The Swish Insider: Anita Carmody on staying true to the Australian made ethos

Nowadays it’s pretty hard to come across a brand supporting the Australian economy. In today's The Swish Insider, we grilled Anita Carmody (the Swish Fashion Managing Director) about the challenges of running a locally owned and operated fashion label on what it means for her to stay true to her values. 

These days, not many labels can boast the fact that they’re locally owned and operated - and yet, Swish for the past 19 years has continued to deliver Australian designed and made garments. What does it mean to you to have your range “designed and made in Australia”?

I’ve always taken the stance that we should be supporting our own economy and workforce by keeping the dollars in Australia and to help provide always much-needed employment.

I’ve always maintained that if I can make something in Australia, I will make it in Australia.


With more and more fashion-related companies moving their work to China and other Asian countries (where it’s cheaper), why did you decide to manufacture in Australia?

Apart from keeping the production here for the reasons I just mentioned, for me, there is definitely greater control of the quality of production when it is made in Australia. 

As we cut the garments in our Mascot warehouse on our very long cutting table, from the get-go, by thorough inspection, we can make sure that the fabric has been delivered as ordered.  We also do the computer markers and grading all of the production in house and then also despatch to our stores and wholesale accounts from our warehouse which gives us visibility throughout the entire process that is not easily achieved when being made offshore.

I am a stickler for detail and quality, so I sleep a lot better at night when I can keep an eye on the entire process.


In short words, could you fill us in on what stages of the production are being made locally?

There are obviously exceptions to that “100% being Australian-made rule” because the equipment that used to make certain garments has been exported to China and thus it’s simply no longer possible to manufacture them here.

For example, the are no knitwear manufacturers left in the country anymore, so if you want to do a fully-knitted garment, you have no choice but to make it in China. 
The same situation applies to when you want to make denim. Denim requires a washing process to produce the finished garment and this is no longer available to be done here, so has to be made in China. 
Puffer and quilted coats and vest are the same as our machinery was shipped off to China many years ago.


The main consequence of not moving your production to China is the price: having to pay Australian wages makes it impossible for you to compete with ridiculously cheap fast-fashion labels. How do you feel about it?

We’re not a fast-fashion company and pride ourselves on offering quality, well-made garments in beautiful fabrications. 

Actually my love is beautiful fabric and of course, this often comes with a higher price tag but you do get what you pay for. 
I go out of my way to make sure our clothing is made for longevity so our customers can happily pull their beautiful Swish pieces out of their wardrobes and wear them over and over again.  

My whole philosophy when I started this business was - and it still is - to provide quality, well-styled garments that are wearable and fashion-conscious. 


Do you think your customers see the fact that your clothes are Australian made as a value?

Absolutely. Time and time again, the girls from our retail stores say how much people value the fact that our garments are made in Australia. 
The customers actually don’t mind paying a little bit of a premium because they’re aware it’s justified by us paying Australian wages, super and all the overhead costs that go with running a business here. 
It’s the opposite: people do appreciate the fact that it’s the case with Swish, sincerely. 

Although, in reality, I don’t think they cost much more than many other Chinese-made garments.