EVER HAVE ONE OF THOSE MOMENTS WHERE YOU LOOK AT YOUR CLOSET AND SUDDENLY FEEL KIND OF DISGUSTED WITH YOURSELF? WITH THE FACT THAT YOU’VE ACCUMULATED SO MUCH STUFF, AND THAT YOU’RE NOT EVEN SURE HOW 90 PERCENT OF IT ENDED UP IN YOUR CLOSET? WELL, SISTERS JULIA HUGHES AND MIRIAM GRUNDY HAD ONE OF THOSE MOMENTS, AND INSTEAD OF JUST HAULING THEIR CLOTHES OFF TO ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, THEY ACTUALLY DID SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
ENTER THE CREATION OF THEIR ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE FASHION LINE SUNDAY TRACKER, WHICH WITH THEIR COLOURFUL BOHO MOCHILAS AND BEADED CLUTCHES, PANAMA HATS AND GREEK POM POM SANDALS, PROVES YOU DON’T HAVE TO COMPROMISE ON STYLE IN ORDER TO BE GREEN.
I CHAT WITH THE GO-GETTING SISTERS ABOUT WHERE THEIR PASSION FOR ETHICAL FASHION BEGAN, WHERE THEIR SEARCH FOR UNIQUE PIECES HAS TAKEN THEM AROUND THE WORLD, AND WHAT ETHICS IN FASHION REALLY MEANS TO THEM. I HOPE THEIR WORDS INSPIRE YOU AS MUCH AS THEY DID ME.
Hi girls, and thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. So first up, what compelled you to start Sunday Tracker?
JH: I think like most business start-ups we were compelled by dissatisfaction with the status quo, both on a personal level and in a broader global sense. Miriam and I have always been greenies with a strong commitment to social justice, especially around women’s empowerment, but until a few years ago we hadn’t really applied that to our wardrobes. There was a personal journey we both went on, learning how destructive fast fashion can be – both environmentally and through supply chains that exploit some of the most vulnerable women in the world. I was living in London and noticed ethical fashion becoming a ‘thing’ in Europe, but there wasn’t much happening in Australia. At that point the business idea started to grow. From the outset we were determined to change the perception that ethical fashion is daggy or overpriced. Our range of beautiful, handmade, quality pieces are neither.
What are the main beliefs that buttress your brand?
Respect and protect people and nature.
What you wear matters.
Fashion should be fun, accessible and enriching, not elitist and exploitative.
And we have huge collective power as consumers to force change.
How do you decide which pieces will enter your collections?
JH: To be honest, a lot of what we make and sell is based on personal taste. Miriam and I have different styles (she has style, I don’t), my viewpoint is more practical, which makes for a good balance. For example, initially I wasn’t so sure about pom pom sandals but she convinced me and they’ve been our biggest seller by far. Obviously I know nothing!
Arriving at our colorful, boho, resort-style aesthetic has been through trial and error. Over the last 12 months we’ve found more amazing brands and gained a better understanding of who our customers are and what they want.
In terms of ensuring the ethical credentials of everything we sell, that requires a lot of research. There’s no universal standard or accreditation for what’s ethical so we use our own judgment and rely on complete transparency from our brands and suppliers.
Where has your search for ethical fashion taken you so far?
MG: Really the seed was planted while I was doing a university subject on sustainability in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The emphasis of the assignment I was doing was on cultural and social sustainability – that is to say that our notions of progress and empowerment are not necessarily compatible with others, especially if we erode traditional practices. It was during that trip that I met with – and most importantly listened to and really unpacked – what an ethical product could look like that was environmentally, culturally, socially and financially sustainable. Out of that trip came a range of woven bags from Pentecost Island, but what it really gave us was a framework to start to think about how sustainability can be applied to relevant and desirable fashion creations.
JH: I’ve done some scouting in Morocco where we found fantastic bags and baskets. Predominantly we’re relying on Skype to reach suppliers in Kenya, Columbia and Mexico. I’d love for our search to be closer to home and we’re now turning our focus to Australian communities and neighbouring developing countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. We’re on the constant look out for locally-made accessories, so if your readers have any suggestions pass them on!
How do you know where to look to find the best people to make each particular item?
MG: Before any decision is made there’s hours of research, production investigation and then the litmus test of will it be a commercially sustainable product: is it something that people will actually wear for years? We can’t put our name to items that are bound to trends or are so bland that they alienate the style conscious market.
Initially we were focused on single-origin products, which limited our choices. Of late we’ve been experimenting with ethical mash-ups that let us put together regionally characteristic elements to make a global hybrid creation – such as Fairtrade pom poms from Thailand, with handmade sandals from Greece, topped with vintage charms from Connecticut. Being based in New York I get the chance to attend the key trade fairs, which lets me connect personally with the designers and really inspect the products.
Why is ethical fashion important to you?
JH: I don’t know where to start. There are so many horrifying stats about water usage, toxicity and landfill created by fast-fashion. But the human toll makes ethical fashion an absolute imperative for me. Thousands of people dying when the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed and other incidents, and the ongoing exploitation of millions of workers in South Asia and India. It’s appalling and there is another way – buy less, buy quality, know where and how your clothing is made. As you put it so wonderfully, start giving a shit.
Your top two destinations globally for shopping and why?
JH: Morrocco for bags, cushions and throws. Turkey for silver jewellery.
MG: Ecuador for authentic Panama hats and New York, because you can find just about everything in the incredible secondhand consignment boutiques.
What item do you always pack when you travel?
JH: I always pack a pestemal to use as a towel, scarf or blanket. They’re so lightweight so perfect for travel.
My Matt&Nat crossbody bag comes with me everywhere. The vegan leather is indestructible! It can withstand water, snow, sun and doesn’t stain or lose its shape. And I always pack lavender oil for calming and it can also be used as antiseptic.
MG: A Prymal Panama hat because they are as practical as they are stylish. A Mano Project string bag because they’re a fun solution to the day-pack, squash down to nothing and let you avoid the plastic bags. And I don’t leave home without a S’Well reusable water bottle.
What’s next for Sunday Tracker?
MG: We’re looking to create more streamlined and refined versions of our signature pieces that will let women use their ‘weekend’ wear for formal or corporate style settings. We’re also starting up customised ranges that will let customers make their own mark on the designs.
TO CHECK OUT SUNDAY TRACKER’S FULL RANGE, CLICK HERE.
FOLLOW SUNDAY TRACKER ON INSTAGRAM HERE.