Oddish is an Australian slow fashion and jewellery label founded by Carmen Spencer. Every Oddish piece is designed and handcrafted in small quantities for you on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
It is a narrative between maker and wearer - made with purpose to be cherished, mended, shared and gifted.
We chat to Carmen about the benefits of slow fashion, sourcing local and sustainable and working with the right people.
Q1: In your own words, please tell us what you do and how it came to be…
Hello! I’m Carmen, the founder of slow fashion and jewellery label, Oddish.
I’m a typical creative that has taken many lefts, rights and upside downs to find my path. Though I studied fashion, arts, communication & business at QUT many moons ago, it wasn’t until I undertook a handbag design course at the London College of Fashion did my stars align so to speak. I was swept up in the wonderful world of textiles, but I was designing bag hardware that could be mistaken for jewellery. My brain sparked, I sought out more study in silversmithing and then moved back to Australia with a swag of new cultural influences and creative energy.
I was also fortunate to volunteer at an animal refuge in Bolivia for a number of weeks which instilled in me a deep recognition for our shared responsibility for our planet. Once I began to dig further into the fashion industry it soon became apparent that I wanted to create a brand with consideration for our people and the environment – which was how Oddish was born.
Q2: Was your current business always on the cards or did you have other dreams growing up?
I’ve always been that girl that thrived when wearing many hats (metaphorically, of course). I started my first label when I was 16, drawing on shirts and selling them at a boutique in Cotton Tree. This gave me my first taste of the industry, though growing up I erred between wanting to be in fashion, an industrial designer or a graphic designer (a dream that came true). I guess now I’m a mix of all those things!
Q3: What inspired you to start your business?
I’m surprised I don’t need glasses (or am I in denial?) because I spent hours researching the disastrous affects of the textile industry – from the impact of dyes entering our rivers, to the destruction of animal habitats to the appalling conditions of garment workers. I knew that I needed to work hard to ensure every aspect of my business had minimal impact on the environment and our global community. At a more local level, I wanted to do my part to support Australian suppliers and local artisans to allow them to continue their craft and to ensure what’s left of our fashion industry will stay on shore.
Q4: How did you navigate this process and break into the industry?
I was squirrelling away at my business for a good year before I launched – not even telling my friends until I was sure of it. I often went down the rabbit hole of what is the most sustainable textile available, what can I source as an Australian small business and how the heck do I turn my ideas into reality without a lot of capital and the means to meet the large minimum orders. This led me down the path of slow fashion – creating in small batch so I can work with textiles and metal I love and manufacture locally to ensure there is minimal waste.
Q5: How did you source the right materials and manufacturers?
Manufacturing was the biggest hurdle – sourcing materials and asking the hard questions is quite easy compared to finding a local seamstress that has the know-how to carry out a production run and is willing to work with a start-up label. I am very fortunate to have found someone that I not only trust with pattern making and garment construction, but someone I get along with which is super important to me. I also hand make the jewellery in my home studio which has allowed me to only buy enough recycled sterling silver for what I need and pick up the tools whenever I feel creative.
Q6: Did you find the right materials and manufacturers limiting or a driver for your creative design and product development process?
I found the limitations of working with only natural fibres pushed me creatively. Sure, polyester always looks like you’ve just freshly ironed it but in Queensland you’re going to end up a sweaty betty the minute you walk outside. I knew that I needed to create designs that were easy to look after but could also carry you through the seasons.
Q7: How do you describe your style and how do you stay true to this?
My style is eclectic but minimal with a vintage influence in rich colour ways. The art deco and post-war eras have always been an unwavering inspiration on both my arts practice and my style - which no doubt came about from years of digging for gold in the op shops. I’m a big fan of accentuating your waist or neckline and adding a statement piece of jewellery. A design talks to me if it can be carried through any season and easily be dressed up or down, then I know it’s a keeper.
Q8: How do you want your customers to feel when they are using your pieces?
I want to empower women to feel like you can be yourself. The effortless silhouettes ebb and flow with you and your body as you travel through your days. The jewellery frames your face and captures the light to reflect your feminine strength. Wearing my pieces will prop you up and give you the confidence to embrace your Oddish side.
Q9: Who, or what are you listening to or reading right now?
I’ve always got a few things on the go – in podcast land I am listening to Wardrobe Crisis with Clare Press (for industry insights), Ologies (for fun facts about pretty much everything) and Start Up Creative (for business gold nuggets). Tunes I’ve been loving are Charlotte De Santos and Raveena, but my classics are a mix of genres including Björk, The Doors and Bonobo. I’ve also just started reading 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, which could easily be mistaken for a brick - it’s a doozey.
Q10: What advice would you impart on the next generation of women, and women in business?
Two things that have stuck with me is do something every day that works towards your goal and start today because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!