Lately I've been thinking a lot about the link between the fashion industry and the environment; in particular, the egregious speed and level of consumption that has become the norm in our society.

The throw-away mentality of clothing is clearly not good, but it can be difficult to avoid when the majority of affordable retailers encourage it, not only through the addictive arrival of new items, but fundamentally in the terrible quality of the clothes themselves.

To aid my transition into a better way of approaching fashion, I spoke to Johanna Howe and Sarah Russell from Melbourne label Caves Collect, who are leading the way in their community with locally made, classic garments built to last.

Emilia: What made you decide to start Caves Collect?

Jo: I never expected to start a label straight after I finished studying fashion design at RMIT, but after I graduated, I was so unenthused by the prospect of working for a label I didn’t believe in. I was getting pretty stressed out looking at jobs on SEEK, and that’s when my boyfriend suggested I do a project with Sarah, who I’d known since we were kids in Adelaide and who was living in my share house. It kind of just went from there. We’ve been joined at the hip ever since!

Sarah: I studied a shoemaking course in Adelaide, after which I made shoes and bags for 8 years or so. I was approached by Amanda Briskin-Rettig, of high end leather goods brand A-ESQUE after she saw my work stocked in Craft Victoria. I went on to work at A-ESQUE for two years, and it was towards the end of that period that I moved into Jo’s share house. We’d sit on the front porch and talk about the kind of design we were excited about. We realised we had a lot of commonalities and decided to do a project together, which got serious pretty quickly and soon turned into Caves Collect.


You started off by making each piece to order by hand in your Collingwood studio. 

Jo: Yes, we used to make everything ourselves in-house. It was a bit of a nightmare though, we basically lived at the studio in those days! It’s very difficult to try to design new things and keep up with the daily runnings of the business when you’re stuck behind a sewing machine. That said, we do love sewing and we miss it. We are so grateful for our incredible local makers who now make all of our clothes and leather goods. They are amazing human beings who take such pride in their work and we couldn’t do it without them.

Why do you continue to produce locally here in Melbourne?

Sarah: We want to support the local makers whose livelihoods are dependent on keeping an industry here. We love that we have personal relationships with our makers and know they work in good conditions with fair pay. It’s very difficult to moderate that sort of thing when your makers are overseas. Also, from an environmental perspective, it’s a lot more sustainable to keep manufacturing local.

All of your pieces seem to be quite cohesive. Do you have any particular themes that you gravitate towards when you design?

Jo: Sarah and I are both very inspired by the idea of classic, wearable, items which age well. I once heard that when a french lady is shopping, she will think about whether she will want to wear a piece in 10 years time. I think that kind of mentality is what most inspires us most.

Sarah: There is something so soulful about an object that has been created with thought and integrity. Creating simple, classic designs which can be worn effortlessly is our vision for the brand.


You've mentioned previously that creating high quality products is a big part of your brand’s philosophy. Why is quality so important to you?

Jo: We always consider how to construct our pieces so that they will wear well over the years. The last thing we want to do is put stuff out there which is going to fall apart the second time it's worn. We just don’t believe in fast fashion - we want to encourage people to really consider their purchases, learn how to look after their clothes and make them last.

Sarah: Having less in your life but loving and caring for what you do have is personally so important to us. It’s important to buy quality items that deserve this care and attention and to learn how to care for them so that they do last.

I’m assuming that there is a lot of emphasis placed on the materials that go into your clothes in order for them to last a long time. Where do you source your materials from?

Jo: Absolutely, we put a lot of energy into sourcing quality fabrics. We love natural fibres which breath on the body and continue to look good over the years. We would absolutely love to source locally made fabrics, but nothing is being made in Australia anymore, which is a real shame. So we source fabrics predominantly from Italy, Japan and New Zealand. Our leather mainly comes from Italy.

How do you feel about the rising state of fashion consumerism in our society, and in particular, what are your thoughts on fast fashion?

Sarah: We hate it! Fashion is one of the most destructive industries for the environment. We believe that as a brand we have a responsibility to be thoughtful and considered about our processes and what products we are putting out there. Fast fashion is the opposite of that idea; it’s thoughtless and shortsighted.


How important do you think supply chain transparency is when it comes to fashion?

Jo: We believe that transparency is imperative for ethical and sustainable manufacturing.

You strike me as a brand that grew quite organically in your local community. What do you think has been the key to your success in growing such a substantial following?

Jo: I think that, in certain communities, there is a huge shift in the way that people are buying clothes. I think people are buying for the long term, and because we make such classic, understated items, people can do that with our products.

What’s the plan for Caves Collect in the future?

Sarah: We just want to keep on doing what we’re doing!

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Caves Collect items worn in this feature: Alice Ciggie Pants,  Tilda Check Shorts, Thea Tee, and Georgia Skivvy.

Also wearing Cameron Studio silver signet ring and Doc Marten 1461 shoes. All other items are vintage.


For those who want less but cherish more.



