Australian designer Jillian Boustred on building her brand and her evolving relationship with sustainability

PHOTOGRAPHY BY Georgia Blackie

Words by Eve Lollback

Sustainability is the new black.

Jillian Boustred is a Sydney based fashion designer who established her eponymous label in 2015. Majority Australian-made, Jillian Boustred the brand strives to deliver quality and comfort through the use of natural fibres, ethical production and sustainable practices. 

In order to defy the traditions of fast fashion, the label offers classic and flattering pieces with a feminine touch, designed to live in your wardrobe for years to come. 

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I quizzed her on the brand’s journey and her personal experience with sustainable fashion to get an insight into what Jillian Boustred is all about. 

Tell me about your brand.

Jillian Boustred was founded in 2015 by myself, Jillian Boustred. I was working in retail and starting my brand as a side hustle. I started with a lot of print and then pulled back to focus on classic shapes in block colours. We started working with linen and that was when the brand took off. I started selling with Well Made Clothes who work with sustainable and ethical brands. That was a good step for the label. 

Last year, we started stocking with David Jones, which has been a big step for the brand, too. All garments are made in Sydney except for knitwear. There’s a focus on natural fabrics, clothes that are comfortable and wearable. All of our packaging is sustainable. 

Why was it important for you to incorporate sustainable practices?

Sustainability has grown with the label. Before I started the label, I wasn’t an environmental activist. As I’ve worked in the industry for longer, I’ve learned and been educated through my customers. As we started to grow and we started to stock with Well Made Clothes, I started to get a more sustainable customer. I wanted to appeal to those sustainable customers and incorporated sustainability into the brand as much as possible. 

We started using natural fibres and turning to local production. Often when you order things, they all come wrapped in plastic. So for us, we drive around the corner 20 minutes to pick up our stock, so it’s on hangers and not wrapped in plastic. Being locally made is a huge part of our ethical production, but it does add a sustainable aspect. We do minimal quantities as it’s easy to just re-cut fabric quickly. We would rather avoid waste and cut things as we need them. We are working towards making calico bags for all of our makers, so we could eventually reach a plastic-free studio.  

What is something you wished Australians knew about sustainable fashion?

I don’t think people realise how much carbon emissions occur when you transport products made offshore into Australia, as well as the nature of these garments all being wrapped in plastic. Greenwashing is an issue as well. It’s becoming so easy for brands to latch onto the sustainable label by using natural fibres, but there is a lack of detail as to where the sustainable fibres are coming from and that’s confusing the customer. 

The constant push in fast fashion for ‘newness’, is also problematic for so many reasons. It’s hard for brands to keep up with having new stock. We should be encouraging the customer to purchase something that will last forever, not something that’s new.

Where do you find the inspiration for your collections?

Classic pieces are something we strive for. A lot of our styles have been selling for the last three years, which I think is something that should be celebrated. That means they’re classic, timeless and you can wear them over and over again. 

We strive for classic and wearable pieces for all ages. A big part of the label is that it’s quite ageless. We have customers who are in their twenties and we have some customers who are in their fifties, which I think is also a good thing, and important for me to consider when I’m designing. 

What is your favourite piece that you’ve created? Why? 

Currently, the Esther dress. It was the first time we did ruching and it offered something different to our collection. Our customers’ favourite dress is the Valerie dress with the eyelets on the back. Having an adjustable bust is popular because there are so many different shapes and sizes out there. 

What hurdles have you in your journey to build your brand?

I was quite young and didn’t have much experience when I started. It was trial and error, starting small and trying to organically grow. Firstly, getting a good understanding of production and fit and how to manufacture. I studied fashion at uni, but we didn’t touch on how to do a size range or quality problems. 

Being a one-man show is hard. You’ve got to wear so many hats. You’ve got to do accounting and designing and emailing; it’s a lot to juggle. I’ve got two girls helping me now which has been amazing. Cash flow is always a challenge. That’s the nature of the fashion industry. 

How would you describe your brand in five words?

Feminine, classic, considered, quality and Australian-made.

What’s next for you?

We are looking to move into a new space at the moment as my studio is getting too small. We’re thinking a lot about what the best next step to take is. Do we want to have more of a retail element where we can have direct contact with our customers? Or do we want to focus on the online side of things? Expanding our sustainable fabrics is a focus as well. We use a lot of linen, but it would be good to include more certified cotton. Assessing how we function as a whole in the fashion industry.

To shop Jillian Boustred click here.

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