Interview with Melanie Flintoft from Sunset Lover
There is something enticing about a woman who combines her entrepreneurial spirit with her creative passions. When this is done well, magic happens. And this is just what Melanie Flintoft is doing with Sunset Lover. Having found major success with Australian Fashion Labels, she has turned her attention to her values and created Sunset Lover, a value-led, sustainable, resort-wear brand that is both ethical and full of beautiful and wearable designs.
BEFORE SUNSET LOVER YOU FOUND SUCCESS IN YOUR BUSINESS, AUSTRALIAN FASHION LABELS, WHICH YOU SOLD DURING COVID AFTER 17 YEARS OF BUSINESS. SUNSET LOVER HAS A VERY DIFFERENT DIRECTION. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CHANGE YOUR TRAJECTORY?
Previously to Sunset Lover, we owned and launched globally seven fast fashion brands that relied heavily on wholesale customers and particularly department stores. With the onset of Covid-19 and the subsequent loss of revenue, we put the company into administration and subsequently for sale. On reflection, we had struggled to find our why and our purpose with fast fashion, and we only became aware of the catastrophic consequences of the fast fashion industry in the few years before Covid, which proved to be a catalyst for what was to come. We understood that the fashion industry is the second most destructive to people and the planet, and we had time to deeply consider whether we should go back into such an industry. As we saw, the world didn't need another trend-based fashion label. So, the question was: what do we do now, with our years of experience – this is all we know? The past was reflective of polyester and plastic bags, massive overproduction, wasteful inventory, weekly deliveries of newness and a whole lot of churn-churn-churn! The decision was easy – use what we know, in an industry we love but use it as a vehicle to make a difference and leave the planet better than how we found it. The Sunset Lover model is very different, something our team and we are thoroughly alive with purpose for in every sense of the word. Being part of a powerful solution that will impact the present and future generations makes you proud beyond words. Sunset Lover is an Australian luxury resort wear brand that was born to leave a zero footprint and this direction makes us full of purpose which was something I struggled with in our fast fashion life. With every sunset there is an opportunity to R.I.S.E. (Responsible Impact on Society and Environment) is the Sunset Lover tagline we live by.
DO YOU FEEL IT IS MORE CHALLENGING FOR A SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING BRAND TO FIND COMMERCIAL SUCCESS THAN A BRAND THAT IS USING CONVENTIONAL PRACTICES?
Depends on the price point but 70% of shoppers now consider sustainability when purchasing a luxury product and the sector is growing from both the demand and supply side. It is an exciting time to be on this journey. A significant challenge is production and finding the right balance between sourcing and a realistic retail price. Working with local production in their speciality areas and then supplementing that with other regions' specialties. Fast Fashion will struggle to become sustainable as it does add cost.
WE ARE STRIVING FOR A FUTURE WHERE SUSTAINABLE FASHION OVERTAKES IT'S UNSUSTAINABLE COUNTERPARTS. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN ORDER FOR THIS TO HAPPEN? IS IT POSSIBLE?
Increased consumer demand to help drive down the price and the introduction of government legislation. We are struggling with sourcing many components of a garment that are certified or recycled such as compostable elastic, zips, and buttons. Our goal is to leave a zero footprint and achieve a compostable certification. Garments are complex. We are partnering with universities, governments, and compost companies so we can work together on this goal.
SUNSET LOVER TAKES A CIRCULAR APPROACH TO IT'S DESIGN PROCESS. CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT THIS MEANS.
Our goal is to put back what we take and throughout the process, we tread consciously and carefully to always consider the effects on people and the planet. Whatever we take from the land we put back in at the end of the garment's life.
BEING THE CREATIVE DIRECTOR, CAN YOU PLEASE TAKE US THROUGH YOUR DESIGN PROCESS FOR A COLLECTION AND WHERE YOU FIND INSPIRATION.
We have an exclusive partnership with the South Australian Museum and Adelaide Botanical Gardens. Head Designer Lola and I along with Bianca Smith a South Australian Artist start with an appointment in the archive libraries. Our strategy is based on our Ecology Series, above and below the sea, flora and fauna. We will spend the day researching alongside the museum department staff and it is our duty to bring to life accurate stories from the museum archives that have been preserved over time. In our past business, we would work with print companies that would tour design studios selling suitcases full of prints inspired by the catwalks showing similar prints with a legal 10% change. With Sunset Lover it is important to offer our community a unique intelligent offering. We are curating modern creative wearable art that should be treasured for a lifetime. When our customer wears a Sunset Lover print and they are complimented by a friend we want them to feel excited to share the history of the print and be proud to wear a sustainable product. We work with Art Lab to digitize the works so Bianca can create the artwork for printing. We select a colour palette that will excite. The print will be purposely designed to be created in different ways as a lace, embroidery, placement or an all-over print. W are experimenting with exciting and different ways to bring the collection to life. We then work with Robyn our in-house head of technical design and sustainable production; she spends a large amount of time researching and sourcing certified recycled or natural fabrics and trims from around the world that will bring our ideas to life. We believe every piece must be special and offer a variety of shapes to be inclusive to different bodies giving everyone an opportunity to own a piece of our work. We then create a prototype for fittings, colour the collection, and order selling samples for the buyer to view in the showrooms. It takes 3-6 months to make the product before it is launched into stores.
BEING A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR YOURSELF, YOU HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO SAY THAT YOU LOOK UP TO WOMEN WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEURS. IS THERE SOMEONE IN PARTICULAR WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU?
Amy Powney creative director of Mother of Pearl London has released a documentary called Fashion Reimagined. We have a similar journey to her, and the documentary is incredibly moving, eye-opening and inspiring absolutely recommend everyone should watch it. Stella McCartney in also a great inspiration for sustainable innovation. I applaud women in business and those who lift them up along their way.
I CAN IMAGINE YOU LEAD A FULL WEEK. WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN?
I love an early morning walk up the pioneer women’s track on Beaumont Hill with my sons and husband Dean and our cavoodle named Crumpet. It is a 10-minute drive from our home and overlooks our city all the way to the beaches, and watching the sunrise is a spectacular and uplifting way to start the day. Fridays we like to spend time with friends usually at home where we can play music and I love to cook snacks and entertain. Our friends know if the lights are on we are home, and everyone is welcome.
HAVE YOU GOT A GAME-CHANGING BOOK THAT HAS HELPED YOU?
Mastering the Rockefeller habits 2.0 – Scaling Up by Verne Harnish Podcast and webinars -Your CEO Mentor - Emma Green and Martin G. Moore
WHAT I SOMETHING MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I used to be shy and I love singing in the shower. My husband says I have my own language.