Fairtrade is a term that has been getting a lot of airplay of late. From small companies through to big corporations, business is quickly honing in on people's conscience for goods that do no harm. While the fashion industry is no exception, labels have only recently developed a level of product quality that matches the importance of the message. One woman who has made great strides in bridging the gap between design driven pieces and Fairtrade ethics is Brianna Hallihan.
Hallihan's story is a refreshing one to say the least. Starting out as a designer in Melbourne, the she headed off to London and Paris where she worked for lauded labels such as Martin Grant and Alexander McQueen. In fact, Hallihan worked on Alexander McQueen's momentous spring summer 2010 collection – the range that would sadly be McQueen's last. Before Brianna returned home to Melbourne, she made a stopover in Cambodia where she volunteered at MDSF – a woman's sewing co-op that her friend was working at.
It was there that Hallihan came across the co-op recasting recycled bombshell metal into candleholders, inspiring her to take action. "I saw potential in the [recycled metal] if it was designed for a Western aesthetic, which would allow [the co-op] to tap into that market and create income for their members," she recalls. "I went to work designing the first range straight away and mettle was formed."
A few years later and mettle's shiny range of accessories recently took out the fashion category in the Melbourne Design Awards. From bold cuffs to delicate chains, antique-inspired brooches and a statement-making, solid-metal belt, mettle is a fearless label that can hold its own amongst the big guns of accessory design. So much so that the label currently stands strong within cult international retailer Free People, an offshoot of American trend makers, Urban Outfitters. That's quite a feat for materials sourced from bombshells.
When asked what the response has been like for mettle, Hallihan is humbled and deservedly proud of her blossoming project. "I think it’s important to offer a product that, first and foremost, is designed well and constructed with quality in mind. The Fairtrade aspect to me is just adhering to guidelines that, to my mind, any business should be working within.
“You shouldn’t expect people to buy a product simply because it’s Fairtrade – it needs to stand out in its own right."