#WeWearAustralian has recently kicked off for the second year in a row, with the goal of uniting the Australian fashion industry and uplifting Australians in need. The campaign is shining a light on the fashion industry in its entirety – from designers to manufacturers, and is partnering with Thread Together to rescue clothes from landfill and distributing them to the people in need.

We sat down with Australian designers Aje, ESSE and Bassike, who are taking part in the #WeWearAustralian movement, and the founder of Showroom-X, to find out what makes us #bettertogether as an Australian fashion industry.

Edwina Forrest and Adrian Norris, Aje

#wewearaustralian Aje cofounders

How does being an Australian brand form part of Aje’s brand story?

Edwina: We founded Aje in 2008 with a mutual love for the arts and a vision to marry both Australia’s quintessentially coastal and urban style; to capture the duality and distinct approach Australians have to dressing. We design Australian statement style with artisan details, crafting covetable pieces that withstand the test of time.

What advice would you have for up-and-coming Australian fashion brands – how can they set themselves apart both in Australia and internationally?

Adrian: Authenticity is everything. When launching AJE ATHLETICA, Edwina and I saw an opportunity to create elevated, consciously designed athleticwear, designed through the lens of a fashion house. AJE ATHLETICA is promoting wellbeing through performance, while giving our customers technical styles to look and feel their best. Find your niche, know your customer and work towards being the best at what you do.

Why should Australian consumers shop local? What makes Australian brands special?

Adrian: As a brand, we’ve seen a shift in consumer awareness towards shopping locally, investing in homegrown brands and companies first. Designers and fashion companies of all scales across Australia have been in a vulnerable position due to the significant shifts and economic ramifications of Covid-19. As an industry however, there’s a solidarity and unique history in Australian fashion of supporting each other and celebrating the wins across the board through collaborations and initiatives like #WeWearAustralian. By purchasing Australian, consumers can support this collaborative, creative spirit and keep our local industry, and the hundreds of thousands it employs, thriving. 


Charlotte Hicks, ESSE

#WeWearAustralian Charlotte Hicks of Esse

How does being an Australian brand form part of ESSE’s brand story?

We’re passionate about manufacturing in Australia, and that forms a big part of our narrative. There’s also a definite ease in how Australians dress and that’s something that really plays into our aesthetic – we try to cultivate that laid-back effortlessness. I also believe that Australians are  travellers by nature, and all of our pieces are those go-to pieces you need to have in your bag when you’re travelling – they are reliable, versatile and allow for the Australian lifestyle wherever we are in the world. 

What’s an example of a PR strategy that’s been particularly successful for ESSE?

We’ve been fortunate enough to receive some great awards that generated some great press coverage. We want the brand to be conversational, purpose led – not just about fashion for fashion’s sake. Our goal is to help educate consumers to shop consciously, starting small and building a wardrobe of pieces that will last you for life. I think our willingness to be open and honest about the journey, how we’re learning about sustainability as we go means that we’ve been able to build a strong community around our brand, and editors are also willing to cover us because it’s not just about the brand, it’s about something much bigger than that.

What advice would you have for up-and-coming Australian fashion brands – how can they set themselves apart both in Australia and internationally?

The first question that any startup should ask is what kind of brand do they want to be. Not just from an aesthetic sense, but questioning how big you want to be, whether you want to be a DTC brand, those operational questions that need to be answered as quickly as possible into your journey. You need to know, because otherwise you’ll run out of money pretty quickly!  I also really believe that authenticity is everything – if you’re doing something you believe in, that will shine through. People gravitate towards people like this, and that’s what will get you cut through. 

Why should Australian consumers shop local? What makes Australian brands special?

Brands also need to take responsibility for ‘shopping’ locally themselves – I’m a big advocate in manufacturing in Australia. While there are definite pros and cons to manufacturing locally, we have an incredible manufacturing industry in this country that we need to support. A lot of those in the industry are women, doing amazing things for their community and families. They have an incredible skill set, but it’s also aging, which means we need to support the next generation in order to keep Australia’s manufacturing industry flourishing. 


Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan | Bassike

Behind the scenes with we wear australian - Bassike


How does being an Australian brand form part of Bassike’s brand story?

 Deb: bassike is very aligned with the laid-back Australian lifestyle and our easy, elevated approach to getting dressed. When we launched the brand in 2006, we knew we wanted to produce our garments locally to support Australian manufacturing, and this has since become deeply ingrained in the way we work and what we stand for as a design-led, sustainable brand. As we continue to grow the business globally, we find there is a lot of international interest in our Australian heritage, and the aesthetic and values this presents. Australia, and more specifically our spiritual home on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, will always be central to our brand story.

