Words: Lauren Purcell

Pictures: Skylah Park

I first stumbled across Skylah Park in July 2017 when I met Kate, owner and creator behind the brand. Her eclectic, bohemian set-up caught my eye and I was hooked on her pieces. More to the point, Kate was the first store owner to volunteer to me - a complete stranger - what went into her designs and spoke of her staff in India who help bring her designs to life. When the opportunity arose to write for Circular Style Magazine, Kate was the first person that sprung to mind for a piece on ethical fashion.

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Kate’s Story;

Prior to Skylah Park, Kate was working in recruitment. Having enough of the corporate grind in October 2016, Kate wanted to follow her dream. She had always loved the bohemian lifestyle and describes herself as a “hippy girl at heart”. It wasn’t until she was in her late twenties that she realised how much fun it was to truly embrace being a woman and the goddess within; aspects integral to the bohemian style.

When Kate first started looking into sustainable fashion, one key factor that came up time and again was the affordability. You often hear people talk about supporting ethical fashion if they could afford it. Kate believes it is a mindset shift that needs to happen. She has been able to make sure her Skylah Park designs are affordable whilst also meeting her obligations as a responsible manufacturer.

“Every single day, I am so stimulated and excited by everything I am learning”.

Even prior to manufacturing, Kate was concerned with social and environmental responsibilities. She had seen the hashtag #whomademyclothes on social media and became familiar with the Fashion Revolution movement, got involved and kept up to date with posts and articles from the group. Kate’s Production Manager, Priyali, found her on Instagram and sent an email advising that she manufactured clothing and would like the opportunity to work with Kate's designs. Kate was hesitant at first to make this move based only on email correspondence and requested photographs of the factory, details on individual members of the production team and if they had worked for Australian businesses before. Priyali provided all the information that Kate needed to know to ensure they moved forward with ethical practices set in place. Through Priyali, Kate can trust that her production team is treated fairly. For example, on Sunday’s they are paid double rates and a bonus is received on Ramadan. Kate now classes Priyali as not only a colleague, but a good friend.

“We have been working together for 8 months and what I have been thinking about recently around ethical fashion, was that I was worried about getting judged; that I was not doing enough. But, do you know what? You have to start somewhere and this is where I am starting. There were three things that I learned from Fashion Revolution – “BE CURIOUS, FIND OUT, DO SOMETHING”. I am following all of that and I would expect anyone in fashion to do the same, whether you’re a consumer, manufacturer, or retailer”.

Kate has taken steps that now go beyond the clothing itself. Whilst ensuring she manufacturers only the quantities needed, she is also making environmental changes. Each piece of clothing, once wrapped individually in plastic, is now bulk packed for delivery, whilst each garment sold is packed into a reusable calico carry bag.

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Free Thinking Fashion

Skylah Park is described as “fashion for the free thinker”. So what is free thinking fashion you might ask? Free thinking is based around ones opinions or thoughts that are independent of authority of tradition. It’s clear that free thinking is something Kate puts into every garment. In each of her designs, she steps away from fashion “norms” to create something unique. Beyond that, her pieces are based on style, not current trends. The results are pieces that you can hold onto for a lifetime; timeless clothes with no expiration date.

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In my opinion, Skylah Park even goes beyond “free thinking fashion”. I see fashion with compassion or “forward thinking fashion”. 2018 has seen Kate step up her focus on ethical and sustainable practices. Her Instagram account, @skylahpark showcases a vast number of her production team in India including Priyali, Mrs Sheetal, her thread cutter, Mhadevji, Sandeep and Abdul who work on layouts and sewing, down to the fine details of each button on every dress that they help create. Kate maintains her stance on empowering women by showcasing a line for women of all ages and dress sizes, again standing out not only as a brand, but as an individual who defies what “typical” fashion is all about. With Skylah Park’s transparency, she demonstrates being a strong woman with vision beyond the ideal of what we see fashion to be. Kate herself is not only a unique individual, with superior artistic skills, she also has compassion and empathy: rare traits in an industry which still takes minimal note of fair trade and ethical practices.

“I am proud to be a part of the Fashion Revolution in any capacity and I am trying to do my bit, step by step, and the more steps I take, the more worlds will open up to me and the more people I will be able to reach out to.”

Kate credits love as the thing that keeps her going in this industry: the love of what she does, the love that she has around her and the love of her customers. Her dream is to one day take Skylah Park into the wholesaling industry. For now, the key focus is on manufacturing. And perhaps one day taking the boutique to her dream location - the ocean, with a café.

Skylah Park is currently located at Hilarys Boat Harbour, in a beautiful pop-up shop. The store itself is reminiscent of something one might find in Byron Bay. Skylah Park can also be found at markets throughout Perth as well as the pop-up parties that are run by Kate and her team.

Follow Skylah Park on Facebook and Instagram and view their website here

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