People’s Collective Supports Emerging Designers With a Focus on Responsible Manufacturing
Viviana Rosas, Founder of People’s Collective
I’m Viviana, the founder and creative behind People’s Collective, based in Melbourne, Australia. I started my career working in public relations in the fashion industry fashion, however it was short lived as I wasn’t feeling inspired – I couldn’t see my purpose among the industry or how I was contributing to positive change. This has always been important to me.
Moving in a new direction, nearly 10 years later I find myself back working among the same industry I initially walked away from, however this time it’s different. Inspired by combining my love of fashion with my values of responsible practices, I’m now working towards a larger purpose, where I don’t have to compromise on what’s important to me.
People’s Collective is an online platform of consciously curated fashion from responsible, independent designers from Australia and abroad. It supports emerging designers with a focus on responsible manufacturing; they support safe working conditions where workers are treated and compensated fairly, and consider their environmental, ethical and/or sustainable footprint.
People’s Collective was just an idea back in 2013. I was on the hunt for a bag came across a social enterprise that was training artisans in Haiti to make timeless, leather bags using materials available locally, as a means of supporting families out of poverty. I remember initially being attracted to the beautiful designs but soon enough, it was the stories that were more powerful. The two coupled; great style and responsible production really resonated.
Soon after I travelled to South America where I came across an artisan at a local market; they took me through their production process, their inspiration and vision, and it felt so right. Seeing the people behind the products and learning about their trade was an eye opener. It was in that moment that ‘fair labour’ really started to make sense. It was then that I committed to changing how I was ‘consuming fashion’ and really understand how and where things were made before adding them to my wardrobe.
When I returned home, I dove deeper into fair labour however I found that there was a disconnect; while there were lots of garments that I resonated with in terms of how they were made, their style wasn’t my style. I was after timeless and effortless and instead kept coming across boho and free spirited. While they were beautiful, it wasn’t me. After diving further, I started to find labels with styles I resonated and it with – I saw an opportunity to house these together for others looking for timeless, somewhat luxe style that’s been made responsibly.
After lots of hard work, sourcing designers and working with creatives, I hit ‘go’ on People’s Collective in 2016 and Haiti Design Co; the bag that first inspired my journey became the first brand I housed.
People’s Collective isn’t the first or only platform supporting sustainable style and purchases, however for me, it’s important to build something that is supporting independent Australian designers, with a focus on emerging designers – this is our direction. There are some incredible international designers however we also have lots of amazing talent in the sustainable fashion space locally. Giving them a voice and platform is important. Currently, 90% of the labels we curate are women-led businesses and all are independently owned.
At the moment I’m absolutely in awe of the Spirits ring by Arca Jewellery. I love the idea of wearable art and this one isn’t too big – perfect for those that prefer a more understated approach.
There is so much to love about this piece beyond its beautiful aesthetic. Made by Australian designer Billy Clare Reitzenstein, Billy makes everything by hand and it’s made to order, so only what is ordered gets made. I love this model as it means we’re not wasting resources. Billy only uses ethically sourced metals, stones and pearls in her collection, and all pieces are made from solid gold so it’s a forever piece – something you can pass down to other family members or friends which is so rare these days.
Sustainable and ethical are umbrella terms and there is so much that sits under it. These terms mean different things for different people. For People’s Collective, first and foremost I stick to fair labour, because there is nothing beautiful about something that has been made at the expense of someone else’s life or wellbeing. From there, I look at fibres with a preference for natural fibres, however there is lots of conversation around this. For example, cotton is natural but uses so much water in its production – about three years’ worth for one top, so this is where small batch is important.
I’ve made a huge move recently towards made to order which for me, really addresses some of these concerns. We only make what people want and for many of the labels, they have a limit in place as they use deadstock fabric or only order a limited amount so once it’s been used up, that’s it – they really stick to their ethos over profit.
Made to order doesn’t work for all designers, so I also support small batch production too. Similarly, once something is gone, it’s gone. The benefit of these two models is that there is far less pressure to move something along at any cost – this is what we see with lots of fast fashion brands. They order thousands of one item and if their forecasting is off, they’re stuck with potentially hundreds of one item which they need to move at any cost, to make room for new styles. Coupled with new releases every week, it’s a disaster!
People’s Collective isn’t perfect however as the founder, I’m forever trying to educate myself on sustainable business practices. Once I feel we’re doing one thing well, I move onto the next otherwise there is a chance we could end up doing lots of things only half-hearted and that’s not what I want!