Sam Leigh, blogger & owner of eco|mono (photo by Rita McNeill)
Everyday Advocates is a new series highlighting our collaborators whose ethical values are reflected in their businesses, hobbies, and everyday actions. We are launching the series with Sam Leigh from eco|mono who talked to us about her path to ethical fashion, as well as the challenges of working in the industry.
Just a normal girl from Manchester, England with a dream to travel the world, in 2012 I booked a one-way ticket to Bangkok, and I have never looked back. In 2013, I landed in Melbourne, Australia. With a background in event management, I found myself securing a full-time job working in the events industry -- a complete 180 to my nomadic dream. I got completely sucked into climbing the corporate ladder.
Fast forward three years, I was made redundant and faced with the challenge of searching for a new job. It was then that I decided to start a fashion blog as a creative outlet for myself. I have always loved fashion, textiles, patterns and prints, so this was a perfect time to start something I am passionate about.
For me, fashion is an empowering outlet for self-expression. Depending on the occasion, it allows me to communicate who I am and for people to understand my personality through the clothing I choose to wear.
As I began to research topics to discuss on the blog, I realised the horrifying, negative effects of the fashion and textile industry. Wearing beautiful clothing should not be at the expense of people or the environment. After watching The True Cost Documentary, I felt inspired to create a positive change; I decided to change the angle of my blog and focus on ethical and sustainable fashion -- eco.mono was born.
Sustainable fashion is an emerging and ethical alternative to the traditional fast fashion pursuit. The process begins before purchasing a product and a deep understanding of a garment supply chain. From the fibres utilised to the ethics applied in the workforce, it includes multiple elements. Sustainable fashion is about purchasing with a purpose, with an environmental and social conscience. It seeks transparency and favours products that do not have a negative impact.
Now, the blog has transitioned into an online shop, allowing customers to purchase from brands leading the way in ethical fashion. I wanted to create a platform for customers to make informed purchases, allowing it to be easier for them to make a purchase that aligns with their personal values and work collectively towards a greater mission.
Eco.mono is my baby, it's a small business I run by myself, which means I wear many hats as most business owners will know; partnerships, marketing, customer service, logistics, finance...wow, who knew you would need to have so many skills? Sometimes, when I need to stay grounded, my mum, who is also a businesswoman, helps me think more logically, as I can be quite irrational at times. A second outlet is reading; I love to read, although these days I don't read many books, mainly other blogs, and go on beach walks or just sit by the ocean. I love a Sunday stroll down the beach with my partner, and whether it’s 30c degrees or 10c degrees, it’s my escape.
As the business is run from my home, I need my space to inspire me creatively but also be clear of clutter. I find I have so many things to think about and my brain is always cluttered, so I keep my workspace (kitchen table) fairly minimal. Over the past 12 months, I have tried to minimise my home. Removing the excess "stuff" from my life that is not needed, and making room for the things I love and make me happy: plants, candles and cushions.
Building a business from home can be tricky, it’s often hard to switch off, and this is something I am working on. I am inspired by brands such as Dorsu who have grown their business because it encourages me to continue doing the same. Thank You, Dorsu, for welcoming me into your small family.
Thank you, Sam, for sharing your story with the #DorsuCrew. The ethical fashion community offers invaluable support for rising brands, and we're grateful to be in it with such inspiring people.
Visit eco.mono's pop-up at 157 Elgin St, Carlton Melbourne until 6 May to see Dorsu's clothing in person.
We collaborate as an entire team, combining design and production priorities
Our design and sourcing processes are inter-linked. Sometimes we design and then source fabrics we wish to produce in, and other times we discover fabric we love and can create accordingly, quickly.
Meticulously designed for everyday wear, focusing on quality above all else.
You inspire us -- our #DorsuCrew. We love talking to you and learning about what you do, what you need, and how clothing fits into your life. Every day, we meet fellow travellers from around the globe, visiting us during their holidays in Kampot. They buy Dorsu for our quality; withstanding weeks or months of adventures. When they return home, they have their go-to essentials for work, weekends, and holidays.
We make our own rules and don't abide by trends, mass consumption or over-production. By investing our time and talent into thoughtful design, we'll create pieces that will be mainstays in your closet.
