Search for Organic Kids' Clothes Leads to Online Business

When Liane Shannon had her daughter, Emma, she was concerned about the effects of synthetic and non-organic fabrics on her skin. But finding childrens clothes that were made from natural fibres and also fashionable and vibrant was much harder than shed anticipated. So she decided to create them herself, and founded an innovative company in the process! 

Liane is now the Creative Director of Master and Miss, an Australian children’s fashion label that offers clothing made from certified organic cotton from size 0000 up to size 5.

My earliest memories are of my mother at her sewing machine making clothes for our family, and following in her footsteps seemed like the natural thing to do.

As well as being organic,  Liane was determined that all the clothes would be designed and manufactured in Australia.

I interviewed Liane about why she started the company, the state of play with sustainable clothing in Australia, and what the future held.

When did you start Master and Miss? Was it a solo venture?

I founded the company in May 2011, but had started doing my research about six months earlier. Master and Miss is a solo venture but I do have some great support from a friend who is very experienced in web design and SEO. Without his help and guidance I would have been at a total loss as I have no experience in this area.

Could you describe the situation you found when you started looking for organic clothes for your daughter, and how you responded?

As a baby, Emma would get red spots all over her skin that weren’t food related.  I found that organic cotton and clothing made from natural fibres reduced this. When I started looking for organic cotton clothes I just couldn’t find what I wanted, ie good basics that had a bit of style to them. I could find lots of clothes that I loved but they weren’t organic, so I decided to make my own.

I sourced plain organic cotton, which is what I’ve used in my first collection, but moving forward you will start to see a lot more prints and patterns. One of the aims of Master and Miss is to be able to provide mums with key pieces, like leggings and skirts, that they can buy year after year and then pair the latest T-shirt with, so that customers get lots of wear options.

Has Australia been slow to take up the promise of sustainable clothing?

I think that more people are becoming aware of the impact that we are having on our environment. Just look at how far recycling has come – we all have recycle bins now, but when I was a child this was not common practice. Solar energy and water-saving devices are becoming standard in new homes. I think all this has a knock-on effect – sustainable clothing will only continue to get more exposure and this will hopefully lead to more companies looking at organic and natural fabrics. It’s all about educating people and giving them good quality choices that are not three times the price.

What was most satisfying to you about the process of designing the clothes?

I get such a thrill in seeing a design that has been in my head become a reality, and then when I get to dress my own daughter in one of my designs, the thrill is doubled!

What were some of the challenges of setting up a sustainable clothing business in Australia?

The lack of choice of fabrics available in Australia. I would love to add more details like trims and ribbons, but this would mean using non-organic or importing from overseas. The dilemma I face is: will consumers mind if I add these non-organic features, and will it take away from what the brand is all about?

What were some of the advantages of setting up the company, eg ability to sell clothes online without a middle person?

The main advantage of selling online is being able to reduce overhead operating costs like renting premises, electricity and insurance. Plus I can increase my customer base to include not only the whole of Australia but the world. The disadvantage is that people don’t get to feel the quality of the clothes and see how well they look on.

Why was manufacturing the clothes in Australia important to you?

I love the fact that I am creating jobs in Australia, and I love being able to deal face to face with people and be hands-on. If I manufactured clothes overseas I would not be able to do this. I would also be helping another country to prosper when we should be looking after our own backyard first.

Is there any particular highlight or landmark that stands out for you in the process of setting up or developing the company?

People had told me how hard it is to have your own business, and how costs and so on can get blown out or not go to plan. I thought I had covered every eventuality, but there were so many UNEXPECTED teething problems that I seriously thought that this was all going to be too hard. But you have to believe in yourself and back yourself all the time and I have surprised myself at how resourceful and driven I have been. I LOVE Master and Miss, I am so proud of what I have achieved in such a short time and I can’t wait to see where it will be in five years time.

How do you see the future of sustainable clothing in Australia?

Hopefully BRIGHT! As I mentioned before, I really think people are much more aware of the decisions they make. With brands such as Master and Miss providing consumers with more choices and at reasonable prices, I’m confident that consumers will choose a locally made, organic cotton garment over an imported mass-produced one.

Do you sell your clothes internationally?

While Master and Miss does not have any overseas distributors we ship internationally. If you're looking to place an order and want confirmation of  postage or shipping rates, please email enquiries@masterandmiss.com.au

25% discount offer to all Inspired Shopper readers!

Master and Miss have kindly offered a 25% discount on their entire range for Inspired Shopper readers. To receive your discount you need to login to the website or register as a user. When you reach the checkout, you need to enter the code INSHOP. Hurry, as this offer expires 30 June!

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this blog entry, you might also like Shop with Your Children without Having a Nervous Breakdown: Nine Great Tips.


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Kay Tyson said...

It's great that your love for the kids inspired you into a business you never thought you could get into. You've taken in a lot of careful considerations when it comes to handling with the clothes.

Madeleine Macy said...
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Nicole Thomas said...
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