Posted on 14 February 2018
It's been over 6 months since Theo moved into the South Melbourne shop - how crazy is that?! It was such a big step for me to commit to signing a lease (how scary), fitting out a space from scratch (how expensive) and then maintaining, managing and growing a retail concept that supports ethical and conscious purchasing (how rewarding!). To make things a little less daunting and to offer more variety I handpicked other small businesses with wonderful ethically produced goods to come along for the ride, and it's been such a blast that the original lease period of 6 months has been extended another 6 - hooray!!! Until July 2018 Theo will be at the South Melbourne Market as part of the So:Me Space, so do pop by and say hello if you've been wanting to try our clothing or find gifts that give back and support the small makers and shakers of the world!
Theo's backbone is to know who makes our clothing so I had to be really selective about which other brands I would choose to house in the shop with the same philosophy. It's pretty common these days for brands to be 'designed in Australia' and then 'made in some unknown factory someplace else' and that's the last thing I wanted to offer our conscious customers. Instead, I searched long and hard for small businesses that knew exactly who made their products and in most cases, it was the business owners themselves! We have necklaces made from ceramic beads each hand formed, painted and fired by Aliça in Northcote, vegetable-tanned kangeroo leather wallets hand-stitched by Varun in Brisbane and macrame terrarium holders made by Amy in Kew (complete with succulents clipped from her own garden!). It's a wonderful thing to know exactly who has made a product and to be able to appreciate the skill and time involved in the process.
I had been wanting to purchase a letter board for the shop for a long time and I was determined to back up my ethos and know exactly who made it which meant I couldn't just order one off eBay for $10! I came across Alpha Board Co on Etsy and saw that they were made in Australia (MacKay, Queensland to be exact!) by the owners of the shop themselves. Bingo! I bought one for around $100 and the week it arrived was the week K-Mart released their letter board for $12 and my Facebook feed was flooded with 'Kmart trip anyone?!' tags. Great. Honestly, I did feel down for a second because I could have saved myself $88 which is the equivalent to a million coffees, but I regret nothing! Just last night I had someone ask where I got my letter board from and I could proudly tell them exactly who made it and more importantly, where the money I paid for it went - to the makers!
I don't judge anyone for buying from K-mart or other such stores but it's just not for me. I don't find any value in their products and I love good value! If I wanted to find a beautiful gift for a loved one I wouldn't be looking in K-mart, so why would I purchase K-mart things for myself? Surely my home, my handbag and my life are worthy of much more valuable things! I love finding small batch goodies that aren't literally one in a million and hand-made pieces that have been thoughtfully designed and made by someone who loves their craft. Have you ever thought 'if only I could earn a living from knitting scarves?' or 'if only I could write what I wanted all day and get paid for it' or 'if only I could make and sell my own furniture instead of working for 'x''. There are real people who have pursued these pathways and they are the small business owners and makers who I love supporting!
We also have a few products made by social enterprises that directly fund social welfare projects like jeans made by survivors of sex-trafficking, whose factories we can 100% say are sweatshop-free. It's a proud moment when I can tell customers the stories behind each product but I love it even more when people ask me 'so what's the story behind this?' because they can tell it's not a mass produced item you could find anywhere! I'm always looking to add different brands to the shop too so you can expect to find new goodies every few weeks! So here's to another 6 months in the South Melbourne Theo shop - a place where you can find hand crafted gifts for loved ones (and sometimes for yourself!) and ethical fashion for your wardrobe and be able to proudly tell people you know who made your stuff!
Until next time,