Designing the future of retail with passion, purpose and changeBY Zoe Thompson
The growing global movement for sustainable and ethical transparency in the industry.
The retail ether is constantly bombarded with new solutions, from ways to improve customer experience, to supply chain technologies and everything in between. While it’s easy to get caught in the thick barrage of trends and information, retailers like Kelli Donovan and her team at Pure Pod, are determined to bring the retail experience back to basics. Kelli’s mission to create a healthier and cleaner planet for generations to come is the driving force behind creating quality, timeless fashion designed to last.
Her commitment to designing with passion and purpose is realised through her strong advocation for educating and encouraging consumers, stockists, and creative designers to consider the sources of their purchases, their maker, and their current ethical footprint.
In this interview, read all about Kelli’s retail journey, her business, and her vision to create a more sustainable and ethical industry.
What made you want to work in the industry?
I’ve worked in retail for almost my whole career. From a young age, I worked for my family’s women’s shoe stores, an experience I’m so thankful for. It gave me a well-rounded knowledge of retail from how to run a retail store, buying, and customer service. I then worked in retail fashion stores across London, Melbourne, Byron Bay, and Canberra. In Melbourne, I was designing for large retail and department stores. I had to design products, go on buying trips around the world and sell these designs to the buyers through storyboards I designed or with the actual product that we had to make up for sales meetings.
I have always loved fashion and have a long history in it. When I was a little girl, I used to sit for many hours watching mum sew dolls and toys for the school fetes to raise money. Having been involved in fashion design from such an early age, the desire to sell customers only grew with time.
What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to work directly with our makers, and seeing the impact our sales has on their lives. With every sale, we can make sure they have a wage to support their families and assist their communities. Telling the stories of the textiles and the clothing to our customers is also great. It helps them reconnect with the way clothing used to be made. I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be creative and do what I am supposed to be doing.
What do you love about retail? What inspires you?
Having grown up with my mum, who ran shoe stores, and my grandmother, who was a tailor, I think my love for retail has always been in my blood. My inspiration comes from our Pure Pod customers who inspire me every day. Nothing beats the feeling of serving and fitting a customer and seeing the handcrafted and slowly fashioned garment come to life.
How has your vision changed since you first started?
In the beginning, it was about the environment and making clothing using a lower impact and organic fibres. Since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, where over 1,134 people lost their lives, and the Fashion Revolution movement happened, I found it’s not just about the clothes; it’s about the whole human impact as well. As the ethical fashion industry has grown since we started in 2006, so have the choices in the supply chain and transparency of all areas from textiles to makers to buyers. It’s no longer about just the textiles and the wearer; it’s so much more. Over our 16 years in business, we have a stronger voice as pioneers and ethical change-makers. It’s exciting to see the major stores and buyers around the globe looking at their supply chains and talking about it to make positive changes.
What changes would you like to happen to the industry?
It’s more than just making and selling clothing. For me, it is about global change in the fashion industry to make it safe and fulfilling for all workers in our industry and create less pollution in the textile and clothing manufacturing process. As designers, we need to consider the whole supply chain from the first inception of the design to the end product. I would like to see the thoughtful design and circular economy be encouraged across all parts of the industry to reduce our impact on the environment.
What advice would you give young people in the industry who are passionate about making a career in retail?
Learn as much as you can from every person you meet, no matter what their age or background is. Everyone has a good story to help the next generation who will take over our industry, even if the industry has changed from their days. While the industry is running at a must faster pace than it used to and sales approaches are now more tech-based, we can still take old fashioned methods of selling and producing and create new ways of using them.
How can the retail industry better support you as a leader in your field?
I think the industry can help by supporting our community by buying from Australian brands. Small businesses are a huge employer in Australia, and by supporting these smaller brands and retailers, we can help them employ more people and boost the industry. Smaller retailers and brands can make quicker innovative changing in their businesses than large companies. By supporting small Australian creative businesses like Pure Pod, we can make big changes and help lots of people in our supply chains.
What are some of the sustainable alternatives your organisation uses?
We use a sustainable business model and aim to reduce the impact of fashion through promoting promote a circular economy, waste reduction, and cultural change. We do this by selling sustainable garments, offering an online marketplace where customers sell garments they no longer need, and hosting sustainable lifestyle workshops. Pure Pod predominantly uses plant-based fibres, and many of our garments are vegan and are produced with end-of-life cycles in mind. We also work with skilled tailors within Australia to support an industry that has seen a steep decline locally.
How important is it to communicate the purchasing of sustainably made products/services to consumers?
It is everything to our brand. This is the whole purpose of our brand, our ethics, and why we make Pure Pod clothing. I think consumers are now searching for brands with a purpose and open supply chain. Consumers are more educated about products than ever, and they are vying for change and to buy products they’ll feel good about.
To learn more about Kelli, the Founder of Pure Pod, visit www. purepod.com.au/pages/our-story. For more stories like Kelli’s or to watch interviews from passionate leaders visit, www.australian-retailers-association.com/women-in-retail-series.
About the Women in Retail Series
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA) Women in Retail Series strives to recognise the various roles women play in the retail industry, from the employees, managers, executives, and business owners, as each individual works hard to maintain the vitality of the sector. Our Women in Retail series has been created to inspire people by sharing the stories behind the success of the female retail leaders who have shaped the industry into what it is today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zoe is the Marketing and Communications Officer for the Australian Retailers Association