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Actually, We Can!

July 12, 2021 3 min read

100% Australian Made Sweatshirts

Why is a handbag business making sweatshirts?

During the height of Melbourne’s longest lockdown in July 2020, I was utterly dismayed by the number of local businesses facing shutdown, including my own luxe handbag business She Lion.

COVID19 dramatically changed the need our product serves, it turns out people don’t need fancy bags to carry their laptop around the house!

Faced with great uncertainty, working from home (some of us with two kids under three), minimal capital from significantly dwindled sales (more than 40% losses) and increased freight and logistics costs (+30%), I was keen to broaden our offering and find a way to support other local businesses facing similar uncertainty.

Domestic production of leather handbags, sadly, was not an option. The once plentiful Australian textile, manufacturing industry no longer exists and the majority of leather makers and handbag construction specialists no longer operate (or not at scale) in local markets.

I knew that the business needed to transform to survive. Armed with the mantra, “Actually, I can” (and little knowledge about whether we actually could) we pivoted to create an entirely new product category, intending to inspire and stimulate customers to buy local.

Over the course of 6 months and multiple lockdowns (including one complete standstill), we pulled together an almost entirely Melbourne, and wholly Australian supply-chain. The chain recruited 20+ local makers and suppliers to create 100% cotton, Australian milled and manufactured unbrushed fleece, soft-washed, dyed, sampled, graded, screen printed, embroidered, constructed and sewn, sweatshirts emblazoned with the words “Actually, I Can” and “Support Local”.

Actually I can 100% Australian Sweaters

The average customer knows very little about manufacturing garments. So many processes involved are unseen, often occurring offshore. To truly ‘Support Local’ every element in the manufacturing of the sweatshirts possible, was kept in Australia. At significant cost to our small business of more than 70% of capital to set-up and manufacture.

As I'm sure you noticed, 2020 also saw a real shift in our marketing communications to become wholly transparent and vulnerable. We shared lessons learned from running the business through crisis, including the downs as much as the ups. Therefore, revealing what goes on behind the “Add to Cart” button became integral to this campaign. 

Our mission is to help the wider community understand what “Support Local” really means and how “Actually, I can” should become everyone’s mantra for 2021 and beyond.

We have been blown away by the support received. Every person in the supply chain went out of their way to educate and support us as newbies to the garment game.

Excitingly, the new range and accompanying video journey have come together - idea to finished product - in just under 10 months (officially launched just under 12 months).

Despite many logistical delays, stage 4 restrictions, naysayers, remote working challenges, small children at home, and everything else that lockdowns threw at us, we have remained true to our mission, because supporting local is personal and, actually… together, we can!

Watch the full story about the sweatshirts and the team behind them here:

Australian businesses involved:

  • Melbourne fabric miller and manufacturer - TopKnit Fabrics Australia
  • Melbourne designer - She Lion Group Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne pattern maker - Clothe Creative Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne dark room sampler (during lockdown) - Stella Park Design
  • Melbourne grader - William Stanley; Markit Apparel, arranged through Clothe Creative
  • Melbourne garment manufacturer - C.G.T. (AUST) Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne label maker - Akie Labels Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne dye house - Leading Textiles, arranged through TopKnit Fabrics Australia
  • Melbourne industrial wash house - Richmond Industrial Laundry
  • Melbourne graphic designer - Tess Carpenter, Freelance
  • Melbourne screen printer - TShirt Oz Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne embroiderer - Fiddes Sport, arranged through T-Shirt Oz Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne photographer - Rufus + Cooper Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne freelance growth marketer - Chanie Hyde, Freelance
  • Melbourne recycled polybag manufacturer - PinPak
  • Melbourne cardboard box manufacturer - Visy
  • Melbourne distribution centre - Direct Mail Corporation
  • Melbourne cartoon infographic artist - Matthew Handley, Highly Visual
  • Melbourne videographer - Visual Domain Pty Ltd
  • Melbourne PR - Shout PR, and strategic guidance from Luke Piccolo
  • Sydney barcode sticker printer - Fast Printing Group Pty Ltd
  • Sydney social media assistance - Maxco Pty Ltd

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