• The Fable's specialises in a range of silk blouses. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
A growing number of Australian designers are keen to change the way the clothing trade is conducted.
SBS Small Business Secrets
17 Dec 2017 - 7:35 AM  UPDATED 8 Feb 2018 - 11:08 AM

Three years ago, Sophie Doyle took a leap of faith. She quit her marketing job in the beauty industry, and set off for a yoga ashram in India.

What seemed like a flight of fancy would eventually lead to her launching her own business, called The Fable.

During a visit to a textile market in central India, inspiration struck.

"I had this one moment... there were all these beautiful colours there, these silks were hanging down from all these racks and I remember thinking - right, this is clearly a hub for silk. If this is where they produce it, there must be an industry behind."

She got talking to her rickshaw driver, who offered to show her some textile factories. A business idea started to take shape.

"I used to always wear a silk shirt - that was my go-to staple. But I struggled to find one that ticked all the boxes. I wanted something affordable, that you could wash, that I could just wear every day."

So Sophie set about creating the perfect silk blouse - something that was high quality and timeless, not beholden to trends. 

But she knew she also wanted her manufacturing process to be ethical.

Bangladesh's Rana Plaza disaster had been a turning point in the global garment trade. More than a thousand workers were killed when their poorly constructed factory collapsed. They were some of the lowest paid workers in the global supply chain.  

"I thought, if I’m going to build a business which is going to be manufacturing in these countries, it’s important to make sure that these people are well looked after. So the factory [I chose] was ethical, all of the tailors are paid a living wage."

While her choice made moral sense, Sophie says it’s made business sense too. She says customers have been drawn to her brand because of its difference.

From India to China

With demand for her blouses growing, Sophie recently shifted production to China, embarking on another quest for a suitable manufacturing partner.

"From an industrial perspective China is 20 years ahead so what you get is essentially a more streamlined process," she says. This time, she chose a factory that had been certified by a global inspection company called Intertek. 

"They've certified that it meets all requirements of labour, environmental, workplace issues... When I went out there I got a genuinely good vibe."

The Fable now sells 10,000 blouses a year and is planning to launch a range of silk t-shirts next year.

To keep her price point affordable, Sophie has concentrated all sales through her own website - avoiding the markups typical when selling through retailers.

And when it comes to ethical manufacturing, she says there's a definite demand shift underway.

"I think what we'll see over time is what we've seen with free range eggs. Five or six years ago, you couldn’t find free range eggs in the supermarket, they were in farmers markets. It was a niche category. Now you go into Coles and Woolies and they're everywhere because there's been a demand shift. Fashion hopefully will follow the same suit.”

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