Ariana: What does the term “Sustainability” mean to you, personally? When did you begin to understand the concept/ start taking it more seriously?
Sustainability as a concept hasn’t been familiar to me for very long - I think that itself speaks loudly about how much this topic is not discussed.
I think I was around 16, maybe 15 when I started to realise the effects of our impact was having on the environment, but ever since then it has been a huge part of how I live my everyday life.
The realisation was shocking for me, I honestly did not have a clue about the severity of the impact most of our industries have on our environment and once I sat with that realisation, something that really stood out to me was looking back at my time in school and specifically the lack of education, around this topic.
You and I attended a very well respected, some would say “prestigious” private all-girls school yet there was not one single assembly, workshop or subject that directly linked to environmental science or sustainability, the closest thing we had was Biology…
When I was finally made aware, and faced with the realisation on what was going on, especially in the fashion industry I just couldn’t believe it. From that moment I started to unpack the concept and started trying to figure out how to incorporate it into all aspects of my life.
Q2 - How are you sustainable in your everyday life? Do you have any regular practices/ rituals/ tips for less impact to our home planet?
It all comes down to the choices you make, everyday. What you buy and what you do can either be sustainable or it can be causing more issues for the environment.
Living sustainably is hugely important to me, but there are many layers to it.
Truthfully, I often find it difficult to feel happy within myself and all that I do sometimes. Knowing that I’m still contributing to harming the earth in some way, everyday is definitely a challenging concept to wrap my head around so “impact” is something I consider when making choices - in all aspects of my life.
Although I would love to live a completely sustainable lifestyle, I can’t imagine myself leaving society to go and live in the middle of no where, like an eco-caveman with no footprint. I do want to live in a modern society and I also want to prioritise having less of an impact so I aim to have the smallest carbon footprint that I can possibly have, within my means.
One of the most impactful efforts towards living more sustainably, which I have been putting most of my energy and focus on now is: where I shop.
I know that the best way that I can make a difference is understanding my purchasing power as a “consumer” because I know how it can make a direct impact.
Obviously there’s the basics that we all know, using a tote bag and a keep cup or avoiding take away containers… all of those things are literally the base level and there is no excuse for anyone to still be mindlessly using single use plastic waste now as its so accessible to us to make better choices.
Q3 - You currently have, not one, but two fashion businesses - an independent fashion label Maem Disko & an Online Vintage Shop @deadglowvintage (you are incredible!) please share your journey on starting these businesses!
When I left school, I didn’t feel the pull to pursue a traditional profession at university so I moved to sydney and commenced a Fashion/ Business degree. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter on the planet, which is just mental. I’ve always bought second hand and its still something that I am the biggest advocate of.
My love for second hand came from not getting any hand outs from my parents growing up, I had to buy everything myself so that’s why having a fashion label and a vintage store with accessible price points is so important. I don’t want to create a financial divide so having a reasonable price point as well as low ecological impact are the key components of my businesses.
Maem Disko came to life after a beautiful realisation that I didn’t feel aligned with my “dream” internship. Whilst I was in fashion school I was so lucky to land an internship at one of the worlds biggest fashion magazines (we are not naming names here for privacy). My plan was to start working there post-internship but once I started there, I realised it wasn’t at all what I was expecting and definitely wasn’t where I wanted to be. I did a few more internships and realised that I really didn’t enjoy being given those basic, mundane tasks and being told what to do - that’s when I realised I wanted to start my own, independent label.
One day I just woke up and I was like I need to start this, now. Ive always been a whimsical “its all going to work out” kind of person but I suddenly just had this gross realisation that nothing would happen unless I go out and do it.
Re: @deadglowvintage, I haven’t touched it in a while as during COVID it was really hard to source pieces as most of the vintage/ second hand stores were all closed. I will be rebranding it, someday… but I was starting to feel disconnected from it.
As it progressed it started becoming more and more distant from the reason why I started it. Originally I loved it because it gave an option of sustainable clothing to anyone. It was such a great business experience because essentially it was what taught me about the circular fashion industry and sustainability.
I don’t know what changed, and it happened over time but the prices of my items just got so out of hand. The vintage shop worked on a bidding system and I would list items for $5 and then girls would bid on them until they sold. As it went on, it got to a point where items would be selling for $250 USD.
Whilst that was great for my business, on the flip side it went against what I really wanted. I intended to create a space that celebrated recycling and keeping garments out of landfill but most importantly I wanted to hold a space for any girl to have an option to choose this over fast fashion. I didn’t intend for it to become a place for girls to spend all this money on one off unique pieces, I wanted it to be accessible and once the prices went up I just didn’t resonate with it anymore.
Q4 - For those that don’t know, tell us a little bit more about “Dead Stock" - where do you source yours from?
why did you choose this option for your material?
