There’s no denying that the fashion industry looks a little different post-lockdown. After a year of comfort-first dressing, it’s only natural that this sense of style has transitioned into our every day wardrobes.
Introducing UNIEK (pronounced oo-nik), a new inclusive and sustainable loungewear brand from Melbourne, Australia. Founded by former Head of Marketing for Mercedes Benz Australia & New Zealand, Katherine Gracey, UNIEK is the result of her own experience searching for adaptable loungewear that was not only beautiful to wear but that also resonated on a more personal level.
“I believe that we are at our individual best when we feel at ease and comfortable in our own skin. The idea behind UNIEK is to celebrate that uniqueness through design that champions quality and simplicity.”
We’ve created a tightly-edited and hard-working collection that blends effortlessly within a modern wardrobe, but also upholds the values I hold dear: crafted sustainably and ethically by local makers, and designed with inclusivity at its heart – I gravitate towards quality and I am obsessed with comfort.”
Launching a brand in the fashion industry nowadays comes with a huge sense of responsibility. According to Fashion Revolution, ‘the number of garments produced annually has doubled since 2000, exceeding 100 billion for the first time in 2014, and an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is created annually from the fashion industry – every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally.’ (Fashion Revolution, 2020).
New brands are tasked with adding value to the industry without adding to the environmental impact of the global fashion industry. And while few can achieve this, UNIEK’s focus on sustainability and inclusivity is truly commendable.
Last month, UNIEK launched with a five-piece capsule collection that included a track pant, crew-neck sweater, hoodie, short sleeve tee and long sleeve tee, in sizes ranging from 6-16. The collection features a pared-back colour palette of sophisticated monochrome (my favourite!) along with slate grey and glacier blue, and is elevated through clever design details including body seams, dropped shoulders and box pleat detailing.
All of UNIEK’s designs are made locally in Melbourne from GOTS-certified organic cotton, which has also been knitted and dyed in Melbourne. Each piece is limited in quantity to ensure the limiting of wastage and consumption of fabric.
With such a strong focus on inclusivity and sustainable practices, I was intrigued to learn more about UNIEK, so I caught up with founder, Katherine Gracey.
Sitting down with Katherine Gracey
E: Congratulations on the launch of UNIEK! The designs are so elegant and comfortable. What was the motivation behind starting your own fashion label? And what made you decide to launch with loungewear?
K: I have grown up in an entrepreneurial family, so the idea of starting my own business didn’t scare me so much as excite me. I’ve always wanted to bring together my passion for design, style and local manufacturing, it was just a matter of timing being right. When my youngest went off to prep, it sparked a reassessment of my time and my priorities. I had a very exciting career as Head of Marketing for Mercedes Benz Australia + New Zealand, which I loved, but the stars aligned for me to take the leap and start UNIEK.
The motivation to focus on loungewear comes from my own personal experience searching for beautiful, locally-made loungewear that was also made from sustainable materials. I am constantly juggling a thousand different things in any one day, so there is an imperative for comfort and ease in the way I dress. At the same time, I want to feel polished and elegant. UNIEK is my answer to this problem: elevated loungewear that can be paired under a trench coat and sneakers, or with a silk skirt and slides. It’s about the mix.
UNIEK takes a slow and considered approach to fashion, with the initial launch a five-piece capsule collection locally made from Australian-knitted organic cotton. Manufacturing in Australia, with Australian grown materials, is often quite a difficult and expensive process. What made you decide to go down this path?
There was never a question in my mind of whether or not we should manufacture locally, and do all we could do create a range from responsibly-sourced materials. I think particularly in the wake of last year, we are conscious of our impact as consumers – both the positive and negative implications of how and where we choose to spend our money. It’s true that it can be more expensive and difficult to manufacture locally, but for me it’s just a non-negotiable. I would rather run a business based on my values with a slightly smaller margin than compromise in the name of profit.
What are some of the other sustainable and ethical practices that you have in place?
All of our packaging is made from recycled paper. Our capsules are limited in quantity to ensure we don’t have an oversupply of stock. I worked with our local maker to ensure there was limited packaging in how they delivered the goods to us. We have worked closely with our makers to maximise the fabric we have made to ensure we limit wastage.
The design of the product also lends itself to being something our customer’s can pull from their wardrobe time and time again. If our UNIEK woman invests in one piece, we know that piece will be something that she is confident wearing season after season.
On UNIEK’s website, it says you were inspired to create a sustainable and inclusive loungewear label for women who often feel unseen or unrepresented by the existing offering. How do you think UNIEK is tackling this inclusivity issue?
Inclusivity is built into the heart of the label. UNIEK is for the individual, it’s designed and crafted to celebrate the unique in all of us. As I’ve grown into my 40s, I have felt like the fashion industry doesn’t really ‘see’ women like me. We have the resources but we aren’t being put at the forefront of how brands identify themselves.
The most obvious way we tackle the inclusivity issue is through how we choose to communicate the brand visually. We want to showcase our product using women of all ages and shapes. The range is purposefully streamlined and designed with simplicity and intention, so as to ensure it feels truly ageless.
What is your vision for UNIEK?
We want to continue to create a product that feels connected to women—all women. Our capsules will be thoughtfully designed to ensure they compliment the previous capsules as well a contemporary wardrobe. We are incredibly proud that our product is locally made and that will continue to be part of who we are as a brand.
Uniek’s first capsule range is limited in run, with more curated drops of styles and colours expected within 2021. Shop my look via the UNIEK website now.
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: TIFFANY YANG
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*This post features gifted products and is part of a paid promotion with Uniek. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.