Our patterns are made in-house by our Co-Founder and Head of Production & Design, Kunthear. With years of experience and training, she opts for the traditional method of measuring and cutting paper to transform concepts into complete, graded patterns.
Each year, we release new collections of carefully-selected, exciting designs in limited edition colours. Sitting alongside is our Core Collection, available year-round in beloved neutrals.
The first step in the cutting process is washing the fabric, to test shrinkage and colour fastness. Our cutter, Samorn, cuts paper patterns from the originals, laying them on the material in a way that minimises wastage. Cutting up to 25 layers at a time, we bundle each piece according to size.
The cut and bundled pieces are then moved into the production room and delegated along the production line. It’s fast and straightforward, ensuring we create consistent end-products.
The sewn products are washed and individually measured against their specifications, checking they’re true-to-size.
The final step in production is ironing and the second check for shrinkage, warping, and construction or fabric faults. The final garments are folded, packed and stored for sale. Some are moved directly into our studio store (located at the front of our production space), while others go to our flagship store in Kampot, or sent to Tasmania for international retail.
All production staff undergo extensive training and skills development to ensure safe, efficient and quality work by all team members. We train all new staff on our internal Human Resources policy, including occupational health & safety procedures, fire safety and evacuation, and child protection. We update and renew training annually, with ongoing instruction on equipment safety and maintenance, as well as the protocols to assess risk and responsibly address incidents in the workplace.
Fair and safe employment is the responsibility of all companies, and we prioritise the physical and emotional wellbeing of our employees above everything else.
We have two storefronts in Kampot, Cambodia: at the Old Market and the front of our Road 33 production studio, led by our Retail Sales Manager. All team members take part in quarterly training on our new ranges -- design, material, and styling -- and relay customer feedback to the design team.
Also, if you live and work in Cambodia, our In-Store Retail Team are the people organising in-country delivery, answering your messages, and calling couriers to make sure your package arrives safely and timely.
We ship our Australia and international orders from Australia. However, our E-Commerce Manager works in our Kampot production studio, making sure our international customers can have the same experience as you were to visit us in person.
We welcome your feedback and are open to answering any questions you may have about sizing, construction, material, or our production practices.
We ship all bulk orders from our Road 33 production studio. Most of the time, these are made-to-order. As a result of having a close-knit team, we can offer a seamless buying experience. Our sales staff speak to our Production Manager, face-to-face so that you can have the most accurate updates on the status of your order.
Our fabric is remnant cotton jersey sourced from independent suppliers in Phnom Penh.
Remnant fabric (also known as "deadstock" or "surplus") is unused and unwanted leftover rolls of cloth in its original condition.
As a result of Cambodia’s pervasive garment manufacturing industry and issues that occur along the fashion industry’s incredibly complex supply chain, vast amounts of fabric are deemed unusable by brands on a daily basis. This waste arises due to reasons such as incorrect or oversupply of cloth, last minute changes in production schedules and the ever-increasing need for brands to be immediately responsive and adaptive to fashion trends.
These fabric leftovers are sold on from brands and factories to a local fabric supply industry, who then sell on through the Cambodian supply chain. We scour the warehouses of our preferred suppliers and purchase rolls of fabric per kilogram. When sourcing for our collections, we buy up to 100 kilograms of a Key colour (like Periwinkle) and up to 300 kilograms of a Core colour (like black and navy).
Due to the nature of factory remnants, we can't guarantee consistency in the fabric blends. Consequently, we burn-test every fabric we buy to ensure it has very little or no synthetic fibres.
We pre-wash a sample of every new fabric, testing for colour fastness and shrinkage.
We know our using factory remnants has limitations. We know we can’t trace the true origins of our material. But we are doing what we can, within the context in which we work. Cambodia doesn't have cotton mills or weaving fa, so we are limited by access. As a small brand, we experience financial barriers of meeting minimum order quantities of suppliers outside of Cambodia and then importing this into the country. We are acutely aware of our impact on the local economy, and we choose to place our money where it has the most significant impact.
All Dorsu team members are required to read, understand, sign and abide by our internal human resource policy that is inclusive of: