For designers Johanna Howe and Sarah Russell, ethically sourced materials and a handmade ethos are at the centre of their label, Caves Collect. Equally important is making products for the long run. “Our philosophy is to make quality products built to last,” Howe says. “Functionality is also super important to us, so we do a lot of road testing of prototypes to see what they’re like on a day-to-day basis.”
The childhood friends aren’t bound by traditional seasons, choosing instead to release new products when the mood takes them. So far they’ve produced a range of wrap-style pants, skirts and overalls in simple cottons and linens, as well as supple leather bucket bags.
Howe and Russell started working together in January 2014 out of their “cave” (a space in Collingwood’s Schoolhouse Studios). Each product is made-to-order in the studio and passes through the hands of Howe and Russell, before being sent off to its new owner within a week.
Keeping a business afloat straight out of university (Howe graduated from a design and fashion degree in 2013) is tough, especially without sizeable financial backing, but the pair have managed to break even one year in.
“We were self-funded, so doing made-to-order rather than going into wholesale straight away allowed us to get up going,” Howe says. “A lot of small labels are in a lot of debt, but we’re not. Made-to-order is really great in that sense, because we also don’t have surplus stuff. And that’s very sustainable too.”
Caves Collect is available online. The studio is open by appointment.