When I moved to Sydney I started going to fabric stores and looking at my options. Im fortunate that I know how to sew, my mum taught me the basics, which means I can sew a dress together but my skillset is still so limited. This is another reason why I have so much respect for garnet makers- I wish more of the general consumer population understood how much goes into making one piece.
Anyone that has tried to sew knows how hard it is, how time consuming it is and how one very simple garnet takes time, precision and energy.
A little of topic but when a garment is being sold at such a low cost you really need to consider: no brand is selling anything without a profit, if they can sell this for $7.50 and still make a profit, including all of the other costs involved: fabric, transport, marketing etc… how much are their workers being paid? (its around 6 cents per piece).
Once I decided I wanted to start my own label, naturally I started doing my research into fabrics and manufacturers. I knew I wanted to do everything as sustainably as possible which meant local production and sourcing garment makers in sydney - my seamstresses is the sweetest, he’s this 70/ 75 year old Macedonian man and he’s the cutest thing in the whole world!
I chose dead-stock material because it is giving new life to material that would usually go to landfill as waste. The cool thing about dead stock is that you can’t aways have it, so it really creates this limited edition essence to re-purposing that material.
Originally I wanted to use natural fibres - organic fair trade cotton, hemp or linen etc… moving forward, my ideal material is to source dead-stock natural fibres, which is challenging. Natural fibres are a more expensive fabric, meaning they are less likely to be discarded and then sold as dead-stock.
I knew I wanted to start with dead- stock because it was the most sustainable option for starting out and with it being end of mill/ designer off cuts it still makes my garments unique.
The place I shop most - the remanent warehouse (in Alexandria, Sydney) its so cool because I go there and I get to find fabric that nobody else will have. A lot of the time there’s archived fabrics - essentially vintage fabrics.
You can shop online, there’s lots of dead-stock warehouses you can go and find and order fabrics online (I know its difficult online as you need to understand fabric composition and weight and things like that).
q5 - Who is your ideal Maem Disko customer?
I believe the Maem Disko customer is someone who shops with care.
Someone who doesn’t believe in overconsumption, buying 10 items and returning 9 of them and basically just someone who values ethical production and slow fashion.
I tend to sell a lot of my garments via a Preordering system, meaning that girls will buy a garment and be prepared to wait 1-2 weeks before its dispatched! I was worried at first about whether this was going to have a negative response because of the wait time and how in todays society no one likes to wait!
I was blown away with support and so impressed that there were so may girls who were willing to wait for the time and effort that goes into creating my garments! This really reinforced my core focus of sustainability and slow fashion and I’m so excited to discover my customers and their values even more, constantly learning, growing and improving our sustainable practices.
q7- What is your opinion on Instagram “influencers”, Celebrities & Mass fashion brands creating profitable businesses from Social media whilst cutting absurd costs during manufacturing and production.
As an influencer you have a responsibility because it’s not just individual “buying power” its also alignment. There are influencers that I genuinely really respect and because of that I value their opinion of the world.
When influencers have such affect on people and choose to work with fast fashion brands its saying “this is okay” and “I have no issue with this.”
Im not going to sit here and throw shade, because I’ve been on influencer trips and have been to events in the past. When the cheques are so big I can understand how difficult it is to say no.
I once got offered a stupid amount of money to do a post for a fast fashion brand, I don’t have a huge following on Instagram whatsoever so it was so insane for me to realise that this brand had the ability and the funds to pay me so much money, yet weren’t even paying their garment makers a minimum wage.
It was around the same time when I had just started my brand, I was in Sydney with the living expenses being so high. I was working all of these part-time jobs, in hospitality, waitressing etc and I realised how hard it would be for most girls to say no.
I did decide to decline that offer, something inside of me just couldn’t do it, no matter how enticing the pay check was. It didn’t feel right. It's kind of like dirty money in a way, knowing that you’re winning whilst someone else is really loosing on the other side.
It will be interesting to see how fast fashion influencers adapt with the sustainability movement ramping up. Ive noticed so many creators being called out for partnering with unethical brands so I’m really curious to see how the influencer industry changes within the next few years as more people become aware of the environmental and social issues.
q6 - If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
If I could change one thing in the world it would be equal access to education. I believe that the lack of access to education around the globe is one of the key factors which allows for further disparity between the privileged and those in need.
In terms of sustainability and the fashion industry, there are so many things I would change.
The greatest would be much much stronger law enforcement for fashion companies in regards to their transparency in production processes and
extensive accountability processes which all retailers must follow around the globe.
There are so many companies who get away with paying their workers barley enough to live and there are no actual enforced laws which demand ethical standards or public transparency.
If there were law enforcements in every country that ensured all retailers to have their production methods approved, meeting a standard for sustainability, I believe the impact would be astounding.