The Responsible Fashion Agency represents a unique edit of international designers who share its appreciation for timeless designs and commitment to fair working conditions and sustainable practice.
As a full-service boutique agency, we bring these brands into the Australian and New Zealand market with a tailored approach that mirrors their level of thought and integrity. We manage sales and marketing in a way that is personal, intentional and inventive. We do not work in the fast, trend-based manner that fashion is synonymous with: we value the slow and artisanal work of the brands we work with and prioritise representing them in a way that mirrors their considered process. Through meaningful relationships with boutique retailers and collaborations with like-minded creatives, we are able to share relevant stories about the brands we represent.
We hand select brands that share our value for high standards both ethically and aesthetically. They are transparent, and innovative in their approach to design and sustainability. They value the people behind-the-scenes and working with organic or upcycled materials – yet they remain uncompromising in their design sensibility and craftsmanship.
Our vision is to change the culture around buying and selling. We want to break down the preexisting model and be on the front foot like our designers. To us, this shift towards ethical and sustainable fashion does not only lie with the designers, but also with the agents, the retailers, the storytellers, the consumers. As well as delivering a tailored sales and marketing approach where longevity is front of mind, we are looking to work with our brands and retailers to further extend the life cycle of every garment through a renewables initiative with a circular approach.
The Responsible Fashion Agency is based in Sydney, Australia, and founded and led by Suzana Tas. As an immigrant with a diverse upbringing, Suzana developed an appreciation for the longevity of an item of clothing from early childhood, as well as a curiosity for alternative cultural narratives across eras and the globe. She has since garnered fifteen years experience in brand management and buying where she developed an affinity for timeless essentials while working in denim and an appreciation for quality through her work in luxury fashion. She launched the Responsible Fashion Agency to bring all of these worlds into one.
Website designed by Oak Park Studio.
We introduce our brands to boutique retailers and buyers across Australia and New Zealand who share our appreciation for timeless wardrobe essentials and sustainability. We are sensitive to the unique needs of the labels we represent and will craft a tailored strategy for each. We seek out retailers who can support our sustainable sales vision through a loyal and engaged community and an appreciation for a seasonless approach. We value growing with our brands and retailers to develop long-term bespoke partnerships. For us, sales is not merely about numbers but also about telling stories, sharing information that is transparent and educational, and developing new processes that value the safety of our community and health of our environment.
The thoughtfulness that is embedded in the brands we represent is something we seek to mirror through the way we share their vision. Our nuanced approach enables us to develop and deliver tailored marketing and PR strategies. We value authentic storytelling that cuts through the noise and seek opportunities to collaborate with respected creatives to share these stories. This approach resonates with like-minded cultural media allowing us to develop meaningful press relationships and custom content. This sensitive, personalised way of working extends to our retailers. These relationships are not merely transactional but have integrity and depth that leads to bespoke activations and editorially-led opportunities.
In an industry where fashion wholesalers are notorious for perpetuating discount culture, we are looking to challenge the pre-existing role of a fashion agency, much like the way our designers are challenging the status quo in their field. We are passionate about finding solutions to help divert products away from landfill and reduce waste. We believe we have a responsibility to extend our role beyond the point where a garment reaches a retailer. With this, we are looking to work with brands and retailers to create customised solutions to maximise a garment’s life cycle, fabrication and materials through renewables. This will be a tailored service that aims to change the way we perceive aged or unwanted stock in our industry.
Marie Claire Australia, CAES Is The New Slow Fashion Brand Cool Minimalists Are Obsessed With, Courtney Thompson, 03.09.21
ELLE Australia, ST. ROSE Fragrances Are Where You’ll Find Your Next Signature Scent, Melissa Mason, 22.08.21
JANE by the Grey Attic, Contentment Grove by Steph Pedersen and Emma Cotterill, 08.07.21
Gritty Pretty, Issue 27 : Eau De Clean, 15.06.21
RUSSH, The Majestic Issue : Remember Me by Lilli Boisselet, 17.05.21
Gourmet Traveller, Eternally Chic : Invest in Classic Wardrobe Essentials, 28.04.21
Broadsheet, Broadsheet Mother’s Day Gift Guide 2021, 28.04.21
GQ, Best New Men’s Fragrances for Autumn 2021, 21.04.21
Russh, Rounds Up Our Best Mother’s Day Gift Ideas, 15.04. 21
Russh, 30+ Sustainable Fashion Brands to Have on Your Radar, 22.02.21
Caes World, Women We Admire: Kitty Callaghan, 2020
Caes World, Women We Admire: Stanislava Pinchuk, 2020
Russh, Sustainable Dutch label, ‘CAES’, is the new brand you should be adding to your watchlist, 04.11.20
Dutch fashion brand CAES epitomises slow fashion with its line of luxury basics. We were instantly drawn to their series of classic essentials which form the foundation for a simplified and timeless wardrobe. Each garment forms part of an edition instead of a collection, challenging the idea that fashion needs to be either fast or seasonal. Items are produced locally at a family-run manufacturer in Portugal who CAES have worked closely with to establish fair working conditions and environment. Each garment is made from high quality, ethically sourced materials to ensure the smallest carbon footprint and highest standards of current certification.
ST. ROSE is a modern luxury perfume brand born in Australia and based in New York. Their gender-neutral fragrances are handcrafted with the highest-quality ingredients, which are ethically harvested, organic when possible, and sourced with traceability from their native region for the purest quality and minimal environmental stress. For example, their signature note, Australian Sandalwood, is proudly sourced from a farm recognised by the UN for its work with the local Indigenous community and their land. This sensitivity to the environment and commitment to working with their community extends to every facet of their business: they prioritise eco-friendly and responsibly sourced packaging materials and are a 1% for the Planet business who work with conservation partner WildArk to store CO2 in the most effective way, provide habitats for threatened species and benefit local communities.
ORRIS artisanal botanical soaps bring together traditional processes with new ideas. They are handcrafted in small batches in Paris, France, through a cold-process. They are hand-poured and hand-cut, using the finest oils, butters, and botanicals—all sustainably sourced. Founders Kenneth and Lani have poured their creative energy into crafting four distinct soaps based on Ayurveda, aromatherapy and Western herbal medicine. They all are gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin and, of course, gentle on our planet with their natural ingredients, cruelty free processes and zero waste philosophy.
Levens Jewels celebrates the raw beauty that comes from making things with our hands. And that beauty cascades along every wobbly surface of these ceramic jewels that remind us of fragments of a 1960s film reel where the colours and shapes of Spanish art and architecture intersect with romantic narratives and nuanced ideas. Each piece is handmade in Barcelona by a circle of creatives brought together by Levens Jewels founder Mar del Hoyo. Despite its international success, Levens Jewels—like many of the brands we represent—continues to feel more like a family than a business that creates art, not product.
Rukaiya Daud seamlessly brings many worlds into one with Fourth St—the old and new, the antique and the artisan made, objects and artists discovered on adventures to places near and far. Each piece has a story and each story somehow feels like it’s part of the same narrative. Ceramics sit alongside jewellery, textiles next to reading matter—all tied together through their exploration of materials and artistry.
Helen de Kluiver, the visionary founder of CAES, speaks to us about fashion memories, leather corsets and why one must stay true to themselves.
Suzana Tas: Can you remember your earliest memory of fashion? Helen de Kluiver: When I was a little girl, I used my brother as a mannequin. On weekends I made clothes from crepe paper and he had to try it on or he had to stand really still so I could drape the paper around his body. He was so sweet; he didn’t care. Later, when I started working, I saved for designer clothes or shoes. I still have one favourite pair of Alaia heels that I bought when I was seventeen. But I still wear them. I was already so obsessed by craftsmanship at a young age.
ST: You work with some of the most sustainable approaches to design products for CAES. Is there a technique that you’re particularly drawn to? HK: I think designing in 3D is very interesting. I work closely with a patternmaker, Mathilde, and she makes her patterns in 3D, which is fascinating. The product looks almost real and you can even see the drape of the fabric. In this way you reduce the making of many samples and you therefore use less fabric or yarn.
ST: Do you have a favourite piece from the CAES collection? Do you remember what was happening around the time you designed it? What you were feeling or thinking? Where do you think it came from? HK: Definitely the leather corset top. I always like to combine opposites with each other – like oversized with slim and bold with straight. I like that the leather top has lines and curves, but the material is tough. And I think I was super happy during that time because I had found a nice alternative to leather, VEGEA, which is characterised by a high content of vegetal, recycled raw materials. And it even looks like real leather. It gives the collection just a little bit more by adding this material.
ST: What does responsible fashion mean to you and how can we continue moving towards it? HK: For me, it means the future. I think we need to re-think what we really need as a consumer. And for brands, it would be good to take a good look at their process and make conscious small changes to do better. For us, it’s also still a learning path, but we are really trying to do better and to improve each collection. I think if you are aware and willing to change, then that is what matters.
ST: What thoughts are circulating for you as you continue to grow CAES and develop the brand’s vision HK: That I have to continuously focus on what we want to tell and what we think is important and who fits with the brand. I think it’s very important to stay close to the core; sometimes it’s a challenge, but if you stay close to who you are then it stays real and credible. I believe nowadays a brand is much more than just clothing: it’s also a way of living, a story. So keep it close to yourself – that is my main thought at the moment.
Belinda Smith, the woman behind ST. ROSE, shares her creative process, thoughts on healing and her most nostalgic fragrance.
Suzana Tas: They say that a sense of smell is closely linked with memory. Is this true for you? Belinda Smith: Scent and memory are so closely entwined and this is because of the brain’s anatomy. Smells take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus – the regions related to emotion and memory. It’s because these olfactory signals get to the limbic system so quickly that fragrance is truly like armchair travel. So when you smell a bouquet of flowers, fresh cut grass or a passer-by’s perfume, suddenly you are swept back to forgotten memories almost instantaneously.
ST: What does the process of coming up with a fragrance look like for you? BS: Each of our fragrances start from something I am inspired by and also something I am craving to wear personally. The concepts and creation process varies but always starts from a personal experience – travel, art, being in nature. ST. ROSE partners with one of the best fragrance houses in the world, so we truly have the most incredible perfumers behind our collection.
I’ve always been highly visual, so prior to presenting a creative brief for a new project, I love working through mood boarding with images, colours and textures that shape the idea of this scent I have in my mind. I also love to work with music by creating a playlist to help articulate the mood and energy of the composition’s essence. It’s always a really collaborative process – sharing inspiration and allowing the masters to compose the notes that will ultimately become the final fragrance. As a clean brand, with sustainability and transparency at the heart of the creation process, there is always a big discussion around ingredients – where they are sourced and ensuring that they are gentle to both people and planet.
In the end, the true journey begins when someone falls in love with a fragrance from our collection and forms their own connection to it. That is truly the most rewarding part of this experience.
ST: How do you think forming a closer relationship with Mother Earth and her medicine helps us to reconnect with our inner power? BS: I feel most at peace in nature. Whether that is swimming in the ocean or walking through a forest. But nature as medicine is far from a novel idea. The sensorial artform of perfumery dates back all the way to the Ancient Egyptians, where their uses extended beyond cosmetic indulgence and into the mystical and spiritual realms. From rose to frankincense to sandalwood, the Earth’s elements have been used across cultures in medical, ceremonial and spiritual uses for millennia. The Latin meaning of the word ‘perfuma’ means ‘by smoke’ and was originally applied to the burning of incense, sacred herbs, resins or wood. In fact, for over 40,000 years, the First People of Australia have used sandalwood – burning the aromatic wood in sacred rituals as a way to protect mind, body and soul.
We include sandalwood exclusively from our sandalwood provider in Western Australia, which is fifty per cent Indigenous owned, in each of our fragrances as a way to distil this beautiful philosophy into one’s daily ritual. A simple but powerful way to connect self with nature.
ST: What advice would you give to someone trying to navigate their own path to healing? BS: Be gentle with yourself. Being mindful about what you are nourishing your mind, body and soul with. In today’s hectic and fast-paced world, where we often find ourselves exhausted from too little sleep, too much stress and far too much screen time, finding daily rituals to ground and recenter us brings an immediate boost – even simple ones like going on a morning walk, cooking a healthy meal, taking a bath or spiritizing on a fragrance to uplift your mood.
ST: I love how a scent can transport us to other places and times. Is there space you find yourself returning to through a fragrance? BS: Circa 91 is probably the most nostalgic in the collection. 1991 was the year when my family and I moved from a property near the quiet town of Warren, located on the Macquarie River in New South Wales, to the United States. From my early years roaming the wide-open playground right outside my backdoor – which cultivated my love for nature – to the culture shock of stepping off a plane in a strange new world, I knew I had to have a nineties throwback in the collection. The nineties, in all their rebellious glory, were the origin of unisex fragrances. Our Circa 91 is an ode to that decade – with a fresh citrus accord that then takes an ozonic dive into a mysterious woods base.
Kenneth & Lani—the intuitive and dedicated duo behind ORRIS—shared with me why this brand felt so essential and what they have learnt through the creation of this very genuine project.
Suzana Tas: How would you describe yourselves and the communities who have shaped you? Kenneth & Lani: ORRIS is a product and fusion of both of us—our ideas and our passions. We have always been interested in self-care rituals, skin and body care, and powerful imagery. Within the wellness and skincare industry where there is a pressure to constantly push out new product, we are constantly thinking about how we can resist this. We have also been inspired by our friends—many of whom are creators, photographers and designers who have played an important role in shaping ORRIS.
ST: So much thought goes into your processes at ORRIS. How do you develop and maintain a unique voice and aesthetic amidst all the noise of the current market? K&L: ORRIS was born out of instinct and necessity. We always had the intention of creating luxurious, sustainable and gender inclusive products that are gentle enough for all skin types. Coming from a creative background has really taught us the importance of storytelling. We wanted to develop highly efficacious plant-based products with only the highest quality botanical ingredients and we wanted to create a seductive visual universe. It has been crucial for us to keep a laser focus on our brand vision and our guiding ethos; every decision we have made has been guided by this mission. For us, championing a strong visual identity was just as important as putting out timeless, high quality skincare essentials in terms of carving our own niche in an already saturated market.
ST: What lessons have you learnt as makers? And how do you keep trusting your instincts? K&L: So far, our instincts have not led us astray. As artisans and creators, we made a conscious decision to champion the savoir-faire and craftsmanship of traditional cold process soapmaking (the first bar of soap is reported to have been made by the Mesopotamians and Egyptians dating to 2800 BCE). This, however, translates to production being a more costly and time consuming process for us. This is reflected in the quality of our products and we have learnt that our consumers value and appreciate this. We have also collaborated with wonderful creatives globally who share and understand the ORRIS ethos and aesthetic. Many of these partnerships have been born out of serendipity, chance encounters and following our own instinct.
ST: You’ve spoken before about drawing from traditions such as Ayurveda, which emphasises the healing powers of herbal ingredients. Can you tell me more about this and how you alternate between the various soaps in your daily rituals? Kenneth: I first started making natural soaps for myself, my friends and my family as a lifelong sufferer of psoriasis and eczema. I began researching alternative holistic healing traditions such as Ayurveda and herbal medicine after I grew tired of using harsh steroid and cortisone creams that wreaked havoc on my skin barrier after a lifetime of sustained use. Not only do these overlooked practices have hundreds, if not thousands, of years of history, many of these herbal extracts and ingredients have been studied clinically and have been proven to have potent skin benefits when used topically. Our soaps are not only designed with different skin types and concerns in mind: they each embody a different “persona”: la Déesse (the Goddess), le Botaniste, le Soliste (the Soloist), and le Nomade. Each of our four gentle cleansing bars complements each other in terms of function and should be used according to one’s mood and season. We have always loved le Soliste with Fermented Rice Water as a postbiotic facial cleanser; it is a perfect minimalist and fragrance free bar for sensitive areas of the body like the face. We love le Botaniste on a hot summer day; the gentle cooling effect of Peppermint with the infusion of three different skin soothing herbs is amazing on skin chapped from the Sun. And we love running le Nomade under some warm water for a delicious milky, woody bath.
ST: Who inspires you right now? K&L: We are currently loving the rebrand of Chloé, under the new creative direction of Uruguayan designer Gabriela Hearst. Her principle of “luxury with a conscience” and being attentive to tradition and fine craftsmanship really resonates with us. And, of course, the ultimate source of our inspiration has always been Nature herself: the smells, sounds, colours and textures are a constant source of inspiration for us and for ORRIS.
I spoke with Spanish actress-turned-jeweller Mar del Hoyo about the things that drew me most to her project Levens Jewels: her creative process and dedication to true craftsmanship.
Suzana Tas: Levens Jewels’ “raison d’être” is based around craftsmanship. Can you tell me what this means in your creative process? Mar Del Hoyo: For me, craftsmanship is very important because I feel that my pieces are capable of transmitting something more—something more profound and personal. Working by hand is a way of getting involved in each of the pieces that I make, as if they were small sculptures. I also think that it is important to give value to this way of producing because it is much more conscious and respectful in addition to the historical and cultural value that these types of works have.
