Introducing Kateri, the slow fashion label with creativity at its core



Beautifully slow.

While fast fashion remains on the industry’s main stage, there’s a small pocket tucked away in the Naarm fashion scene still dedicated to doing things slowly. Creating within this niche is Kateri, a small and intentional Melbourne/Naarm label founded by two young creative minds, Ruby Farley-Steere and Dana Fary. 

Designing garments and retailing art, Kateri exists for the modern-day minimalists; think neutral tones, flowing silhouettes and gorgeous textiles. With words like ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ quickly losing their meaning in the fashion industry, the Kateri team nailed it – no greenwashing here. 

Discover more local designers in our Fashion section. 

The label’s garments are locally produced and Australian made by the talented Vanessa Gullone and her small team in Heidelberg to ensure premium product quality, transparency, care and consideration. 

Peeking behind the design curtain, I spoke to Kateri’s founders Dana and Ruby about the current online collection, their ode to the small slow fashion industry, and the label’s room for growth.

Hey girls! Thanks for chatting. Starting off easy first – what brought you two to begin your business, Kateri?

Thanks for having us! Fashion has always been a high interest for Ruby and she particularly loves shopping at small locally made labels. After studying and working in the fashion industry for around five years, she decided to create her own! 

With the help of Melbourne lockdown in 2020, Ruby was spared a lot of time, meaning she was able to become so creative and finally put all her ideas onto paper. She teamed up with me, her best friend Dana, which works great as I have a passion for numbers and business. We worked seven days a week to ensure we had the funds to begin the dream and haven’t looked back since.

What was the mentality around starting a brand and what do you hope to achieve?

We wanted to help spread the importance of slow fashion to everyone around us! We wanted our garments to not only be locally produced but to be considered thoughtfully and on a journey to sustainability. Through having our garments produced in Melbourne and by Ruby, we are proud to know they are of premium quality and being made through workers in safe conditions and being paid what they deserve.

In the future, we hope to continue to become more and more sustainable. This is a huge learning experience for everyone involved and we are ensuring we are taking small steps towards sustainability in all that we do. We hope our brand can be stocked in retailers who have the same values as ours and create bonds with our local creators.

Tell me a little bit about how you create your pieces, from start to finish.

Ruby begins the design journey with inspiration from things she sees around her, whether that may be in nature, on the internet or from people and things around her. Once feeling inspired, she will begin her design process. Every day she will go back and alter things until they’re perfect. Once she has made all her ideas perfect, she will liaise with me for any other ideas and inspirations and make sure they are both on the same wavelength. 

Next, the ideas are sent to production manager Vanessa Gullone, located in Heidelberg, Melbourne. Vanessa will view the designs and be in contact with us to talk through the designs, and then begin to make the toiles of the garments after she has made the blocks and patterns. 

Whilst this process is happening, we go through an endless amount of fabric samples to decipher what will best suit the designs and what colour range they are wanting for the collection. Depending on restrictions, we will either meet with Vanessa to talk through the completed toiles, or have them sent to us where we then make any alterations we think are necessary. 

Next is the fun part as we get to see the pieces in the fabrics we have chosen with the necessary alterations. We then give the go-ahead to begin production. Vanessa will then begin half of the production and Ruby will begin her half of production. This way we can make our core pieces made-to-order and not have a lot of wasted stock.

Sustainability is obviously important to your design process. How do you ensure it’s included in the retailing process?

We ensure we are only producing a small run of garments to ensure we have no wastage. If garments sell out, we allow made-to-order pieces so no one misses out. This way we are only producing the amount needed. We are then able to only order as much fabric to suit the garments we need.

As our garments are sold through a website, packaging is required. Our packing is compostable and recyclable and made from a sustainable source which contributes to a circular economy by allowing valuable materials to live again.

What space do you hope Kateri will occupy within the industry?

For now, we’ll continue to build the label to have its core pieces, just different fabrics each season. We want Kateri to be a brand that you come back to, because you love the fit of the clothing and you know that it will never change. Before we really settle into a niche though, we would like to fine-tune our key designs, and then gradually introduce some new designs once we’re satisfied with our core pieces. 

Another dream is to have our own atelier, so our customers can come in for alterations and one-on-one fittings to ensure the perfect fit and of course so all our garments can be made in the one place.

Tell me about your involvement with Melbourne artist, Emily Bickerton, and whether you hope to expand your offerings even further?

We fell in love with Emily’s work through her Instagram page. We got in contact with her to use some of her pieces at the photoshoot of our first collection and connected with the pieces so much and could see how well her pieces worked with ours. We share the same values about our brands and fashion in general and just knew this involvement was a match made!

Emily has been so beautiful to work with and has always been so supportive of us as well. After seeing her pieces mesh with our garments, we just knew we have to continue working together. She has some really amazing pieces coming so soon, so stay tuned!

I love the idea of having apparel and objects side by side. Why did you decide to dip your toe into both and how do the two intersect?

We have always loved the art and production behind ceramics. That feeling when you buy a new ceramic that you know you’re going to keep forever is just like buying a new dress that’s been locally made.  There is something so beautiful about buying something that has been handmade and knowing that somebody has put so many hours of work into making this one piece for you.

I suppose that’s the same feeling as our clothing. The reason we have Emily’s work alongside our own is because both forms of art have a similar process – both [are] made with love and a lot of hours of work.

What’s your brand and design ethos?

Transparency, care and consideration are at the core of our ethos. Our garments are an ode to the small slow fashion industry that still exists.

Finally, coming out of a pandemic, what do you hope the future of fashion will look like?

After what has been an insane journey with multiple lockdowns and restrictions, we are hoping the brighter future is just around the corner. We hope the future of fashion and creative arts can continue to thrive. We want people to meet and express their ideas and creativity with others as this is such a beautiful thing. We hope to see people inspiring each other with amazing ideas.

You can see more from Kateri here.

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