When you think ‘sustainable fashion’, chances are that beige linen floats come to mind – or, at the very least, functional, basic cuts and colours. Spunky Bruiser, our Oxford Street Creative Spaces program tenant, is a bold statement otherwise.
Each garment, constructed from reclaimed patterns and fabrics, is uniquely made by hand and with love – one piece at a time. Tailoring each piece to your taste and style, Spunky Bruiser is turning the shopping and manufacturing experience of fast fashion on its head.
We chat to Bex Frost and Christian Olea, the team behind Spunky Bruiser, about how they make sustainability values work for their label.
What inspired you to start Spunky Bruiser? How did the environmental impact of fashion come into play?
Spunky Bruiser came about from our passion to make a difference in the world. I grew up around sewing machines and Christian did around art, and we’ve always been attracted to pop culture, music and creativity that pushes boundaries.
We set out to structure our business around creating one-of-a-kind clothing in the most ethical and sustainable way we could. Our catch cry is that we don’t want our financial stability to be at the cost of the environment or to the detriment of others.
What is your manufacturing process and how does it ensure your clothing is sustainable?
Our design process is the reverse of what usually happens: we start with materials that are no longer wanted and then work out what we can design.
All of our garments are thought up, composed and produced in our open studio/retail space on Foley Street in Darlinghurst. We source all of our materials in Sydney and handpick each and every textile, usually from charity organisations.
We aim to produce timeless designs in our signature style, with the hope that these will be ‘forever’ purchases, rather than seasons of designs that go out of trend and end up discarded.
How do you balance business requirements and sustainability?
It is very difficult to be both ethical and competitive. I guess we survive because we truly offer something that very few can. The fact that we custom-make is an example of this edge – over 50% of our business is custom-made work.
The only downside to this is how time consuming this type of work is. It’s almost impossible to outsource without losing the integrity of the product. As such, our output is low and this makes growth incredibly difficult.
How has Spunky Bruiser developed over the last few years?
We had a short-term work/retail space through the City’s short-term empty property program, where we trialled and tested ideas and made collaboration a huge part of our business. We try to create collaborative designs a few times a year, which also allows us to showcase other local artists.
From our success in the short-term program, we’re now operating out of our brand-new Foley Street address with 4 other retail stores, which is incredibly exciting! This new ‘cluster’ of creative businesses (driven by the City) helps us work together to promote each other and the area.