Underground Sundae necklace, Cameron Studio rings (here,
here, here and here), Bella Clark pinky signet (here) Manning Cartell dress



New End necklace, ML-D earrings



Two Hills necklace, New End necklace and bracelet, Underground Sundae earring, Bella Clark rings (here and here), Cameron Studio rings (here and here), ML-D squiggle earring, Mr Winston dress



Bella Clark earrings (here and here) and rings (here, here and here), New End chain ring, Cameron Studio gold ring



Two Hills earrings



ML-D earring and necklace, Two Hills necklaces (here, here, and here), and Underground Sundae necklace

Emilia 6th March 2017-2017427020524.jpg


Two Hills earrings and necklace, Underground Sundae necklace


All jewellery hand made in Melbourne, Australia. Special thanks to all of the brands for taking part.

Photography: Michelle Tran @ Hart and Co.



I am yet to be stung by the toned, lycra-clad bee that is athleisure. I'll admit, Leandra Medine of Man Repeller has come close to changing my opinion, but to be fair, that woman has the best chance out of anyone in convincing me to wear something. I know that I'm making my daily life a little bit harder by not wearing the same clothes to a lunch date as those that see me through a Vinyasa sequence or two, but, aside from a last minute appearance to Coles, the only time you'll see me in exercise clothes is when I'm actually exercising. 

I have some pressing questions that have held me back from adopting this apparent fundamental shift to how people dress: Firstly, how are we supposed to avoid VPL (visible panty line) in gym tights? And how are we meant to deal with the unfortunate gathering of material which tends to happen at the front? Am I just buying tights in the wrong size, or did my invite to a secret convention for all Women Who Workout accidentally go to my spam folder? So far I've no had no luck in finding answers to these extremely important questions - apart from some sort of cup device that Khloe Kardashian once tested out on KUTK a few years ago, which really just doesn't seem practical, or even possible, to use whilst attempting a handstand - and so my exercise gear has been limited to baggy t-shirts that conveniently cover all of the aforementioned areas.  

But here's the real nail in the coffin for me: the term athleisure is an oxymoron. On my scale of daily activities, physical exercise and leisure are at two opposite ends of the spectrum. Working out is great, but I really would rather not combine my sweaty, grunting, red-faced, world with my showered, normal faced, VPL-less world. I think most of the people that encounter me in the latter world are likely to agree with that. So, I've adopted a new trend that is much more fitting to what I perceive as being leisurely: 'sleepleisure'. I probably don't have to explain it. According to a recent Google search, the term hasn't taken off yet, which baffles me. Am I alone in seeing sleep as the ultimate form of leisure? I guess that explains why I didn't get invited to the Women Who Workout convention.



Cos shirt, Vintage Levis jeans, Gucci sunglasses, Carel 'Kina' shoes.




When the temperature reaches upwards of 35 degrees and clothing options become limited to your underwear drawer and anything that resembles a large linen sheet, swimwear becomes an essential foundation for dressing.

Without condoning the use of a Roxy triangle bikini as appropriate coverage for the top half of your body in an urban area, I fully support the use of a minimalistic bather top or one piece as the perfect lazy undergarment in the heat of summer. Classic shapes like these from Her have the ability to extend past the pool or beach without making you feel out of place, and mean that you're ready to jump straight back into the water when your body temperature returns to concerning heights.



Her bathers (Georgia one piece and Astrid two piece), Reformation pants, Wrangler overalls



Suit pants and skate shoes are the Romeo and Juliet of clothing. Their union is technically forbidden but in actual fact they’re perfect for each other. The shoes show the pants a good time, the pants get the shoes out of trouble. The shoes tempt the pants into one more drink, the pants get the shoes to work on time the next day. You get the picture.


For all the ladies who treat denim as their second skin, here’s a few of my staple denim things for the warmer, easier, months.

From first to last:

Vintage Champion T-shirt, The Fifth Label Skirt, American Apparel T-Shirt, C/meo Collective Top, Vintage Levis Jeans, C/meo Collective Denim Cami, Vintage Levis Jeans, C/meo Collective Cami, Zara Midi Skirt. Superga Sneakers and Ray Ban Sunglasses worn throughout.

Shot by Ivan Budah


It started back in 2004.

I was the tallest girl in class and was already adamant that a pair of girly heels just weren’t for me. So on the day of my First Communion, at the tender age of 11, I wore a pair of white tennis shoes underneath my sparkly tulle and silk dress.

For the last couple of years, I’ve worn sneakers pretty much all year round. I still firmly believe that you can wear them with pretty much anything as long as you get yourself the right pair.

My favourites for this summer are:

Vans Old Skools // Superga Lame // Adidas Gazelles // Reebok Classics



This little linen two piece from Hunter the Label is one of my favourite things at the moment. I've been on a mission to only buy clothes made from good fabrics, but because such a large portion of affordable clothing is made from crappy, unbreathable material, it hasn't been an easy feat. This cute two piece, however, is 100% linen and hence feels good to wear even on the warmest of days. 

We shot this at Michelle's house and her new bunny Rocco (who has a rather successful Instagram might I add) demanded to be involved. He's a natural born star. He later peed all over Michelle and her couch, probably because we weren't giving him enough attention. The furry little diva.


Hunter the Label top and skirt, Topshop socks, Nike shoes

Photography by Michelle Tran


The Fifth, one of my favourite labels hailing from my hometown of Adelaide, never fails to quench my thirst for simple, well cut and wearable pieces. I always like to maintain a little bit of boyishness in the way I dress (hence the sneakers and culottes) but I've actually fallen in love with the feminine cut of this top. 


The Fifth label top, Asos culottes, Adidas Superstars

Photos by Michelle Tran