Not many people can say that the name of their ethical fashion business was sparked by a personal joke, but that’s exactly what happened to Sarah Garrett-Hodoniczky and her husband Jason Hodoniczky when they launched their first fashion label, RANT Clothing.
“The name came about from a personal joke because of the tendency I have to go on about certain topics. I rant on and on and on…” shares Sarah. I completely relate. As an extrovert, I find myself ranting on and on too, particularly on the phone where I have a captive audience. Thus it’s no surprise that my most recent phone call with Sarah clocks in at about an hour and a half. But that’s ok. We have far too much in common to let time get in the way of what looks to be the start of a beautiful friendship.
On the phone, Sarah explains how she and Jason launched the business in 2003 from their home studio in Brisbane Australia. “RANT was started not long after Jason and myself moved in together,” explains Sarah. “I wanted to work from home to be there for my son when he was starting school.” While having work flexibility may have been the motivation for starting the business, it was Sarah’s vast experience in the fashion industry that ensured the business had a solid foundation. “It’s an industry that I knew well and I wanted to do it my way this time round; ethical and sustainability being the core focus.”
Sarah’s interest in design started when she was given her first sewing machine on her 7th birthday. She began making her own clothes and soon after leaving school, embarked on a career in fashion. “I worked in New Zealand before coming to Brisbane in the 80s and worked for Cue before I worked at Stiletto,” recounts Sarah. Stiletto initially specialised in cool Australian labels before developed its own clothing range. “I went on regular [buying] trips to Sydney and Melbourne. Most of the labels were launched out of locations such as Paddington Markets and we loved anything that was alternative and adventurous.” Sarah’s strengths in sewing and designing helped to catapult the label further, and by the time she left Stiletto in 1995 to have the couple’s first child, Stiletto’s retail business had expanded from two stores to thirteen.
While Sarah has always been a creative, Jason couldn’t be more different. When they started RANT, he was completing a PhD in Chemical Engineering and working at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at The University of Queensland. After completing the PhD, Jason then moved to CSIRO to work in the plant industry where he did research into sugars. “He would work during the day and come home at night and we’d do RANT things together. His science mind works in a totally opposite way to my creative mind. This works out perfectly for us as we like to ‘divide and conquer’ both tackling different things that we are better adapted to and lightening the work load.”
Despite their seeming differences, the couple’s contrasting strengths have proved a winning formula for RANT. The brand initially launched with a range of wraps and belts using upcycled fabrics that Sarah sewed herself. After attracting a local following, the couple then released a small clothing range, focussing on quality natural fibres and garments designed for comfort. Ethically produced in Australia under Fair Work laws, RANT is a design-driven label underpinned by ethical and environmental principles.
The Australian eco label has also weathered the tough fashion climate that has seen the country’s clothing industry struggle against the barrage of imported cheaply-made fashion brands flooding the market. The brand celebrates its 14th year in operation this year but it’s defiance of fast fashion hasn’t come without challenges. “Paying Australian wages for all parts of our manufacturing while competing with imported labels that pay a fraction of the wages can be challenging, with design having to be carefully considered because of the higher price for each seam. As we also select high quality natural fibres for our collections and not cheap polyester.” Keeping to their high ethical standards costs so much more, but the couple is adamant they wouldn’t do business any other way. Hashtag, total respect.
Bestowed Clothing caters to vegans
Building on the success of RANT, in 2011 Sarah and Jason introduced a new clothing range that took eco-credentials to a whole new level. They launched Bestowed an uber cool fashion line named because of the gift of pure cotton being bestowed upon the wearer. What separates Bestowed from its sister label is its vegan focus, inspired by well-known Australian eco model and veganism champion, Amanda Rootsey. “The vegan focus came about while working with Amanda Rootsey, ” Sarah admits. “I purchased vegan shoes to style the shoots with and this opened my eyes to a different world.” Sarah, a 20-plus year veteran of vegetarianism and disciple of all things natural, found searching for vegan shoes made from natural fabrics difficult. “It created a bigger challenge as I only use natural fabrics and many ‘vegan friendly’ shoes are made from petrochemicals.” Today, Sarah no longer has those issues, having sought and acquired a selection of cotton shoes and boots that she can use for photo shoots.
As a recent vegetarian-turned-vegan myself, I love what Bestowed stands for. Since I live a busy lifestyle – on and off our organic farm – I prefer garments that are comfortable, stylish and lightweight. Bestowed pieces are what I call wardrobe staples. They make the perfect building blocks for my sustainable wardrobe because it embodies a relaxed yet edgy vibe. Each piece in the collection is designed to be mixed, matched and layered to create interesting ensembles, not too dissimilar to what you might expect from capsule wardrobes.
The brand is also true to its core eco values which makes it the ideal fashion brand for a committed environmentalist like myself. Its collections are ethically made in Australia and the fabrics are made in a certified organic mill in Melbourne. All garments are cut and made within 30kms of their Brisbane studio and pre-washed with rainwater harvested onsite.
Sarah and Jason’s unwavering commitment to sustainability extends far beyond eco-friendly fabrics and local production. From running a home studio on solar power through to transporting their products completely plastic-free, the couple looks to minimise their environmental impact across all areas of their professional and personal lives. They grow their own veggies, do most of their food shopping at the Northey St organic markets in Brisbane, make bottled sauces and preserves and travel only within Australia and NZ. Their home has even won two awards for sustainability, including the Built Environment Award at the 2016 Queensland Premier’s Sustainability Awards.
We buy what we need and don’t waste anything. We use a worm farm and compost. We buy quality that is made to last with everything we do.”
I am a huge fan of this brand if you couldn’t already tell. So you can imagine my delight when late last year, Sarah got in touch via email about working together. Not only do the Bestowed designs perfectly suit my experimental flair with clothing and ethical values, but to work with people of this calibre – who sit at the far end of the sustainability spectrum and have such integrity – is truly an honour.
A Sustainable Fashion Designer’s Eco Shopping Tips
To help with finalise the construction of this piece, I emailed Sarah a list of questions. Her detailed responses didn’t disappoint. Since she and Jason really are pioneers of sustainable fashion (particularly in Australia), I asked her if there was anything else she’d like to share with readers. Sarah offered the following advice to those beginning to rethink their wardrobe:
- Look at garment labels to find out what a garment is made of. Synthetics are petrochemical derived and non-biodegradable. Washing of synthetic fabrics has been shown to have an impact on our marine life by shedding synthetic fibres which are found in the stomachs of fish!
- Can the garment be easily cared for? Cold water wash is best and avoid dryclean only.
- Only wash a garment if it needs it – like actual dirty clothes. Washing has a huge environmental impact. A hang in the breeze sometimes is all a garment needs to freshen it up – so just do that.
- And finally what country it is made in. Buy local wherever possible. This will very easily help you determine the true cost of the clothing and how far it has travelled to get to you.
If we want to continue to have an industry here [in Australia], we must support it.
As if the couple could go no higher on that pedestal, I learn that they even donate five percent of online sales (“sales not profit which is a much lower amount”) to environmental and social local charities and organisations such as Rainforest Rescue, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Australian Marine Conservation Society and Wildlife Queensland. When it comes to sustainable designers, Sarah and Jason are the real deal.
Did I mentioned how honoured I feel that they chose to work with Eco Warrior Princess?
To view Bestowed’s current collection – simply called #9 – head to www.bestowedclothing.com
Photographer – Ben McGuire
Model/Stylist – Jennifer Nini
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Bestowed. Garments were gifted as part of this collaboration. All monies received helps us cover the operating costs of this growing sustainability platform. For more information about our ad policies, click here.