What strategy that’s been particularly successful for Bassike?

Lou: We’ve always set about doing things the right way – using organic cotton, supporting the local manufacturing industry, and respecting people and the planet – and staying true to this ethos since the beginning has been key to our success. We have never been swayed by trends, and always focused on producing timeless, quality designed pieces in a responsible way authentic clothes, honestly made.

What advice would you have for up-and-coming Australian fashion brands – how can they set themselves apart both in Australia and internationally?

Deb: To be successful in fashion I believe it is imperative to strike a balance in your experience and understanding of both the creative process, and the commercial side of the industry. I would recommend that any up-and-coming designer take the time to work in the industry with an established brand for a few years, before taking the leap to go out on your own. Stay focused, be patient and remain true to your brand DNA.

Why should Australian consumers shop local? What makes Australian brands special?

Lou: I always look for Australian made, so I can support our local industry and be confident that workers are being paid fair wages and treated with respect. The short supply chain and reduced carbon emissions that come with buying locally made goods is another added benefit. The quality and longevity that accompanies buying and wearing Australian designer labels is well-worth the investment, as these pieces will last in your wardrobe for seasons to come.    


Kelly Atkinson, Showroom-X

#wewearaustralian Kelly Atkinson

How are Australians shopping differently since the pandemic?

I think there’s been a global shift in the way we’re shopping since the pandemic. We’re all far more conscious regarding our consumption now. We had our freedoms and luxuries taken away, not travelling or seeing friends and family. During lockdowns, a walk in the park or watching the sunset over the ocean became so important, and I think a lot of people realised how important the natural world is to us. Everyone had a chance to slow down, educate themselves and consider where their clothes were made and what they were made from. That self-reflection turned into a collective consciousness. I think the inherent loneliness of lockdowns also caused consumers to seek community in their brands. 

I think in Australia specifically, because we were able to remain relatively safe and open compared to the rest of the world, there was this appreciation and reverence for our country and how lucky we are. We wanted to support each other and show pride in our country by supporting Australian designers. 

What would be your one piece of advice to Australian brands to help them reach an international audience?  

Be authentic. Have a clear brand purpose. The Australian narrative is so strong and inherent in our design. It’s key to stick to who you are and what your goal is. Younger consumers are gravitating towards labels that stand for something. Conscious consumption seems to be a huge draw from a branding perspective, and I couldn’t be happier to see it.

How can Australian brands better tell their stories to appeal to a local and international market?

Less is more. Choose what you want to talk about and communicate that to your community. The less complicated it is, the better because consumers are so overwhelmed by choice. Give them a clear message as to why they should choose you. Don’t dilute your message. Having a team that understands and is invested in your company is one of the most powerful tools a brand can have. 

Why should Australian consumers shop local? What makes Australian brands special?

 Shopping Australian brands supports our community and economy. Local manufacturing also means it’s more likely that Australian resources will be used, such as cotton or cowhide for leather, creating jobs. There is a much clearer idea of the supply chain in the fashion industry in our country, and I have witnessed a shift in consumers increasingly seeking transparency from brands. They want to know where their clothing is made, who makes it, and from what material. We’re a very well educated country, so that puts us ahead of the game. Australia has incredibly high standards for the ethical treatment of workers and animals too. Our wages are protected to ensure that craftspeople receive the income they deserve.

You’re running the #WeWearAustralian campaign for the second year in a row – what strategies have you used to build awareness of the campaign?

 The DNA of #WeWearAustralian is to bring awareness to Australian brands and encourage local buying. I think it’s been so impactful because people are seeking a deeper connection to a community. We hope the movement reminded Australian brands that they’re not in competition with each other and that we are stronger on an international stage as a collective. We want to build each other up and create a name and reputation for Australian fashion. That’s why we used the hashtag #bettertogether. At Showroom-X, we also have a significant focus on education, and #WeWearAustralian was part of our commitment to educating our audience and the broader Australian population as to why it’s so important to support Australian design.

Social media is also an incredibly powerful tool. We brought together 160 brands to launch this movement, and I think the public is really connected to the charitable nature of the initiative. Thanks to our partnership with Thread Together, the movement focuses on circular fashion, something I’m very passionate about. They rescue clothing that would usually go to landfill and redistribute them to Australians in need, whether they’re victims of domestic violence, refugees etc. This means with every #WeWearAustralian purchase, consumers can feel good that their money is going towards supporting something meaningful.

Find out more about the #WeWearAustralian campaign here.