Finding the missing link with Rosie Shelton of Luna & Rose.
We were lucky enough to have a candid conversation with Rosie Shelton about her stunning recycled jewellery label, Luna & Rose. Rosie explains how a job in supply chain management opened her eyes to the missing link between the makers of our clothing and the final product we buy from the shop floor. So she spent the next three years on the back of a scooter in Bali searching for the perfect supplier who could help her create the ethical and sustainable jewellery label of her dreams. We think you’ll love this chat with Rosie as much as we did.
What were you doing prior to launching Luna & Rose?
Prior to launching the brand I studied fashion design, went travelling, then moved to Melbourne. I was living down in Torquay and working for a surf company in a men’s design team. I was the middle man between the designers and our production team in China, India and Bangladesh. I guess that’s what highlighted that lack of connection. The stores looked beautiful and perfect but all the stories were lost between the product in the stores and the people making them. Those big brands just try not to showcase that stuff. I think things are definitely changing; that was seven or eight years ago but for me I really loved my job because I had the communications and connections with the makers but it wasn’t something that came through in the final product. So that along with a few other things inspired me to take off and start my own thing where I had full control over the transparency and those connections and knowing the whole process.
I love that! So did you then move to Bali to start the brand?
I did, yeah. I had been there on a trip with a couple of girlfriends. Loved it. Wanted to know how these people were working in the cafes with their laptops and that combined with where I was at with my career and how I felt about the fashion industry. So I made the move! I knew I wanted to be hands on with my makers, so it was going to take a move to either there or India. And Bali was my pick of the bunch.
Totally! So you were obviously used to working in the supply chain and the back end of a brand. Were you tempted to go down the same route as the brands you’d previously worked for with Luna & Rose’s supply chain?
It wasn’t even an option for me. It was the founding basis of the brand to find the suppliers that I knew would be happy working with me. And that they upheld the same work conditions, they were more artisan-led and they weren’t mass-producing in a factory. They were more homebased artisans working alongside their family and friends with traditions being passed down from their grandfathers. It took time to find the right people, don’t get me wrong. I went through three main suppliers over the course of a couple of years to finally find the right one that was on our page.
When you’re spending that long trying to find the right suppliers, do you have moments of doubt? Do you ever wonder if maybe it’s too hard?
Yeah for sure but I think I’m a very determined person and I was pretty passionate about it. I wouldn’t have started the brand if I had to go with a factory in China to get the quality that I wanted. And it was part of the journey. That’s the fun stuff. I look back on those days—and don’t get me wrong—I was out on a scooter for hours on end and getting lost, and it was hot and sweaty, and people would tell me it’s impossible to get these things made. I’d give them a sketch of my design and I’d get the sample back and it was completely different to what I’d envisaged. But those days were the glory days as well. It was very hands on and pretty fun. Now all that side of the business is pretty well set up and we’ve got a really awesome and strong team. We’re now focusing on design and brand growth.
When I was studying fashion years ago now I had only one subject on sustainable fashion, which was my first foray into the industry. Did you have anything like that when you studied?
No, there was absolutely nothing, which is pretty mind boggling. We had a creative design teacher and she really pushed us to think outside of fast fashion and consider reusability and your connection with the environment from a design perspective. But in terms of sustainability there was nothing. I ended up really struggling to see where I would fit in after graduating. I didn’t want to go and get a job with the big fast fashion brands. It just wasn’t something I was ever going to aspire to. And I also didn’t necessarily want my own fashion brand as a tailor. So I did struggle with where I was going with it and I think that’s why taking a year off and just travelling was good to get some perspective and weigh up my options to see what was out there and learn what was important to me.
Yeah totally. And I loved that subject because it showed me new ways of doing things that I had never considered before. But now the generation coming through have whole degrees based around the future, ethics and sustainability.
Yeah and anti-fast fashion, right? It’s great that it’s changed slowly but surely.
Do you find that there are any barriers to succeeding as a conscious business?
I don’t think there’s barriers. It definitely takes more time and more perseverance and determination. It can be hard, especially with our organic plant dyed products, which means sometimes they may grow more green one year than the other. To find a consistency with colours is a bit of a challenge. But for me personally I don’t see that as a negative because I can clearly see that the alternative is to use toxic chemicals. There are a lot of brands that take that easy option because it’s so much easier and to dye organically is literally six times more expensive than to dye with chemicals. You do have to weigh that up with what your customer is willing to pay. For me, I don’t even let that enter the conversation. But you can understand why it is a challenge for many brands to take that on board, but hopefully with consumer demand brands will have to make that change, and over time hopefully everyone will be using plant dyes.
I don’t know if you saw the post we put up on Instagram recently about the cost of ethical fashion, but it blew up. Some people loved it and others were saying it was too expensive to buy better. What do you say to people who can’t understand the higher price point (even if they know brands like yours have to pay 6x more to use organic plant dyes for example)?
Personally it’s all about cost per wear. So if you’re going to buy something that’s $100 when you could get the same thing for $20, you’re going to value that $100 t-shirt more. It’s special and it has less impact and you know what you’re buying into. The brand is telling that story and being transparent and really honing home that we are paying our workers the right amount of money. It’s hard to be breaking down your entire cost process though.Jewellery is an industry that when it’s done wrong and mined in a certain way it’s extremely detrimental to the land. But using recycled metal is completely viable. And brands are too lazy to do their research or they buy designs that are pre-made and they don’t know where that metal is from or what metal it even is. I guess it comes down to people doing their due diligence. But it’s hard. We live in this world of instant information and if it’s not told to people at the right time and in the right words then they move on or they’re not willing to listen.Another thing they can do is just ask your brands questions, like why does your t-shirt cost $20?
You mentioned you use recycled metals to create your jewellery. Is that the only material you use or is it a mix?
All our jewellery is made from recycled sterling silver. And the gold pieces are plated with gold plating and that’s a different process, it’s not actually a metal persay. We’ve just launched a solid gold range and it’s recycled 9 carat gold that we sourced from a new supplier in New Zealand.
What are you most proud of about Luna & Rose?
We’ve remained true to our values because the sustainable element is absolutely at the forefront. I keep getting emails from people wanting pearl jewellery. The keshi pearls are very fashionable right now. And I would love to, but until I can find someone that I know supplies discarded pearls that are not being produced specifically for us to make jewellery from, then I’m not entirely comfortable doing that. So it is at the forefront of every decision that I make. We also don’t negotiate with our suppliers. If they tell us a price, 99% of the time that’s the price that we pay. So yeah our values are definitely something to be proud of.
Definitely! So what about the people who make your products? And what’s happening with your team right now, especially with the impact of COVID-19?
Everything is still going! I opened a shop in Bali in march, which was terrible timing. But we closed for a month but we opened back up again. Throughout this year I still employed and paid our entire team. I think that’s super important because Indonesia doesn’t have a government that supports their people as much as our countries do. And we’re so lucky to have that, so that’s my obligation as someone who supplies these people with work. But yeah, they’re all awesome. I just want to be back in Bali with them and catching up with them.
I bet! And finally, what’s next for you and your label?Continuing on the trajectory we’re on and leading the fashion jewellery world. I don’t see any competitors using sustainable materials. So to grow the brand awareness and be at the forefront of jewellery and remaining true to our values. We’re also bringing out some more plant dyed pieces in leisure wear and loungewear.
To read more about Luna & Rose’s ethics, check out their brand feature here.