Natural Element

Amy Roberts is a certified child of the green movement. Boasting the title of Creative Director to young Australian label, Vege Threads, she is spreading the social message of eco-friendly and sustainable clothing. Hoping to be the change in the commercial and often environmentally destructive fashion industry that we know, Roberts uses only natural, organic fabrics and plant-based dyes for her innovative designs. This means the mark she leaves on the environment can only be a positive one. Choosing not to pay attention to trends in fashion, but instead opting to celebrate the craftsmanship of each individual piece is an affirmative choice for anyone, and Roberts certainly is a true testament to this trend in fashion and beauty, encouraging a gentler approach on not only the world we live in, but on our bodies and consciences as well. Having lived and worked in Europe, Roberts now sources her fabrics from Indonesia, with hopes of locally cementing her production here in Australia. She also does her part for charity, by donating a percentage of her profits to the Pedulu Sesama Philanthropic Work Foundation in North Bali, which assists in giving these communities food, bedding and medical aid. With a generous heart, a conscious mind, and a keen eye for innovation, there’s no saying the limits to what Vege Threads, as both a label and as a movement, can achieve.

Sophie Flecknoe: Firstly, can you tell me a little about yourself? How would you define what it is that you do?

Amy Roberts: I am 25 years old, currently live in Adelaide and am the owner of small eco label, Vege Threads. Vege Threads is all about creating accessible sustainable clothing of simple cuts and classic style. The main focus is about using 100% organic and natural materials and specializing in natural dyes. I design the ranges and have full creative control of the label, but also work on the business side a lot of the time. Currently I also run a pop-up shop [in] The Town Local, which is backed by a great location initiative called ‘Renew Adelaide’.

How did the label come to be? Let’s start at the very beginning.

When I finished school I was torn between an arts and science based ‘career’. I always felt that studying something like fashion would pigeon hole me into a certain industry that I wasn’t eager to be apart of. But after taking a year off to travel and landing a job working for a small knitwear label in London I decided to apply to Melbourne’s RMIT to study fashion and see where it could take me. When I was studying, the eco-fashion industry in Australia barely existed and I was feeling conflicted studying something that I saw was having such a detrimental effect on the environment. I started looking for internships abroad and was offered a job in Paris for a small ecological label. That year really changed my perception of the clothing industry and really shaped my whole outlook on life.

After my year in France I took up a commercial position as a designer for a label to gain more experience, but my moral conscious kicked in and [I] couldn’t continue working in a position feeling like I was contributing to the problem. I decided then that I would start my own thing, giving people an alternative and means of educating people about the importance of why things should be sustainable, organic and ethical.

What is the Vege Threads definition of beauty? How do you aim to create it, or where to you seek to find it?

To me, it’s about creating comfort a timeless shape in each design. You want a garment to be something that you can throw on now and in 5 years and still have that timeless style. Creating beauty in this is about the feel of the fabrics and the natural elements of the dyes.

Who are some style icons of the label? Do you have any other designers, labels, individuals that you draw inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from many things but I think travel has been the main source. I also like talking to my customers and getting feedback on styles and cuts to inspire me to improve or create more things that people are looking for. Game changers are definitely my personal inspiration. I don’t really follow other labels or designers, I like to keep things to myself and keep focus that what I’m doing is the right thing, rather than comparing, which happens a lot in the fashion industry.

Where do you source your fabrics?

At this stage I am sourcing from Indonesia. The tencel I use in a leinzig fabric, which is made in Australia and I use GOTS certified organic cotton. I am however looking into other blends, such as bamboo, hemp, silks, which I hope I can base from Australia when I localize my production.

What’s the design process from initial idea through to finished product?

The process does take a long time. I have been working on the shapes for about 2 years since beginning the development of Vege Threads before launching last year. Now I’m still perfecting the shapes. I wanted to create wearable clothes for all body shapes and relevant to all seasons. Therefore being practical but still having a sense of style is one element I hope will grow. I develop my ideas, the samples then work with my suppliers to find the best fabric, colours with natural resources and develop them over many months until launching the finished product.

A percentage of your profits go to the Pedulu Sesama Philanthropic Work foundation in Bali, which is a very generous approach. What is the importance of giving back? What does this collaboration achieve?  

I do it purely because I want to. It’s great to have a means of donating to a good cause. I’ve worked with this foundation for 2 years now, volunteering there and donating to kids to help them with their education. By keeping the regular donations, it helps aid the organization to continue their work, with the kids and the community. Bali is very developed in the tourist areas, but there are many areas that are still in poverty. I wanted to give something back to the needy community while a part of my business is based there.

Can you describe the Vege Threads team? Would you say it’s quite close-knit?

It’s just me. It’s makes for a lot of work now that [it] is growing but I hope to start employing people in the near future.

What is the importance of social media in regards to your work? Do you think it’s a crucial facet of any fashion business today?

I think social media is a great way of reaching a broad audience. The world has become such a small place through social media, making what you do suddenly accessible to everyone, not just Australians. It’s great to use it for positive reasons. In fashion, it’s a trend. But I think it’s great to have a way to meet a network of people who support each other in similar fields.

On your website is the Mahatma Gandhi quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What exactly is the change you hope to see?

Change in perception leading to action.

Do you pay attention to trends in fashion, or do you prefer to ignore it? How important is sustainability in regards to fashion these days? How is it achievable for everyone?

Fast fashion and ‘trends’ are not sustainable, unless it’s a sustainable trend (if that makes sense!) I think lifestyle trends are great, if that means moving towards a more ecologically sound future. But generally in commercial fashion this doesn’t exist. If more of the ‘big brands’ made small sustainable decisions, this would make a huge impact. The smaller eco-brands are fantastic in educating consumers and also being an option for those who are seeking something different. But it really needs to become the norm and that starts with education and awareness.

Is travel a major component of what you do? Where has been your favourite destination so far? Where is one place you would love to visit?

I love travel and have been fortunate to see a lot of places abroad. I now travel to Indonesia often with work, which I love. I lived in Europe for a year in 2009, which was a great learning experience as at the time they were really pushing the ‘green’ movement. In terms of new places, I haven’t ventured to South America, so that’s next on the list!

What’s next for Vege Threads? Where do you see the label in a few years time?

I want to localize Vege Threads and have production in Australia. I want to explore more sustainable methods and fabrics and hope to spread to word about eco-fashion alternatives.

Image by Ryan Kenny courtesy of Vege Threads.

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