No one makes anything in this country anymore” is a common refrain heard across Australia.
But as as the service industry continues to subsume our economy, Erin Taylor and Kate Wilks, co-owners of clothes store Ilka, are bucking the trend.
They produce their clothes as locally as they can, with many pieces made by hand in the workshop at the back of their Mt Hawthorn shop.
“We get everything produced in Perth where possible,” Taylor says.
“We have a line of t-shirts now where the fabric is made in Victoria, we get the shirts made in O’Connor, and all the screenprinting’s done in Ozzy Park.”
Wilks says; “I had this misconception that when you’re succeeding [in fashion] you’re travelling the world.
“But why not create an industry that’s right at your front door?
“Our production team is not even five minutes down the road…you can’t get any more local.”
The local approach means their clothes don’t rack up huge amounts of carbon miles, so their transport costs are low, and getting everything done locally means their clothes are ethically produced, and not coming out of sweatshops in Cambodia or Bangladesh.
“The other side of this is that you’re stimulating the local economy as well,” Taylor says, “and if you do that then they can support you.”
The pair met while studying fashion design at TAFE, and while some aspiring designers looked down on the term “clothesmakers”, they’ve embraced it and love working with their hands.
From early on they shared ideas of ethical fashion, and wanted to make “trans-seasonal” clothes that didn’t get tossed out at the end of the season, like a lot of the fast fashion styles with a short lifespan.
“On the ethical, sustainability side of things, the clothes from last season aren’t old, they aren’t gone, they’re collector pieces,” Taylor says.
Their design ethos is ‘classic made contemporary,’ putting their own spin on timeless designs.
“They don’t lose their relevance after six months.”
“Perth, and Australia as a whole, is proving that those fast fashion models coming from England and Europe aren’t working over here,” she says.
“Topshop opened and closed already.”
Taylor says Australia’s taste in clothes is a bit like our taste in coffee.
“We have good stuff here and people like to shop local,” she says.
She says it’s comparable to Starbucks, the coffee giant that’s taken off just about everywhere but struggled to crack the market here.
Ilka has been open for a year and in the future they’d like to expand the workshop out back and ramp up production, but for now they’re happy working as a duo.
“Our relationship’s way better than it’s ever been,” Wilks says.
377 Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn
Open Tuesday to Saturday,
10am to 5pm