Proving that even during the struggles there is always a way, The Ark has joined forces with META Australian Made Clothing Hub to keep producing their garments within their home country.
The Ark started out like so many - launched at a kitchen table by two women, Christine Metcalfe and Jenny Layton, who explain that they simply set out to create clothing that they loved wearing.
"We were two women who simply craved clothing that you could simply slip on, that made you feel good, and that you didn't have to think about," Metcalfe says.
But what they started was far more than that – they started a movement by creating fashion that is beautiful in design and also actually fits different body shapes, which in turn instils confidence in women. Now, 25 years on, fit and style remain their design philosophy.
Today, The Ark is committed to not only beautiful design, outstanding service, workshops and styling, but also giving back an element of its business learnings to others. At last count, The Ark wholesaled to 100 retail stores across the country, had five branded stores and also an internet store boasting regular international sales and employed 60 staff.
Remaining loyal to Australian manufacturing operations remains a steadfast commitment, despite being almost a lone ranger in a sea of fashion sold in Australia that has almost entirely been manufactured offshore.
"It would have been made pretty easy for us to move offshore, but the truth is that there's an incredible manufacturing operation here in Australia, and we've managed to maintain all local operations since we first started more than two decades ago.
"But we've only been able to achieve this because we've got a great Australian base that we've established over many years. In fact, one of our machinists has been with us for the entire 25 years, since the very beginning," Metcalfe says.
Maintaining a competitive advantage has been challenging given that international global clothing giants have moved onto Australian shores, particularly in recent years, but Metcalfe says that the health of the supply chain and the value proposition extends far beyond the swing tag these days.
"Our point of difference is that we create all our patterns and designs here in Australia, and also manufacture in Australia on models that actually reflect the size of modern day Australian women.
"As a business and a manufacturer, we're conscious of surrounding ourselves with people that inspire us and share our values of respect, trust and honesty."
The founders made the bold decision to apply for ethical accreditation a few years ago, which meant massive upheaval for their manufacturing partners.
"We felt that seeking ethical accreditation was the right way to go, as it reinforced the principals that we have always stood for an encouraged.
"Not surprisingly, our gorgeous ranges and commitment to being Australian made and ethically accredited has been the compass for our journey. Our footprint in Australian fashion has been further enhanced by our stunning retail stores and our brand presence in many of the best independent boutiques in Australia.
"Our clients really value that we're entirely Australian-made, and in many cases, they are far more pleased to purchase from us after learning about our strong support for the Australian manufacturing scene. As long as support for what we offer remains strong in the market, we'll continue to support local manufacturers."
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