By Regina Connell.
There is something about the Aussies, isn’t there? The self-deprecating humor. The food (though let’s not talk about Vegemite, you can’t count me as one of those rabid fans). The beer (now we’re talking). The big personalities that so often come with big spaces (huge fan).
Whether it’s fashion or interiors, there’s a laid-backness that blends with an edgy sophistication, creating a casual look that’s crisp, not sloppy. Add to that a smidge of boho, a vein of eco, an artisanal vibe, and you have a look that’s just perfect for the way most of us live (or would like to).
Case in point: Elk, a Melbourne-based fashion and accessories line run by Adam and Marnie Goding (see a great profile on Marnie here from a way cool Australia/New Zealand talents blog). It’s got all the casual-crisp cred you need, and much of it is based on the work of the hand. We do like that.
The sourcing model is global, but Elk is one of those companies committed to working with small manufacturers whose heritage skills and techniques inspire and bring to life Marnie’s designs.
Some wood and resin jewelry are made in the Philippines, for example, while silver jewelry is made either in Melbourne or in Thailand. Some clothing is made in China, and leather handbags, belts, and wallets are made in India.
The way in which Marnie works with artisans in India is emblematic of the way she collaborates with all small producers across many different countries. India may be 6,000+ miles away, but Marnie and her team hand-select their artisans and insists on partnering only with small family operations.
She says, “We have a long-time friend who now works as our agent in Delhi, and the family groups we work with were either found by our friend or at small trade events. In India, business is still done on a handshake and the business culture there is a very personal networking arrangement. The smaller vendors we work with were introduced to our agent friend, who, on most occasions, had to meet with them several times just to form a level of trust and relationship before we could even be introduced to them.”
Once the artisan has been chosen, Marnie keeps in close touch. “We meet with our artisans at least twice a year and business is always done with several family members getting involved. Usually, the mother makes us all a wonderful lunch in the middle of the meeting and we get time to chat about life in general. Nothing happens quickly in India (or on time!) so we have to be prepared to take things slowly and allow some social time through the working day.”
The close relationship Marnie maintains with the makers also allows her to ensure that processes are as eco-conscious as possible. In the Philippines, she works with sustainably farmed woods and uses only vegetable dyes.
Global sourcing, done right—where there’s deep interaction, give and take, and mutual respect not only keeps intimate family-run operations alive, but introduces us to ancient techniques and traditions, which can become part of new traditions. It’s renewal. It’s flow. Let’s go with it.