Photography provided by Atlassian, words by Hanna Guy - Kayla Cannon with Atlassian’s Founders, Scott (left) and Mike (right).
What began in 2002 as a small software startup where founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar were determined to wear t-shirts to work, is now the global, multi-billion-dollar company, Atlassian, that still encourages employees to wear t-shirts to work.
Kayla Cannon, Program Manager at Atlassian, told us her employer is a “t-shirt company masquerading as a software company. [T-shirts] are a huge part of our culture and being part of the Atlassian family.”
When Kayla contacted Hanna, Dorsu’s co-founder, wanting to create more gender inclusivity in Atlassian’s swag offerings, Hanna jumped on the opportunity. “I didn't know if making dresses out of material waste was even feasible. Luckily, Hanna responded to my initial enquiry with such enthusiasm that it made me feel like this was achievable.”
Every quarter, Atlassian holds a 24-hour “hackathon” called ShipIt, where employees drop everything to work on something awesome. There are two categories: technical and non-technical. For ShipIt 38, Kayla worked with Dorsu to design the dresses, then assembled a team of five co-workers to help bring her idea of gender inclusive swag to fruition, using a pink sewing machine in Atlassian’s Sydney headquarters. They called it At-Lass Swag. “Not only would this reduce Atlassian's carbon footprint from our beloved t-shirt runs, but would also provide an identity to the women here in Atlassian,” said Kayla.
Kayla’s ShipIt production team would go on to win ShipIt’s non-technical category with five dress samples. “Not only can we code, not only can we design, not only can we plan, but we can do all this while rocking out in a dress. . . Doing something like this meant I was contributing to Atlassian while further breaking down the stereotype of women in technology.”
After sending Dorsu the samples and a few design tweaks, the dresses were ready to ship to Atlassian’s global offices. The first order was 300 At-Lass dresses for customers attending their US Summit. Then, following a fashion show at their Sydney office with co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes in the audience, At-Lass Swag garnered 350 pre-orders from Atlassian employees working in 10 cities, spread across five countries.
Kayla’s endeavour doesn’t end with At-Lass Swag’s global success. She handled its publicity even outside of Atlassian, scoring a profile on Business Insider, bringing Kayla’s vision of gender-inclusive out from Atlassian’s t-shirt culture into the mainstream.
Aubrey Blanche, Atlassian’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, was an early champion for At-Lass Swag. She wore one of the dresses at the US Summit, in front of thousands of attendees, and stated:
“At Atlassian, it’s really important that we embrace and continue our long-stay rituals and traditions with the goal of stitching inclusion into their fabric.
“We have almost 2,000 Atlassians globally, some of them wear swag, and some of them don’t. And that’s absolutely OK. But it’s important we offer choice so that those who do want to wear it, feel included.”
With At-Lass Swag’s popularity, Kayla nabbed a spot among a group of six fellow Atlassians who visited our Road 33 Studio on a Trek – an annual, company-sponsored trip. A team hailing from several of Atlassian’s global offices travelled to Cambodia and visited their philanthropy partner, Room to Read. They toured Phnom Penh with Dorsu’s Co-Founders, Kunthear and Hanna, seeing how Dorsu sources material for their swag and met our production team in Kampot.
Mallory Burke (San Francisco), Ria Ranosa-Orogo, (Manila), Kayla Cannon & Simon Perry (Sydney)
Understanding the sheer scale of Cambodia’s garment industry requires witnessing it in person. Ethical production transforms from simple consumer choice to an urgent and necessary industry-wide change. “I saw firsthand how mass production factories work, and the bleak future for girls and boys who could work there someday. It left a stamp on my heart.”
The Atlassians’ visit to Dorsu’s Road 33 Production Studio wasn’t just a tourist excursion. Kayla and her team were armed with survey data from their colleagues, providing invaluable feedback on how to make Dorsu’s custom t-shirts better. They also laid out plans for a world-class platform to simplify the swag ordering process so that more Atlassians can wear ethical swag from Dorsu.
Kayla’s effort to bring Dorsu to Atlassian is part of a grander shift in considering where our clothes -- all our clothes – are made. There’s an entire industry surrounding promotional products for companies and businesses, but minimal conversation surrounding who’s creating it. Atlassian is among the first to see their products being made start-to-finish. If their intrepidness in software and company culture is an indication of the rise of ethical swag, then soon, we’ll all start asking where all our company swag is made.