The following guest blog post is written by OLLIE & MAX Womenswear…
Ollie & Max Womenswear is dedicated to women size 8-24. Based in Sydney and inspired by the idea of dressing in “Wardrobe favorites”, designer Samantha Burns draws on her experience as a former fashion buyer/designer in London and Italy. Catering for real women- the same Ollie & Max modern classic style can be worn by a size 8 or a size 18; by a young woman or a grandmother – it is important Ollie & Max represents a responsible voice in the fashion industry. Utilising “healthy and happy” images of women in our advertising, focusing on natural fibers including Queensland organic cotton and Italian linen as well as manufacturing in an ethical and responsible manner within Australia and overseas.
REAL WOMEN CAMPAIGN
Our current “Real Women Campaign” features customers and friends aged 13-70yrs size 8-18 as models. Body image and age in modern media are important issues for debate which extend past the mere purchasing of clothing. It is essential to encourage women to feel confident in themselves whatever shape, age or size
Women have reacted with gratitude to our images- they can relate to the women as opposed to an often unrealistic, if not objectifying, fashion image. Disappointingly many images claiming to be of ʻreal womenʼ are digitally altered. We chose not to photoshop our images. The interesting question was then posed by observers “How real is TOO REAL in fashion imagery?”. We are now asking Australian women what they think “Is real too confronting? Do consumers want a real woman to be digitally enhanced, even just a little, to make a product more appealing?”. The promotion of confidence and self esteem is also embedded in our design philosophy.
By viewing our customers as friends we discuss their needs. For those conscious of legs or knees we provide two dress lengths; to hide ʻlumpsʼ or underwear lines we line our jersey skirts etc. In a fashion industry largely intent on catering to size 8 6ft (young) women we cater to true female body shapes size 8-24.
Ollie & Max focuses on ethical and responsible manufacturing. This is a difficult task for any business to navigate however we feel it is important in a price competitive mass produced industry. Interestingly the intersection between cost of ethical manufacturing and the retail price consumers are willing to pay, creates a juggling act for companies like Ollie & Max. Consumers in their desire for competitive price points inadvertently perpetuate cost cutting practices.
Ollie & Max was wholly Australian made however with market demand for more
competitive prices we worked hard to find a happy medium in ethical overseas
manufacturing whilst also making in Australia. By paying a premium for our products we place a human face on our daily activities and protect those who could otherwise be taken advantage of in terms of wages or working conditions.
In an industry which is often hard to regulate this requires trust, research and monitoring. We focus on the history and integrity of our manufacturing partners and form relationships with their staff. One of our Chinese partners whose clients also include Armani, has invested in and acquired certification for ʻchemical and environmentally safeʼ production processes- a significant step in China to encourage responsible manufacturing. Our accessories are also handworked by traditional methods in India and Morocco.
The next step for Ollie & Max is to create a program which funnels work to “at risk or in need” communities providing employment whilst also funding schooling, health and housing initiatives. Alongside this comes the most powerful tool for an individual and community- self confidence and acknowledgement. Interestingly in often male dominated communities, the most successful of such existing international programs focuses on women- turns out women have proven to be more determined to empower their families and adept at making strides forward. As if we didnʼt already know!
ABOUT: Ollie & Max debuted in 2005 with a boutique childrenswear shop in Woollahra, Sydney. Shortly after in a happy quirk of fate, our signature womens shirtdress was introduced and within 6 months Ollie & Max had grown into a womenswear brand. Inspired by the idea of dressing in “everyday favourites” Ollie & Max designer Samantha Burns creates womenswear which is classic, modern and versatile. Rather than only seasonal collections Ollie & Max always holds a transseasonal collection of mix & match pieces, with injections of our favourite finds each season.