20 years of RANTing - reflections of the past and visions of the future•
Posted on June 08 2023
Thoughts from Dakotah:
Taking trips down memory lane is always an interesting time. 2003 seems an eternity ago, the internet was very small, social media non-existent, and the idea of sustainability wasn't a thing. How times have changed, 5 years ago I wrote a blog story telling my perspective about the formation of RANT, you can read that here. Sarah in the second half of this blog will run though a recap of our history, from the first wraps, the first shoots and some other (now vintage) designs and pictures.
I thought this might be a good time to talk about the changes we have made here at the studio in the 6 months. I won't harp on about how the last few years have been incredibly challenging, but rather how it has made us adapt and improve. After 12 years Jason has moved onto working in the Department of Climate Change, a field which he is very passionate about. J's previous life before working on RANT and Sustainable Fashion was in science, as he actually has a PhD in Chemical Engineering, so he is able to use his science brain again. Over the past couple of years he has been training me up to take on more roles in the business, and when this opportunity popped up, it seemed perfect. So now we are working in an even smaller business, It is just Sarah and I here.
Since the start of the year we have been working on smaller projects with a big focus on things made in studio. I have been starting my sewing journey, slowly at first, but now gaining a bit of momentum. Last year I made the Shorn scarves as a good starting point, and then earlier this year I made the Revamp scarves, both of which are part of our zero waste archive project. We have all of this beautiful fabric and off cuts we saved, so why not make something nice for people to enjoy.
It has been an interesting transition for me, I previously didn't have much to do with the actual creating of the garments, mostly handling the online store, stocktakes, emails and individually hand checking every single garment. Stepping up to the plate has been pretty bizarre, but very satisfying. I have always been more of a 'do' person, I can't stand just sitting still and, while online work is always good, it never hit the spot. Creating something physical that you can then see people wearing and enjoying was honestly far more rewarding then I anticipated, especially since I give the first sample of whatever I am making to my long term girlfriend, Alice. Seeing her face light up is just one of life's small, but great pleasures. I luckily have inherited Sarah's creative and divergent thinking brain. Sometimes the best way to channel that energy is getting it out of your head and into something external.
With all of that in mind, I jumped back into manning the machines and thought that now was the perfect time to unveil one of our projects that we have been working on. As part of our 20th anniversary of RANT celebration, we wanted to make something, and rather then just a standard promo bag, we thought "Why not make it as cool as we can" and I personally think we succeeded.
This is the 20th anniversary RANT bag, it is made from a sturdy printed cotton denim and trimmed with 100% Australian made cotton webbing, even the screen printing was done locally. I have sat down and handmade a limited edition run of 90, using this digitally printed denim fabric that we used in pants from last year. They are available free with orders over $300 for this month, or if you prefer they are available to buy for $79. This was my first big sewing project after many hours of practice and prep, I am happy to see the final product looking so good. It is a small thing, but it is really nice to see something you worked on come out the other side and I hope that everyone enjoys them as much as we did coming up with them!
If these smaller in-house made things are to your liking, keep an eye out as we have some more planned that are just waiting for me to cut and sew. If you have any special requirements for a bag or belt etc. we may be able to customise one of our styles for you, just send us an email, text or phone call, and we will get back to you.
Such a long time, two decades creating, producing and selling Rant and we are still here. The love of designing, creating and sewing is something that will never cease, it's part of my essence, I have been sewing my own clothes since I was 7 and always will. What's really rewarding is that we have such loyal customers who appreciate what we do and enjoy wearing the style of garments I like to create.
I want to focus in this journal entry on the early few years, those years before we did photo shoots and were just starting out. Dakotah was at primary school, Jay was doing his PhD and I was on the sewing machine and cutting styles to then drive around to other people that helped sew for us. It was certainly a busy time with Jay and I working till the early hours.
The first things I made were belts and wraps. I could make these all myself and didn't need to buy lots of fabric that we had no budget for. I would sell them wholesale and then reinvest the money into the next lot, this is how we financed ourselves. I have made many different versions of these belts and wraps over the years but here are some of the very original ones. I didn't have a digital camera yet but I did take some photos of them which I have dug out of the archive box and I did keep a couple of my favourite original wraps.
Then in 2004 I put together my first small collection and entered the AFDA awards. I loved this collection and it retailed well however the judges didn't get it at all.
My collections were filled with styles that could be worn multiple ways. I loved garments that could be converted to lots of wearing options and I had a friend of mine Bindi, illustrate the options to put on a swing tag and she did other illustrations for me as wholesale selling tools. Bindi and I had worked together in the early 90's when we both worked for Brisbane label and retail stores Stiletto.
In the early 2000's the textile options were amazing. I'm so glad I kept this particular wrap to show the embroidered fabric I used. I have never seen a fabric like this since.
It was quite amusing to go through the archives to get some images to use as most of the early catalogues etc were laminated! Yes the old laminating machine was an important thing. I did photos of the styles on a dummy, took pics (digital ones now) and collaged things together to create these boards.
This pic below shows one of the 3 laminated boards for that collection which featured a screenprint on tops and is in the background behind the outfits. Jay created this from a science Metabolic pathway diagram. The Science/Fashion combination was strong in the beginning.
The 3 pics below are some of the laminated boards from a 2004/5 summer collection. And we did do Unisex garments in this collection, however Jay wouldn't let me show one of those boards as he was the model, but we did chop his head off.
We had this crazy idea in the beginning to name each style a name that had 'rant' in it, like the Rantatron tunic, Exprantion dress, Resuranted leggings, Rantition top and the Unirant pant. What were we thinking! That lost it's charm very quickly when we ran out of options and no one could understand the names. And excuse the dodgy images as taking pics of laminated things is challenging as they reflect!
Below is the winter 2005 collection, we had stopped using the silly style names by then, but some styles did still linger. I started selling to stores in Melbourne and used to fly down and back to do showings and to get inspiration.
In 2005/6 I started working again with another friend from my days at Stiletto, Mike. He was teaching all things sewing, pattern-making at TAFE at the time and it was great to get Mike to do the patterns as we had designed many Stiletto collections together from 1990-1995 and he understood the aesthetic I was after. It also gave Mike continued industry experience and lots of late nights at my studio. Mike still works with us to this day, doing some patterns and he does the grading, markers and lots of other projects like making the decorative Garnish Pouches, and last year when I had my broken arm he came to the studio and helped me create the Unisex Bestowed collection by being the working hands I didn't have.
Below are sketches and lookbook illustrations by Mike and the instructional swing tag for our Wraps.
Now in 2023, 20 years later, we have almost done a full circle. The collections are so much smaller and the focus is to make lots of small things in house. Not that we were ever 'big', but we did make between 50-100 of most styles over the 3-4 colour options. Now we are cutting smaller runs of things, sometimes 5-15 of a style, making use of the small rolls of fabric I have kept for the right time, and in styles I can even sometimes customise for certain customers.
I have felt the need to slow down for a few years now, still enjoy creating garments and accessories, but to do less of them and not to tight time frames. I'm a creative person and I need to create things to feel alive, so I don't see myself stopping any time soon, I just need to slow down and have a better work/life balance, which is hard when you love what you do.
I am forever grateful for the amazing people I have met either in person, over the phone or email and want to thank you all for your continued support and the recommendations you've made to friends or even strangers who ask about what you're wearing. It's you who have facilitated the longevity of our small sustainable business so we can celebrate the last 20 years and still be 100% Australian Made.
Hugs to you all,