Field Notes


25 April 2018

Posted in: Industry, H&F Presents, Environment

The last week of April kicks off Fashion Revolution Week, where we find out who is behind the production of our clothes. This is the one week yearly that encourages consumers to ask fashion brands, who made my clothes. The consumers then hope for the response from these brands to find out who was behind the making of their clothing.
Hawes & Freer are taking part in this global campaign for the second year in a row, to have an open and honest conversation with those in our fashion industry. Who are the people in the NZ fashion industry? What is their background, and do they value the importance of NZ made clothes as much as other Kiwis do?
We have the answers. New Zealand meet the people behind your NZ made clothes.
Megs Tailoring
Meg & Gina from Meg's Tailoring

How long have you been involved in the industry and where did you start?

Megan: I was brought up in a family environment where my mother sewed, and grandmother sewed for a living. I started sewing at around 10 years old. Over the years I was taught a lot by my grandmother, which has allowed me to build the foundation for my business, but not through an easy channel or tertiary education. Due to family reasons, I had to leave school early and find a job. At this point in my life, I was working in sewing factories at the age of 15. This was not the most glamorous side of the industry. I left abroad at the young age of 16, travelling Australia, England, and South east Asia over a period of many years. I did various jobs including more factory work, and then my own creative side of making fabric sculptures; selling in Paddington Market in Sydney, and Covert Garden, London. I made my way home in 1985, with a skillset and a drive to make a living for myself. This led me to starting Meg’s Tailoring, a small business that focused on clothing alterations; which through quality, ethics, and customer service has grown into thriving and successful business.

Gina: I learnt how to sew from my grandparents as well and then I went all through high school wanting to get into fashion which lead me to complete a fashion degree at AUT University. I was halfway through and I realized that I didn’t want to be a designer. I worked in retail and as a fashion intern before making the move to Melbourne where I studied the Fundamentals of Lingerie. I came back to Auckland and have been with Meg’s for just over a year. I help with customers and oversee the bridal designing. 

What’s a typical day like in this business?

Megan & Gina: Every day is never the same. Our day to day business is made up of clothing and bridal alterations, custom dressmaking, and servicing high end retailers; also known as our trade customers such as Barkers. Alongside trade we are busy creating our third collection for our bridal label Kenny & Harlow. This is one of our most exciting and for filling aspects of the business. We work in a face paced environment that requires a lot of multi-tasking, and creativity.

How has the fashion industry evolved over the years?

Megan & Gina: The industry was once very focused on fast fashion and making off-shore, but we have seen a shift in our customers. More recently we have identified that our customers are wanting more locally designed and made garments, of high quality and design.

Back when the likes of Thornton & hall, and Pepper Tree were still around, the value of NZ made wasn’t as highly valued as it is now. Now everyone wants it. People come to us as they appreciate their clothes, the added value of them, not fast fashion. They want to have something created locally that is more unique to what else is out there.

What are the benefits or challenges of working with NZ suppliers and other local businesses?

Megan & Gina: It is good to be more involved with the local companies as they are closer to home, but there are limitations as well. As we deal mostly with made-to-measure garments it is hard to meet minimum order quantities. We don’t want to be left with extra stock as this ties up money. We wish we could deal with more local people, but we aren’t mass producing. When it comes to basic fabrics, that is something we can afford to have regular stock of, but more specialist pieces such as laces it can be difficult to meet the minimums.

What does it mean to you to be ethical?

Megan: The industry is quite hypocritical regarding how much outworkers get paid and where our fabrics are from. It is important to be paid fairly and reasonably. I have always believed that if you appreciate and value your employees, treat them fairly and pay more they will be loyal to you. I respect that my employees have families to feed and I have wanted to create an opportunity for them where they have ongoing work. I am proud to also have a diverse team and acknowledge talent from immigrants where I have helped with their visas as I really believe in them and appreciate all that they do for my business. I also try to encourage staff to have a lifestyle as there is more to life than work.

Do you think there is enough awareness in NZ about garments being made locally and the importance of this?

Megan & Gina: There’s not enough education around it and people can’t afford to purchase the locally made clothes. Why should people be aware of the environment if they can’t afford to buy clothes that are sustainable. There’s not really a huge amount of people that make in NZ as it is, and people don’t actually see all of the elements being promoted. People tend to take more consideration of this when disasters happen, such as the one at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh or if things are communicated through word of mouth.

What business advice would you give to students or people who are wanting to start a career in fashion?

Megan: When people approach us for jobs I look at the desire they have to be in the industry, the passion to learn. For machinists I look at people that have the skill, speed, quality and repetitiveness to be fast. No one in a course will learn this. If you are starting out on your own, you need to have lots of experience behind you and the money and resources.

Not compromising quality

For the Meg’s brand I stick with the brand and the quality. I don’t compromise this as the quality is everything. I could charge a low rate for trade work and produce lesser quality or charge a high rate for trade and produce higher quality. I always stay with the higher quality – this is throughout everything that we do.

Over two decades, the name Meg’s has become synonymous with quality and service. We welcome dozens of customers each day, seeing to everything from hems to full garment design: we offer a variety of services including bridal, suiting, dress-making, alterations, mending, garment restyling and costume. In recent years our business has evolved. We now work on a daily basis with high-end designers from labels such as Hugo Boss, Working Style, Prada and Gucci – though we treat every garment with the same respect and care, regardless of who made it.

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