Kelli Donovan is the designer behind the sustainable and ethical label Pure Pod.
Things you may not know about Kelli:
- She studied at Canberra Institute of Technology way back in 1989
- With a friend she started a men's label called Mr Ruben selling paisley shirts and boxer shorts
- She moved to Melbourne and started a job selling kids clothing to large department stores. She stayed 10 years!
- She started her own computer design business designing yardage and prints for clothing. She worked with pattern makers and graphic designers from her own Melbourne studio for seven years.
To learn more about her label and her ambitions we asked some questions.
Why did you start Pure Pod?
Working in the industry in Melbourne I never saw a connection between fashion, social issues in our industry and the problems the industry caused to our environment. I felt like there was no thought that seemed to go into what was in the clothing and how they were made or how they were printed. Struggling with this I decided to take time out from the industry. After studying as a yoga instructor in Byron Bay and being away from the fast paced inner city life of Melbourne I felt I could be creative again and find my own path.
My partner, Sean and I started our brand Pure Pod in 2006-7. The last of my savings went on some organic textiles that sounded like you could eat them. Taking the plunge we went to our first trade show in Melbourne in 2007 and stocked our first stores mid 2007 in Melbourne and around Australia.
Why did you create a label with a the emphasis on sustainability and ethics?
As a designer and maker I think it is our responsibility to help change our industry and create ethical and sustainable, new ways of producing clothing. The clothing industry is the second highest polluting industry in the world so why add to that if we are just making more waste and unwanted clothing.
I'd prefer to be a part of the solution rather than ignore what is happening to our planet and be lazy and be a part of the problem. I want my daughter to have a healthy planet to live and thrive in, not a struggling environment that is causing more illness and creating more social issues and pollution. It is the only way for me now. If I can't make ethical and organic products I'd prefer not to make anything.
How do you balance creativity with business?
It is very hard to run a small business as you have to be the keeper of all areas! Even the areas you are not good at. Creativity I probably spend the least amount of time on and most of my time selling and doing admin!
I'd much prefer to be creating constantly and painting and drawing but without sales and production you don't have a business!
I find yoga and going for a walk with my daughter and dog, helps me be creative. If I get overwhelmed with work I find going some where like the amazing galleries and institutions or the beautiful outdoor spaces in Canberra helps bring on creativity. I would much prefer to just be creative but you can't only do that in a small business. One day I would love to just learn to paint or sculpt!
After a couple of quiet years you are re-launching the label. Why?
We moved back to Canberra after we had different health issues in our family and a young child. Around this time the GFC had killed the retailers in Australia and it was getting too hard to do wholesale in Australia so we downsized the wholesale side of the business.
We kept our online presence. Designer markets were booming around Australia so we did lots of them, travelling the country to go to them. This became a huge juggle with a young child and over the years retail has picked up and online is huge now for clothing sales than it used to be. Many of our Australian makers have retired or are retiring.
With our daughter starting school it seemed like a perfect time to relaunch Pure Pod and get back into wholesale.
Taking the plunge we've ventured off shore with manufacturing. It is all fully Fairtrade Certified from seed to finished product which is not easy to accomplish. We've relaunched our website and are back to selling to ethical businesses and the well being industry. Our first overseas manufactured collection has arrived and we are really excited about it. The fabrics are beautiful.
Was it a difficult decision to go overseas with production?
Yes, because I've always been passionate about Australian made and supporting our industry but it is very hard to make a living for ourselves as well. Now that our makers have almost all retired I don't feel a responsibility to look after them. We become very close to our makers and their families.
We're extremely pleased at the product and quality of the textiles from our Fairtrade organic makers. They have done an amazing job and we have had a great response so far.
What are you doing differently this time?
I'm thinking about it being more of a business and looking more at the bottom line than being precious about design. If it doesn't sell then it doesn't work! Sometimes creatives can be too close to their work and not look at it from a financial side. Next year we will be 10 years in our business so its time to pull up our socks and get on with it !
After being in the industry for such a long time what is the best advice you would give to someone starting in the industry.
Ask lots of questions, find someone who has been there before you to help mentor you as you won't have all the answers and they might have had problems which they can guide you out of. Don't get too precious about your designs as there are millions of designers out there and consumers get overwhlemed with choice. If you can give your customers good advise, lots of help and a beautiful product you're on your way.
Working in fashion you need a thick skin, be prepared to work hard and put in the hours. Many think it's a glamorous trade but it's actually a very tough trade.
Before you start work for someone else first to learn the industry!
- - -
Over the years Pure Pod has:
- Shown in New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles
- Accepted by the Ethical Fashion Forum as '500 Fellowship' member in the UK
- Appeared on the FASHFEST catwalk 2013, 2014,2016
- Won 'Best Fashion Product" at the Green Life Style Awards, 2013
- Won the Canberra Business Points 'Clean and Green' Award 2014
- Won the 'Clean and Green' Award
- Promoted their product in Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver, Canada and Paris Eco Fashion Event competition and at Excolux London 2015
- Sponsored by BMW Australia and Rolfe Classic BMW for Undress Runways in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne