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Make it Melbourne | The skills, education and demand needed to rebuild a thriving local manufacturing trade

After decades of off-shore manufacturing, the pandemic revealed the lack of sovereign manufacturing here in Australia and highlighted the need to revive the industry.

by The AFC

7 November 2022

The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) and Creative Victoria have partnered to deliver ‘Make It Melbourne,’ a three-part documentary series that uncovers what’s beneath a small but thriving local manufacturing industry; Artisans, highly technical workers and transparent supply chains producing high quality products with better environmental footprints.
 
 

After decades of off-shore manufacturing, the pandemic revealed the lack of sovereign manufacturing here in Australia and highlighted the need to revive the industry. Consumer awareness increased to #supportlocal, not only to support our economy, businesses and their employees, but also to allow consumers to make more transparent, ethical and environmentally responsible choices that align with their values.
 

The first video in the series features Viktoria and Woods, a leading Australian designer label who makes their unique merino knits through Kangan Institute, which doubles as a training and education facility. Their knit machine can knit a whole garment in one piece without any seams. Founder, Margie Woods believes that more support is needed to train highly skilled technicians to use unique pieces of machinery. “I think we are one of the very few brands that do fully fashion knits in Australia”, says Woods. “It’s not the machinery that's limited, it's actually skilled technicians. There's only a few that can do what they’re doing.”
 


 

Kate Dillon, Founder of She Lion developed an Australian made t-shirt during the pandemic that passed through 22 businesses, 20 of those in Melbourne showing support for the local economy and keep jobs surviving on shore. “One garment touches 300 hands, 300 Australian hands, 300 Melbourne hands… and that gives me goosebumps. Make It Melbourne to me is… a bright future, and an incredible opportunity to galvanise and reignite what we had,” said Dillon.
 


 

Julia Van Der Sommen from The Sample Room who works with a variety of brands including Ihraa Swim and Kerrin, shared that perhaps people have forgotten about the huge benefits of manufacturing locally. And while some are able to produce off-shore in low quantities, it can sometimes come at a cost such as loss in translation design, impacted quality and communication.
 


 

“Between the designer and the shop there’s a huge bustling industry of highly skilled people, and I think we need to bring that back - to showcase to the consumer and people interested to working in the industry that it is a real industry, and a real job and an amazing career,” said Van Der Sommen.
 

The Make it Melbourne stories share a small snapshot of what could be a thriving industry. With support for education and infrastructure, a continued increase in demand in manufacturing could help address skills gaps and build a thriving industry. The AFC believes the industry can be re-built with the idea to ‘right-shore’ - not trying to compete with international labour costs, but using technology and developing career pathways to create a manufacturing industry of the future that can be competitive on the global scale.
 

To watch the three part series, head to the Make it Melbourne program page.
 

Manufacturers are encouraged to list their business in the AFC Directory, Australia’s largest database of fashion and textiles suppliers, so brands can easily discover and engage manufacturers In Melbourne, Victoria and beyond.
 

To list a business, head to the AFC Directory.
 
 

With special thanks to:
Viktoria & Woods, Kangan Institute, Sample Room, Ihrra Swim, Kerrin, She Lion, T-shirt OZ, Richmond laundry, Top Knit Fabrics and CGT Australia.
 
 

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