An interview with Amy Roberts

From VEGE THREADS  –  Conducted by Sabrina Sterk

S: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

A: I’m Amy, the founder and director of Vege Threads. I’ve been running the brand for 5 years now and it’s now my full time commitment ( in life and work ). I’ve tried to build a business that aligns with my values ( the slow movement and conscious consumerism ) and keep that fluid between work and life. I studied and worked in the fashion industry for many years but the industry wasn’t my passion as it didn’t seem like a sustainable or ethical way to contribute as a career. Growing up mostly outside, it gave me a deep appreciation for our surroundings but I also had a deep feeling for wanting to do something that created positive change. So with some research and experience with fair-trade, organic companies and small business I started Vege Threads.

S: How did you get into the industry? Was there a defining moment?

A: I worked for a fast fashion house after returning from France where I’d worked for an ethical clothing label in Paris. The difference, in both the garments and the workplace culture, between the two were stark and it just made me think about what I wanted. There weren’t any ethical / sustainable fashion businesses in South Australia or even Australia at that time (2011) so I started to look into what was needed to set up and run my own business.

S: What’s your best or worst memory from starting out?

A: Starting a business is never easy. I suppose the worst memories come from the times your weighing up costs and realizing you’re not sure how you’ll pay next months rent. It’s a real struggle for the first years. It made me very savvy with spending and budgets and actually now I comfortably live a very fulfilling life, with less. The best memory was the first moment you see something created from nothing and people responding  to it – its a pretty amazing feeling!

S: Is it ever a struggle to let go of a collection? When do you know that the piece is complete?

A: Vege threads has a different model in the sense that we are constantly re-creating a collection of basics and timeless pieces. Rather than constantly changing ( which is what the fashion industry tells us we need ) I wanted to test a new model, one based of practical, classic shapes that you can get year after year. If anything changes, is because we re-asses a design element and try to improve on it’s versatility and wearability.

S: How important is it, do you think to give back to the community that fostered you?

A: I think that it’s important but it’s something that will happen organically when you start a small business. You reply a lot on your surrounding community to get you off the ground so therefore find ways to give back and help build creativity in that place.

S: What makes Melbourne a great place to design/work/live?

A: I’ve only recently re-located to Melbourne for the business to grow here as 80% of our production is now based here. There is a great community of creative and small businesses here which makes being based here feel supported. There are always things happening and similar businesses in Melbourne ( ethical and local )  that fit with the Vege Threads ethos,  so it’s great to live a lifestyle that aligns with work but also personally.

S: What does sustainability mean to you, and how do you practice it throughout daily life?

A: Sustainability for me is being mindful about all decisions in your life. Rather than throwing all your eggs in one basket it’s important to think about the little changes you can make to your daily life. A couple of years in to VT, I felt a lot of pressure that I had to be a perfect, organic living, zero waste person but the reality of what I could do in my capacity wasn’t that. It was a real mental struggle until I decided that it was OK to take small steps. I obviously have a huge focus on my industry ( clothing ) and doing what I can with that as my main focus. But my personal values about ethics and the environment means that of course I try to live as mindfully as possible. I still need to drive a car to visit my factories and for travel ( as one example ), so I try and offset that with other ways. I shop local, make a lot of my own thing/products and am trying to limited waste as much as possible.

S: We understand that you dye your clothing with natural pigments. Can you tell us a little about a particular colour that use, and how it is sourced/ used? 

A: We work with a natural dye house in Indonesia for some capsule collections of tie dye with a main focus on Indigo. This is farm in indonesia, whereas the other plants ( kepang tree bark, mango leaf ) are all grown on the premises.

S: There has been an influx in fashion designers moving to Bali, in hope of starting a new brand and reducing production costs. Do you think this is sustainable and ethical?

A: Bali is not the answer. I think working local should be the first step for local designers and if designers want to go offshore they should be investing in certified factories with responsible production ( but more importantly textile production and dye methods )


S: What tips would you give anybody looking to start out in the industry?

A:  small, test your ideas and go from there but be responsible with your discussions. We are now in an age where we are too educated to make poor decisions that comprise the welfare of people and the future of our environment.