Elle Roseby: We’re honoured to continue our partnership with DAAFF for a second year, creating a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and learn from the art, design and talent of First Nations Peoples.
Our partnership with DAAFF has been a consciously slow and considered process, to ensure that it caters to the needs and wants of Indigenous designers and artists. Each year through our support of the National Indigenous Fashion Awards, we provide an annual mentorship to the Fashion Design Award winner. Our 2020 mentee has been Julie Shaw of Maara Collective. We’ve been so lucky to work alongside Julie, it’s definitely been a two-way learning process.
Through this mentorship the winner spends time with our teams in the Support Centre and we work closely with them on their brand, providing support and advice in key areas they’ve chosen.
Our team and community are incredibly engaged in our DAAFF partnership. The voice memo on Instagram announcing the partnership in July 2020 was our most viewed and highest engaged video that month, with 39,000 views. We consistently see strong engagement when we share DAAFF and First Nations stories – our community spends longer exploring these stories than they do our average editorial content. And, most importantly, the feedback we get from our First Nations community is affirming.
We use our platforms to celebrate and amplify First Nations voices and stories, recognising the importance of First Nations voices telling First Nations stories. Last year, we introduced the DAAFF partnership to our community with a takeover by Yatu Widders-Hunt from social change agency Cox Inall Ridgeway interviewing the NIFAs finalists. This approach has continued with Yatu now an ongoing guest contributor to the Country Road channels.
As a brand, we look forward to learning about how we can further support, nurture and grow the wonderful creativity of Australia’s emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander talent. There is so much to learn from the world’s oldest living cultures and this is just the beginning of our journey.
IR: I understand Country Road has submitted its first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Are you able to share anything about that?
ER: Our RAP has been submitted to Reconciliation Australia for review so we are looking forward to launching it later in the year or early next. Our RAP is the first level – Reflect – and underpins our work with First Nations communities.
We want to better understand the breadth of experience and cultures of First Nations Peoples in order to support Reconciliation. This journey began in 2019 when we engaged Indigenous-led consultancy Cox Inall Ridgeway to run cultural education training with Support Centre staff.
Since then we’ve worked closely with Yatu Widders-Hunt and the Cox Inall Ridgeway team to continue training our teams in cultural competency and draft a set of guiding principles to ensure our approach to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities has strong foundations – grounded in ethical considerations, cultural appropriateness and the principle of co-design.
Our teams are so engaged in this journey, are looking to learn, and proud to be part of it.
IR: Can you tell me about your recent move into local manufacturing – what drove the decision, and what are your future plans in this space?
ER: The last 18 months have been a time of great reflection and a driver of change – we’ve made a conscious effort to look to our own backyard and ask how we can further support local – local farmers, local manufacturers, local communities.
We came to realise that as an iconic Australian brand founded in Melbourne, manufacturing in Australia was the right thing to do. While we already had some products in the business that were made locally – such as our home scent range and womenswear sheepskin accessories – we knew that locally made apparel was the next big step for us.
We began with one of our most iconic designs – a reissue of our famous heritage sweat from the 90s, made from 100 per cent Australian cotton, which really resonated with our customers. We followed this up with the release of the Australian-made t-shirt in menswear, and we’re excited to continue this journey hand-in-hand with our local manufacturers. This isn’t something we’re doing once and forgetting about, our commitment to supporting Australian manufacturing is here to stay.
We have some exciting initiatives due to launch next year that strengthen this commitment further, and we look forward to sharing more details soon.
IR: Are there any other recent campaigns or initiatives that you’re particularly proud of?
ER: As a brand, I believe that we are at our best when we are sharing the rich stories that make up the fabric of Australia. Over the past 18 months, we’ve been able to give a platform to real people with real stories who serve as a constant inspiration to us all – from the resilience of the Glen Alice community following the devastation of the summer bushfires, through to the perseverance of our Australian merino and cotton farmers. Being trusted to tell those stories is something that I’m really proud of, and we can’t wait to continue that narrative in the coming months.
We’ve also just celebrated one year of The Biodiversity Project, a partnership which restores Australian farmlands together with Landcare Australia. We’re proud to be working with local farmers on the ground to increase biodiversity in cotton-growing regions, through sales of our famous verified Australian cotton heritage wweat. In one year, our partnership has raised $200,000, which has helped to restore 34 hectares of land, improve 6.5 kilometres of river frontage and enhance habitats for threatened species like the koala.
Together with Landcare Australia and the local farming community, we hope we can leave a biodiversity legacy for generations to come.
IR: What can we expect to see from Country Road in the next few months?
ER: What you’re about to see from Country Road is the result of 12 months of dedication, hard work and incredible resilience from the entire team. I am so proud of what we have been able to achieve throughout the past year, and I think we’re on track to deliver our biggest Christmas yet. As a brand, we’re looking forward to getting back to what we do best; opening our stores, celebrating the joy of being together and inspiring modern Australian living every day.
Beyond that, we are constantly evolving our ambitions and building on some pretty significant milestones. We’re excited to expand our Australian-made journey, while also exploring innovative circular design initiatives across home and apparel. Supporting local will continue to be a key pillar at all levels of our business, from design and manufacturing, through to our partnerships and storytelling.