On a leisurely one-hour lunch break, I took the opportunity to have a swift rummage through the racks of a local thrift store. No sooner had I entered ‘the zone,’ a shrill voice interrupted my focused hunting and gathering to enquire excitedly, “Is that a Sinerji shirt you’re wearing?”
My response only increased her enthusiasm, as I confessed that indeed, it was. This type of animated reaction to anything Sinerji has become par for the course as the brand has built a loyal following dedicated to quality, craftsmanship, and uniquely Australian prints.
Launching Sinerji Organic in 2006, Alice Jones and Louise Visser formed an unlikely partnership. Alice was working as a buyer in the fashion industry by day and moonlighting as a jazz musician. Louise was an artisan with an ethical jewelry line, which she sold at local markets in Brisbane. United in their frustration of the acceptance of exploitative labour practices and a lack of environmental stewardship by others in their fields, it didn’t take long for the friends to band together and become a force for good in the fashion industry.
Along with effortless basics and fun, distinctive prints featuring Australian flora and fauna, the label, which is manufactured in India and Northern Thailand, utilizes permaculture practices, natural dyes, chemical free cotton and non-GM seeds. They proudly adopt traditional techniques passed down from elders in the communities who supply their garments. Importantly, they visit their suppliers regularly and know them by name. Employees are able to work from the safety and security of their own homes and are paid a living wage.
As Alice and Louise point out in their Tedx Talk, One Thread At A Time, it’s estimated that 97% of Thai manufacturing happens under sweatshop conditions, in which workers are paid approximately $AU1 a day, the equivalent of one meal. They often live in camp-style accommodations and spend ten or more hours a day at the sewing machine. Safety standards are not observed and as a result, factory fires and building collapses are commonplace. Children are often left at home, unattended and unable to attend school. Under the Sinerji definition of profit and loss, no matter the margin, this can only be considered unnecessary and unacceptable.
Interestingly, as they have committed to a different way of doing business, the returns have increased exponentially. From humble beginnings in a market stall, they now have a retail store and the Sinerji label is stocked in stores nationwide. When asked if they had plans to expand in the future, Alice hesitates. “We live on the Sunshine Coast. We love being outdoors, at the beach (and) walking in nature… It’s hard to find that balance.”
I found it fitting that even that comment bore the ethos of Sinerji and a timeless truth for all of us; More is often less.
This post was written by Ange Nennie. A friend and fellow advocate for sustainable + ethical fashion.