Interview: Sunday Tracker
Having a business partner who lives on the opposite side of the world has the potential to be quite tricky - dealing with time differences, not being able to chat face-to-face or work side-by-side can present a few challenges! But the truth is, the online world we now live in opens up doors for non-traditional businesses to exist far more easily than in the past. We can work with whoever we want, and wherever and whenever we want.
Today's interview is with Miriam and Julia Grundy – two sisters who decided to create a business because of their shared love for fashion. Only trouble is, they live at opposite sides of the world, and they both already have demanding careers to deal with. It's interesting and inspiring that the reality of this fact hasn't stopped them from going for it...
Sunday Tracker is an online store for ethical, sustainable, fashion-forward accessories. Miriam and Julia have brought together a collection of designers and makers who create beautiful products, but they also share similar ethical and sustainable values - meaning, they are either handmade, vegan, support and empower communities, charities or individuals, or cause the least amount of damage to the environment as possible.
They've been operating since April 2015, but already, and in such a short time, they've had a very positive response. Strangely, even though there's a lot more talk and awareness about ethics within the fashion industry, it's still a young market within Australia. There's still a bit of a stigma that surrounds it – almost like people think they need to choose between style or ethics, or that you need to pay a ridiculous amount of money for the latter. Sunday Tracker is helping to bridge the gap in people's minds of what's fashionable and what's ethical. In fact, there isn't any gap at all.
This is their story...
Can you describe the process that led you to start Sunday Tracker? Any defining or lightbulb moments to speak of?
The idea of starting a travel-inspired boutique had been brewing for some time, but the impetus to make it an ethical store only took shape after Miriam travelled to Vanuatu and met a group of women using traditional weaving techniques to make fashion accessories. These accessories were made using local, superfluous grass, and were made by women who could work from home on their own schedule, which were then sold direct to market. We thought about the sustainable elements: environment, cultural and financial. We realised the best use of our time and resources would be to create a platform that promoted designers and makers who were working to these principals and create a bigger market for their goods.
What would the world look like if Sunday Tracker had its way?
We see Sunday Tracker as being first and foremost an inspiring place to shop for fun, summer-orientated accessories. Our success and strengths lie in the products we sell, but they have to be able to keep company (aesthetically and quality wise) with mainstream fashion equivalents. Now that we have some experience and are maturing in the marketplace, we can see that the future for Sunday Tracker lies in creating our own signature lines by working with existing infrastructure (NGOs, aid organizations, micro-enterprise, refugee communities, women’s groups and indigenous communities) to bring more products, made by more hands, to a bigger market place. This isn’t radical, but what we do want to do is make these products desirable for the contemporary fashion marketplace on their own terms, rather than marketing their ethical qualities before their aesthetic qualities.
Can you tell us a bit about the Australian ethical/sustainable fashion landscape?
It’s still really in its infancy, I think. Australia has only in the past few years experienced the monolithic scale and pace of high street retail. H&M is only just opening in Sydney this month, so the attitude is still about Australia finally having access to ‘democratic’ fashion, which is a total falsehood. On the flip-side, there is a stable of established Australian fashion labels, like Bassike, Veronika Maine and Nobody Denim that have been creating what is essentially ethical fashion, yet they don’t subscribe to that category because it’s still seen as a marketing no-no. What we see, particularly in the US and European markets, is that ethical is now considered the new luxury, and is the mark of evolved style.
We like to locate what we’re doing in the context of the food movement of the past decade. Ten years ago the concepts of slow, local, artisan, sustainable or organic food were still in the realm of hippy, alternative stuff. Of course, now that is the premium side of the food market. The general level of awareness, and, most importantly, buyers’ dedication to food is incredible. So the question begs, why – when most people wouldn’t touch a BigMac, knowingly eat GM grain or buy caged, battery-farm eggs – is fashion still a blind spot?
As sisters who work together, but from opposite ends of the world, how are your responsibilities split, and how do you manage the long-distance relationship work?
Being family, we do have shorthand that allows us to communicate effectively, although I think we’ve refined the use of emojis to the point where we can pretty much just use them as main language! We both know our strengths, and fortunately it’s never been an issue delegating, as we know who will do it best, in the least amount of time. We both have other careers and obligations (Miriam is an Aboriginal art consultant and appraiser and Julia works full-time in marketing and has a one-year-old), so we work as much as we can, when we can, but we’re realistic and don’t stress if something has to wait.
How has social media and other forms of digital marketing affected your brand?
Instagram is essential to our brand – I can’t imagine running and promoting a business like ours without it. You can say so much in a photo about what you stand for, your style, beliefs and values. When we first started, we felt like we needed to be across all social, but you realise what fits, works and feels right. We’re really proud of our blog, which has meaningful content, and is another avenue for us to express what Sunday Tracker is all about.
What people or other businesses have influenced your brand?
There are so many kick-ass brands in the ethical space that influence us:
- Reformation for the humour and coolness they bring to ethical, sexy, affordable fashion and calling out the marketing con of seasons and trends.
- More recently Thinx period undies for being charmingly bold and lifting the taboo around menstruation and addressing both the waste of the hygiene industry in the first world, while helping women in the developing world to continue with their daily lives (i.e. education, employment) all month long by giving them reusable products.
- In terms of spokespeople Livia Firth is breaking so much ground in the area of high fashion, knowing that it will trickle down to the high street.
Career highlight so far?
It’s more continual, constant highlights of working with other amazing women who believe in this…
What’s the hardest part of owning your own business?
For us, with the business being relatively new, limited budget and resources make lots of things difficult. You want the brand, website, products, customer experience etc. to all be the best they can be, but often have to settle for what’s affordable or practical.
The biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
That it’s okay to make mistakes – it’s how you learn about yourself and your business. Also to stand firm on what you want, as ultimately you have to love it if you’re going to sell it.
Tips on how to stay on top of everything?
Pinterest is a great tool to bring disparate products together and see how they relate, or don’t, while you are building the visual narrative of seasonal stock. It’s also great for keeping track of new brands. Instagram is also great for research. We set aside time to fall down rabbit holes and discover new makers and brands in the space. We’ve tried all sorts of efficiency e-tools but we always come back to just picking up the phone! We’re sisters – we like to talk!
How do you see Sunday Tracker evolving over the next few years?
Growing, bringing more designers and makers into the fold, being a louder voice in the sustainable and ethical fashion movement, and educating other mainstream fashion designers and consumers about responsible production.
What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting out again?
One piece of advice for other business owners?
Not sure we’re qualified to give advice yet! Ask us again in two years…