During Melbourne’s lockdown in July 2020, lawyer, founder and CEO Kate Dillon, dismayed by the number of local businesses on the brink of shutdown, including her online luxury handbag business, She Lion, embarked on an ambitious project to ‘support local’.
Inspiration for the Support Local campaign
While “Support Local” has increasingly been the focus of many campaigns, Kate was motivated to find a wholly tangible way to give back to the local business community.
“We were in the middle of a two-week lockdown in March that turned into almost 6 months. The collective mood across Melbourne was pretty depressing.”
“The inspiration actually came about after I posted an image of myself in an empowering slogan tee. I received so many positive comments and recognised I could create something to support Melbourne makers and offer a pick-me-up to my own customers,” Kate Dillon said.
The concept: An end to end Australian supply chain for a new range of garments made from natural fibres, with as many processes as possible completed here in Melbourne.
Intended to empower and motivate customers, while directly supporting local Melbourne manufacturers and businesses Dillon decided on launching with a quality line of 100% cotton sweatshirts featuring the slogans: “Support Local” and “Actually, I can.”
“I put out a cold call to Melbourne family-run clothing manufacturer, CGT Australia about the concept and managed to speak with the Director, Phillip Skorsis.”
“He proceeded to spend hours guiding me through the process, sharing industry knowledge and completely opening his book of local contacts.”
“I was floored by the generosity and thrilled with the response.” said Kate.
What followed was a collective effort in overwhelming kindness and compassion. In total, 22 businesses from a Melbourne knitting mill through to a Melbourne distribution centre came together to bring the 100% local project to life.
Support Local campaign going forward
“We want to invest a million dollars into new equipment so we can become more high-tech and environmentally friendly, but we can’t do so if processes keep getting shifted offshore.”
“A project like this gives us hope for the future of the industry” said Sam Veskoukis from Richmond Industrial Laundry. Most Australian consumers will have very little understanding of how many different businesses are involved in the supply chain of any garment.
Even if an item is designed, and constructed in Australia, it is very often milled, cut, dyed, graded and sampled offshore as labour costs can be far cheaper.
To truly ‘support local’, each and every element in the manufacturing that could be kept in Australia was, even in the face of three different lockdown periods for Melbourne that brought production to a complete halt in September 2020.
“It’s essential to the survival of Australian business that we shop in our own backyard and source products from home.”
“There are so many companies still manufacturing in Australia and it is important people know how to support them and where to find them,” said Tanya Cahir from Direct Mail Corporation.
Though the concept for the project came about in June ‘20, it has taken nearly 12 months to come to fruition. The many lockdowns the Melbourne community faced in 2020 (and now in ‘21) saw drastic changes to the way many people work.
Most meetings to troubleshoot tricky pattern issues, fittings that would normally be in-person and sampling were often done remotely with items being shipped back and forth.
Each manufacturer faced its own specific logistical and personnel challenges. “In March 2020 we had to consider how to continue operating through the pandemic.”
“I jumped at the opportunity to help Kate at She Lion to create these sweatshirts because ‘support local’ is more than just a slogan and as a family-owned and run business, it’s personal.” said Director of CGT Manufacturing Australia, Phillip Skorsis.
In the face of many logistical delays, remote working challenges and everything that living through lockdowns threw at the team, Kate remained dogged to stay true to the mission.
Because supporting local is personal and essential to the recovery of the local economy and actually… she could make it happen.