Remember back when junk mail was fun, and you’d sit at the kitchen counter flicking through your mum’s mail order clothing catalogues – all gloss-finish images of boxy knee-length skirts and “slacks” in navy, black and fawn, with a white linen shirt floating off every second page. All overlaid with taglines plugging the joys of a mix-and-match wardrobe.
I will never dress like this when I have a credit card, you thought to yourself.
Scroll forward to the 20-teens, and a lot’s gone down. Fast fashion arrived, engulfing Insta with billions of #ootd posts and our landfill with last week’s outcasts. Enter a growing backlash against both waste and statement-piece overkill – carving out just enough market space for a small but determined swathe of millennial designers to begin re-imagining the concept of an ‘investment wardrobe’. Minus the rectangle-ness.
Brisbane-based founder of design house Rúdi Miro Laura Gangemi became one of a determined cluster of Australian slow fashion early adopters after struggling to find clothing to meet the diverse demands of her own everyday life.
“During an extended period of travelling for both work and fun, I noticed the limitations fast fashion had – I found myself going back to styles I’d bought years ago because I knew I could rely on them to make me look and feel good,” Laura says.
“At the time, I was also working with a whole range of women who were experiencing exactly the same thing – it was so refreshing to know I wasn’t the only one struggling with what to wear on a daily basis.”
Sensing the market may be ripe for a shift, Laura returned to Australia determined to gather further evidence to back this gut instinct.
Laura and her brand manager, Jenna McManus, decided on an elegant, highly targeted research strategy: using social media forums of highly engaged women to launch a detailed survey aimed at unpicking exactly what it was about the fashion landscape that was leaving women frustrated, and soft-testing the idea of a clothing line based on key wardrobe pieces.
The responses came in thick and hot – laced with a sense of relief at the idea that there’s really no need to buy something new every week to feel sophisticated and up-to-date.
Reactions ranged from frustration over social media showing “only one body type wearing poor quality clothing which would look terrible on the average person” to calls to “bring back some sophistication and class.” Plus a bubbling discontent around unethical fashion and its associated environmental impact.
Armed with the survey results, her own experiences and a determination to “get back to what it really means to love and wear something again and again,” Laura started work on her first collection – pairing fine-fibre fabrics such as silk, tencel and linen (Australian-made wherever possible) with a design aesthetic which she says is “unapologetically effortless, no BS and truly celebrates the art of versatile dressing.”
The team went live online in late-November 2017 with a social media campaign video. The combined effect of the pieces, the decision to use an “average sized” model, and the Rúdi Miro brand ideal of the “Forever Wardrobe” was met with more than 200 comments from women expressing joy and relief – describing the outfits as “modern, refreshing, feminine, timeless.”
“To have our ideals translate through our campaign imagery and video was really wonderful. It was clear that this was what women had been waiting for.”
For Rúdi Miro, the education around slow fashion doesn’t stop at collection launch. The team uploads daily “how to” content around how to make investment dressing work.
“For example, videos showcasing ways to wear a blouse three different ways – showing our customers you don’t have to wear head-to-toe Rúdi – with jeans for a smart casual look, with a flirty silk skirt for brunch, or a structured pant for a work-ready look.”
“With a production process of upwards of six months for most styles, we are dedicated to the overall fit, structure and fabric selection of our designs – it all connects back to what a customer holds in their hands and hangs in their wardrobes. We want her to see how she can make the most of that investment,” Jenna says.
Laura admits she’s aware of the giant fast fashion movement she is up against. But her belief in what women really want from their wardrobes is strong enough to sustain her love for the considered approach.
“As a fashion designer, you are always going to have self-doubt; I am taking on a massive industry. Yet I feel like I have what women need to simplify their lives, and still look and feel beautiful.”
Rúdi Miro next collection will launch in May 2018, with plans to launch into the US market soon. rudimiro.com
About the author
Sarah Caddick Thompson is a communications and PR specialist and freelance writer specialising in creative, socially and environmentally conscious and lifestyle brands. You can follow her on Instagram or her blog.