree, a native found in countries such as Ecuador and Peru.
Corozo goes a long way to support indigenous communities of northwest South America with sustainable trade and employment, and because the Phytelephas Palm can’t be grown on plantations, it doesn’t risk these areas falling victim to deforestation and over-farming.
As a button material, corozo is tough, can be dyed into a multitude of colours and is much more environmentally friendly than plastic. Isn’t it great how a small choice can lead to a lot of good?
Read more about how we’re reducing waste at Obus tomorrow, as we wrap up our Fashion Revolution series!
Not everything from Obus is made in Australia, but that is by no means a bad thing! Ethical fashion production can be undertaken all over the world – the key is choosing manufacturers wisely, and we do so with our high standards front of mind.
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Around five years ago, the diminished state of the knitwear and leathergoods industry in Australia encouraged us to look overseas for specialised businesses who could produce our seasonal knits and footwear, while meeting our high ethical production standards.
Truthfully, it’s been a journey to find overseas partners who understand our ethos and can work with a business of our size to bring our ideas to life. For many manufacturers, we are simply ‘too small’ to partner with. As we mentioned yesterday, producing huge volumes of product is not something we aspire to - yet for many on the manufacturing side of things, consciously producing a small minimum quantity of clothing or footwear styles is often a dealbreaker. Which we’re sure you’ll agree is a sad state of affairs, given that there is a crisis of fast fashion today and an oversupply of poor-quality clothing on the market.
But nevertheless, we persisted! As we detailed on the blog last year, Kylie undertook a factory research tour in China in 2018, and we now work with Dongguan-based knitwear and Yunnan-based footwear manufacturing partners.
From a design perspective, it’s very freeing to work closely with manufacturers who have decades of knowledge and the latest technology to make excellent products at an affordable price. But we’re also thrilled to be in tune with them on an ethical level. Our knitwear factory is BSCI accredited and audited annually to confirm all aspects of their workplace conditions are in accordance with human rights, ILO conventions and national labor law. Our footwear is made by a small team dedicated to producing made-to-order limited runs of bespoke shoes in an ethically and environmentally conscious way (you might remember them from this blog last year!).