ST: Levens seems to have an experimental aesthetic—where does that come from? MH: What inspires me the most is the beauty of things made with soul. They are simple things that do not belong only to a few, but you have to have a certain sensitivity to appreciate them. Suddenly a pretty light on your way back home, shopping at the local market, a popular dance, a well-performed song… Inspiration can be anywhere. But you also have to cultivate it. I go to exhibitions, look through photography books, collaborate with other artists and, above all, I try to maintain the illusion and curiosity to continue learning with this project.
ST: As Levens evolves, what are you thinking as you develop the brand’s vision? MD: Fantasising about Levens is one of my favourite things to do. Right now I’m interested in collaborations with other artists or brands that have a similar philosophy. Also, I would like to reach more people and maybe diversify a bit. I’d like to put out a line of objects and, maybe at some point, a few pieces of clothing. But I’m in no rush; I want to do things at my own pace and in an organic way.
I was drawn to Fourth St immediately for its sensibility and the way it celebrates the old and new. Here, its founder Rukaiya Daud and I speak about our shared appreciation for the artisan made, the fun of candlelit dinners and the sorts of things we can do to curb climate change.
Suzana Tas: How has your community shaped you? Rukaiya Daud: I would say my family has shaped me in unimaginable ways. We value modesty, kindness and intelligence. They don’t necessarily care for material things but when purchasing something… if it’s furniture, it’s solid wood, and if it’s gold, it’s solid too. There’s a mentality that you purchase something once; it’s quality and it lasts. Immigrants do have to work that much harder and I am so grateful for having this insight. I am the black sheep in some respects, but I am glad I have that grounding framework as a base.
ST: How does the past and the present influence your designs? And what’s your process around materials? I know the interaction of contrasting textures is important to you. RD: The interaction of materials, textures, shapes, colours and people is what it’s all about. I’m always observing shapes and forms and referencing colour combinations—whether it’s a chic older woman I spot on a walk, a detail on an art deco home or an antique. At the end of the day, what you bring into your home should be a celebration of what makes you happy. Outside of necessity, people will buy what they’re drawn to—something that sparks some sort of feeling or desire.
With Fourth St there’s an underlying theme of playfulness: candlesticks remind us that every dinner can be a candlelit dinner if you just light the candles, playing cards are to be enjoyed with friends and sarongs are something to keep on hand year round for a mood-lifting pop of colour.
ST: Craft is incredibly important to your work. Can you talk me through the development of a range? RD: Fourth St started as a creative outlet outside of my nine-to-five. I began by simply sourcing and selling antiques and one-off vintage items. The business organically evolved to include making my own items. Fourth St values firmly rooted items with depth and a story. To me, celebrating craft and the process of how an item is made is just as important as the final product.
Developing a range with multiple different makers and materials has not come without friction. Finding a brass maker who could make my Egg Sculpture at a price I could sell at took about two years. Setting foundations and working relationships takes time and only now am I in a position to scale and transfer knowledge learnt to different materials and actually develop a collection. Not only that, when you’re small, people don’t take you as seriously. I had no prior retail or production knowledge so there has been a lot of learning.
I’m pleased I can support makers in both India and New Zealand—places I have a personal connection with. It also means I can run a business in a way that is meaningful to me. The Fourth St customer appreciates craft too. Items aren’t made in a factory, so they have knicks and bumps and imperfections. Knowing and seeing that an item has been finished with care and by a maker is what makes me the most happy.
ST: Where did the name Fourth St come from? RD: Coming up with a name was such a task. In the end, Fourth St resonated the most. It’s a street in the East Village where I spent most of my time while living in New York with my dearest friend. Fourth St is where I felt most at ‘home’.
ST: What do you think businesses can do to take positive steps at curbing climate change? RD: Start at the source. Who are you working with? What are their values? It all needs to trickle down from the top. Of course, packaging needs to be eco and compostable, but if your factories are leaking toxins into waterways and you’re creating huge amounts of waste, all those efforts, in my opinion, are just a band aid to the problem at hand. Climate change will, and already does, affect those who have both contributed and benefited the least. Plastic, overfishing and the highest consistent emissions of fossil fuels all come from the developed world. As direct beneficiaries of this climate change fuelling productivity and privilege, it is our responsibility to play an active part in protecting all fellow humans. It is not just our environmental responsibility but a humanitarian one also.