“The current, standard fashion model is not set up to support sustainable, slow fashion practices.” Danielle Abery-Miller, founder of ethical fashion company Sanct, understood this early on, which is why she’s doing her part to change this for good.
What made you start Sanct?
I have always been passionate about sustainable fashion. When I heard of the Rana Plaza collapse my heart broke, but unfortunately, I wasn’t surprised. This wasn’t the first wake up call I’d had that the fashion industry ruins lives. I thought I could help reshape the industry from the inside, but I quickly saw this as a lost cause after working for multiple companies where bullying and intimidation of staff was the norm in head office, and fair treatment for garment workers was a taboo topic.
My last official role was the first I actually enjoyed. I was getting to research and implement sustainable materials alternatives for my job. I learned more in this position than I had in all my other roles combined. This really inspired me. Until this point I had always said I would NEVER start my own label, I thought it would be too hard to do this with the values I would want to bring to it. But all the research and work I was doing started to show me how I could actually start an ethical label successfully.
I listened to A LOT of the Startup Creative podcast and decided to make a start. I eventually hired Kaylene as my business coach and quit my 9-5 to work on Sanct full time.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I’m a Taurus, and I 100% identify with being SLEEPY. I’m not an early morning person, but when I do get up, I like to have a coffee and sit outside with my cat Poka.
I also like to do some restorative yoga and then afterwards meditate and address my fears for the day. I get out my pen and paper, light a candle and play some music for a bit of ambience, then brain dump any fear I’m feeling onto paper. After this, I write mantras addressing my fears. So if I’m feeling inadequate I might write ‘i have so many tools to draw on to achieve my goal’. I’ll write a mantra or many for each fear I’ve listed.
Sometimes I’ll speak the mantras aloud if that feels right, other times I will just read them and sit with them until I start to feel the truth outweighs the fear.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
The current, standard fashion model is not set up to support sustainable, slow fashion practices. So gaining detailed and transparent information about materials can be difficult, because it’s not the norm to ask and the information isn’t often on hand. Accessing minimum order quantities for materials or CMT is difficult because it’s not the norm to produce slowly, rather than mass produce.
Research into sustainability is also very complex and requires a lot of time and digging. I spend just as much time researching as I do designing, making and marketing combined.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of Sanct, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
My supply chain looks like this; I will make first samples and patterns and refine these until I’m happy. I then take these patterns to my ECA accredited pals RB Pattern Making who optimise my patterns and grade all my sizes.
I source all my fabrics currently from GOTS organic or deadstock sources. For my first collection, I worked with Shino Shouten’s Japanese GOTS certified cotton, Wall Fabrics’ deadstock cotton and my own sourced deadstock wool suiting.
The make of Sanct Season One was all in house. I made every piece myself in the Sanct studio on Wurundjeri Country (East Melbourne). In the future I will outsource some Sanct production, using ECA accredited factories in Melbourne.
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
I choose my components for environmental and social impact as well as their transparency.
I like to use GOTS certified fabrics because the GOTS standard is rigorous and transparent through the use of transaction certificates that have to be independently verified at every stage of production. GOTS ensures environmental sustainability and fair treatment of workers with their provision of a living wage and freedom from discrimination/harassment.
I also use some GOTS certified cotton sewing threads.
I like to use 100% natural fibre deadstock fabrics to help take responsibility for some of the textile waste generated by the fashion industry.
I will only include 100% natural fabrics in Sanct collections so they are biodegradable at end of life.
The trims I use are also selected for environmental and social sustainability.
Sanct uses Lenzing Tencel sewing threads which are certified Cradle to Cradle Gold standard. This ensures the Tencel fibres from Lenzing are made into sewing threads with care for the environment, that they are biodegradable and the employees are paid a living wage.
We also use natural tree rubber elastic woven with GOTS organic cotton instead of your typical synthetic elastane.
Our elastic is biodegradable and woven together by a family business who obtain their electricity from an in-house hydroelectric power plant. Their heating energy comes from a private wood pellet heating power plant with the wood gathered from their own forest.
We chose to work with cotton brand labels and care labels instead of polyester ones. We made this choice so our garments would be fully biodegradable without components needing to be removed.
Our swing tags are FSC mix card and are attached with a natural, un-dyed cotton cord instead of your standard plastic cord. We source these from Avery Dennison who have transparent supply chains and sustainability initiatives with even more sustainability goals set to achieve by 2025.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
‘If not now, when?’
I can be a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to jumping into big change. This question always helps focus me and encourage me to take positive action, even if it will be challenging.
What’s next for you and your company?
I will be expanding the size range to 8-26 for the next collection and will be working towards a system to offer custom sizing.
I am also working to establish a garment recycling system and take-back program for Sanct items at their end of life where they can be recycled into new fibers or composted.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
I’m not a huge non-fiction consumer of books/documentaries, I research A LOT online. However, I think everyone, especially those living in Australia should definitely pick up Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe.
I read this book in 2020 and it opened my eyes the technologies and histories of First Nations people well before colonisation and how these were covered up by colonists.
I consumed this as an audiobook which Pascoe himself narrates and it is a very special experience.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
Laura Thompson and Sarah Sheridan who founded Clothing the Gap and the #freetheflag movement as well as being the directors of Spark Health, a social enterprise with resources to promote health for Aboriginal communities. These ladies are incredible and I assume, very busy!
I love what Courtney Holm has achieved at A.BCH, the amount of research behind their design choices is incredible.
Lois Hazel is another favourite for her supply transparency and commitment to sustainable values.