Most manufacturing takes place overseas nowadays. This is especially the case in the textiles/clothing industry which we play in. Walk into your local Paddy Pallin or Anaconda and 99% of the hiking clothing will have been made in China, or elsewhere in Asia.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When we talk about overseas manufacturing we’re talking about the best manufacturers in the world. The notion that if something is made in China it’s necessarily junk is completely untrue. At the end of the day, every manufacturing industry has its bad/good/better/best players. Just as some carpenters are dodgy, and others are artists!
So why, then, did Ottie Merino choose to manufacture its products in Australia? Well, there are four main reasons. Here they are:
1. To Keep The Local Textile Manufacturing Industry Alive
If 2020 couldn’t highlight the importance for a country to retain manufacturing capability, then no year could.
The globalised system as we know it took an all mighty hit. Borders closed. Airlines furloughed their staff and parked their planes at desert airstrips unsure when they’d need them again. The way the world’s economy operated changed drastically.
But, our demand for essential goods increased. Textiles in particular. And we're not talking board shorts and underwear. We're talking scrubs and gowns and PPE for hospitals. Masks for individuals, as new mandatory mask guidelines came in. The Australian textile manufacturing sector rose up and responded to this demand.
If we didn't have an industry left, we'd have been quite screwed. As a business and brand we wanted to help keep people on the sewing machines and at the cutting benches. These are highly skilled people that do very important work.
2. To Keep Local Jobs
Between the late 1980s and now, the number of people employed in manufacturing has gone from 16.5% of the workforce to 5.5%. Australians are an industrious and problem solving bunch so in that time, they found work in other sectors. However, with the sector now so small we can't let it dwindle any further.
Also important for us is keeping people employed in jobs that pay them properly, and provide good working conditions. That's why we chose to get Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation. Each step of the manufacture is carefully audited—from the knitting and dying and cutting and sewing and finishing—to ensure the right thing is being done by all stakeholders.
3. It’s Easier and Gives Us Greater Control
Designing, developing, sampling, and manufacturing a product is hard. You have to work with all sorts of people and businesses—specialists in their fields—and adding complexity like distance to the equation just makes the whole thing even harder.
Our 'warehouse' is around 25km from our manufacturer. We can drive up to the factory and see how things are going with our production. Our fabric supplier is just up the road from our manufacturer, and the fabric is made out in Melton—a further half hour up the road. That cute little Ottie neck label and the care instruction label? Made out in Gippsland by a company that has been manufacturing out there for 50 or so years.
With everything so close, we can have the right amount of control over the process so that the product that comes out the other end—the beautiful merino wool t-shirt you buy—is just right, and the quality you expect. We want to make some last minute adjustments? It can be turned around and we have a sample in our hands in a couple of days.
We are so so proud to be doing what we're doing here in Australia. Thanks for supporting the Australian manufacturing sector by wearing an Ottie.