Ryan Murtagh makes the invisible visible (and so can you!)  

This post is brought to you by Telstra

As regular readers of Small Talk & Co. would know, I cannot curb my enthusiasm for the stories of inspiring entrepreneurs from across Australia (and apologies for any past abuses of hyperbole!). However there are some great local businesses I support avidly, but cannot profile on Small Talk. I call you my invisibles – they who cannot be named – who boast brilliant founder stories, and bright and innovative products and services – but whose businesses have no online presence or sales platform. I have to thank Telstra Business for this opportunity to add-on to the usual ST&Co. interview format and weave a little visibility magic in the lead up to this Christmas period.

Ryan Murtagh is an entrepreneur – Image courtesy of Neto

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Jess Priemus is a fashion designer

 

Jess and her business partner/husband Shimul

Braid dress in baby blue and white applique

The ladies of the Thanapara Swallows Development Society’s handicraft section

The ladies of the Thanapara Swallows Development Society’s handicraft section

Who made your clothes? Is a question that many consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of, and a question interiors-cum-fashion designer Jess Priemus has a good answer to.

Bhalo is ethically manufactured clothing with an internationally minded aesthetic. In other words, Bhalo’s limited edition garments are ethical fashion that you actually want to wear (no offense to all the manufacturers of misshapen hemp coloured sacks out there).

 Jess and Shimul chose to name the label ‘Bhalo’ (‘good’ in Bengali ) to capture their intentions for the starting the label, with their designer/manager partnership certainly living up to this high standard.

 

Manufactured in Bangladesh, using natural hand woven textiles, printing and embroidery, Jess’ designs have found great balance in showcasing the best of ‘slow’ manufacturing techniques, whilst satisfying her designer’s drive to test new ideas in time, process, and the limitations of material. 

Bhalo is manufactured by the women of the Thanapara Swallows Development Society’s handicraft section, in Rajshahi, north-western Bangladesh, on the riverbank of the Padma (Ganges). The handicraft program at Thanapara is independently run and has 168 permanent producers. The organization is an internationally approved member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), ECOTA Fair Trade Forum (Bangladesh), and Bangla Crafts.

Most importantly, the program assists many poor and underprivileged people, mostly women, by providing training and jobs, as well as a number of community programs. These programs include aiming to eradicating illiteracy, creating health awareness and self-employment, educating people about land rights, and empowering women by creating economic and social awareness towards a number of issues.

 Bhalo’s brand philosophy is to connect the wearer to the garment, establishing a connection and empowering our customers to know the origins of the clothes they are purchasing. This form of transparency is crucial to encouraging people to make ethical decisions towards the things that we acquire in our lives – clothing included. 

 

What is apparent, when you read Jess’ words, is that she and Shimul care deeply who makes your clothes, as well as what they’re made of. Jess’s passion for ‘slow’ concepts of time and lifestyle, innovation and building community are embedded in every fibre of Bhalo’s garments.

And to top it all off, Jess’s ‘kind of manifesto’, is a definite cut-out-and-keep gem for any ethically minded creative, no matter their chosen medium. 

 

Business:  Bhalo

Owner: Jess Priemus

Location: Perth, Western Australia

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Jenny Kulas is a leathersmith

 

Jenny setting up Klaus Goods at Menske, Collingwood. Image credit – Katie Goodwin

Klaus Goods is a Melbourne made handcrafted leather and canvas goods company. Jenny’s products stand out in the crowded accessories market by doing what is often the most difficult for any designer – stripping the product back to its most utilitarian state. Luckily for us, Jenny’s trained eye for aesthetic reduction compliment the timeless qualities of leather to create beautiful, highly functional objects of desire. This dynamo designer sure knows the way to an architect’s heart, as our recent catch up revealed influences of the Bauhaus, film and travel on the production of Klaus Goods.

Business:  Klaus Goods

Owner: Jenny Kulas

Location: Melbourne, Victoria and online 

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Zoë Lea is a sock designer

 

Werken hard

Werken’ hard (image via Unempire Instagram)

 

Zoe Lea has a passion for high quality, stunning design that goes well beyond those small tube shaped things you put on your feet – this lady has big plans and a great creative ethos!  Unempire has a stand out online presence, and Small Talk & Co was super keen to meet Zoe in person to find out what drives this creative mind – community, fast fashion, and RiRi.  N: slight language warning

 

Business:  Unempire

Owner: Zoë Lea

Location: Melbourne, Victoria shipping to the world!

 

What you do?

I make socks through a teeny little business called Unempire. I’m hoping to branch out into other things in the near future, but baby steps right now. Before I did Unempire, I studied fashion design at TAFE and I worked for a bunch of other companies for nearly a decade, doing accessories design, accessories buying, and a bit of clothing and graphic design.

TAFE was great for technical skills in the fashion industry. In my first job, I was immediately useful; it was the same skills, the same programs. I learnt so much working for other people, because essentially you come out of study and you know so much, but you’ve got no idea what to do with it. My experience in accessories meant I knew my own business could be a success, so when I eventually became disillusioned with the bigger companies profit, profit, profit objective, I was confident in creating my own space to balance that out with a focus on design, quality and style.

 

Unempire merges all that experience with my total love/hate relationship with ‘fashion’, I hate trends and cookie cutter imitations, and I feel there’s just toooo much STUFF in the world. Unempire is about merging good design with quality apparel that lasts – I don’t think that you have to sacrifice one for the other.

 

Apparel can be reasonably priced, functional and unique. Essentially that’s the ethos behind the Unempire brand. It’s about bridging a gap in the current marketplace, which is dominated by three equally weak types; functional, but really boring, cheap and mediocre, or really cool looking but ultimately disposable.

 

Mmm croissants! Morning Tea Unempire style

 

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