If you’re on the lookout for emerging independent brands to add to your list this Christmas, Bowerbird is helpfully bringing a bunch of them together.
Finding the new at Bowerbird
When designer showcase Bowerbird returns to the Adelaide Showground this month, it’ll be packed with cool, independent and sustainability-minded designers and makers.
Discover a new Australian maker before they get famous at Bowerbird from 25—27 November, Adelaide Showground
Almost half of Bowerbird’s stallholders are appearing exclusively at the curated event, and your good friends at CityMag have organised a sneak peek into the lineup.
Take a moment to get to know five of the more than 180 brands set to be on show this November.
Kym Cooper and Tania Stacey, founders of East Forged, have each been in the tea industry for almost 10 years. Tania says they started talking about innovating the “dusty” iced tea segment in 2017.
The duo live in separate states (Tania in regional Victoria and Kym in Brisbane) and produce their no-alcohol, no-sugar cold brew nitro tea in a facility in Sydney. The name East Forged is a nod to this border-crossing collaboration.
For those unfamiliar, nitro is another way of adding bubbles to a beverage, similar to carbonation, which “gives the best foamy top,” Tania says – like you’d expect from a well-poured Guinness.
East Forged’s tea is sourced directly from growers with organic certifications or who grow their tea without pesticides and herbicides.
Their first batch was released in February 2020, and with markets now back without restrictions, 2022 has been their best sales year to date.
Tania says she and Kym are looking forward to Bowerbird.
“Most of the conversations at the markets [we’ve attended] are with tea drinkers, and they tell us their stories about how they make their own cold brews at home,” she says. “They talk about the teas they love to drink and where they buy tea. It becomes very much a tea conversation.”
East Forged has ambitions of going global, but Tania says first they’ll “take on the big boys” of the Australian market.
“We want to be the benchmark in craft tea beverages,” she says.
Non-gendered designs, locally sourced recycled materials, size-inclusive and custom-made, Sydney label Spunky Bruiser’s designs bring fashion in bucket loads.
“We peg ourselves more as artists rather than designers because we use fabric to sculpt,” explains Bex Frost, one half of the label’s founding duo. “Obviously, we have our patterns and [garment] shapes… but really, it’s an opportunity for us to play with colour and texture.”
Bex grew up next to a sewing machine, with her mother running her own small fashion business. Bex’s partner, Christian O’Lea, was a visual arts teacher before venturing into fashion via print-making. “I started using recycled fabrics as a medium,” he says.
They have shown at Bowerbird before, 10 years ago. “It has been a very long hiatus,” says Bex of the intermission, during which they appeared at WOMAD. Sustainability and doing good is a driver for Bex and Christian – the recycled materials come from op shops, which in turn benefit charities – and they see a like-minded audience in Bowerbird’s crowds.
They’re looking forward to once again sharing Spunky Bruiser’s point of difference with Adelaide.
“Making something from organic cotton is very different to making something out of things that are going into landfill,” Christian says. “We’re educating, sharing what we’re doing and showing people that you don’t have to have a wardrobe that’s renewed every six months.”
Though the brand has a serious message, the product is the opposite.
“With our stuff, it’s accessible and fun. And you can still have something new without it being a really new thing,” Bex says.
Budgie smugglers are everywhere. But, until Adam Butler came along with Sluggers in 2014, they were likely not sustainably made and cut to an embarrassing fit.
Motivated by his own quest to find swimmers he liked and looking for a side project to complement his “seasonal work” in film marketing, Adam created Sluggers.
The range includes three different cuts to suit different body types, plus footy shorts and undies. Also helping to ensure the fit is Slugger’s sizing – it’s based on men’s underwear.
“We’re pretty spot on with sizing,” he says. “Although, people say that we skew a little bit bigger. No one wants skimpy swimmers. As soon as someone tells you that your cossies look skimpy, you’re gonna bin them no matter what.”
Fit aside, “the real difference is everything’s made here in Sydney… and on the back end I try to be really sustainable,” Adam says. “We’ve got a two-week production cycle and we don’t keep a lot of stock. If something doesn’t work, we’re not… burning it.”
Adam is also conscious of designing Sluggers to be long-lasting. He says the company does have repeat customers, “but their last purchase was in 2018 and they’ve only just worn out”.
“I try to be a bit timeless,” he says. “It might not be the coolest pair of swimmers on the beach – even though I think they are – but they’re going to be the ones that will last.”
Lashes of Change
Lashes of Change is another Bowerbird maker that came to life through consumer frustration. Tania Jolley’s favourite mascara was discontinued and she couldn’t find an equivalent replacement.
Tania has a track record of commercialising new products. So, tired of adding tube after unsatisfactory tube to landfill, she decided to find her own solution.
Launching in July this year, customisable Lashes of Change is a game-changer in the cosmetic market – and not just because 25 per cent of profits go to local breast cancer research.
Not only are you able to choose the mascara formula, the style of brush and the case, but the mascara comes in a recyclable plastic cartridge made from 50 per cent post-consumer waste, and you keep and reuse the brush and aluminium sleeve.
“Our outer casings are strong, they’re durable, they’re reusable. And they’re also beautiful,” says Tania. “Because [the cartridge] is a clean plastic, it can go back into that recycle process again. We’re really getting into the circular economy.
“I talk about it as being where luxury and sustainability intersect… We often feel that we need to compromise on one or the other.
“But, I’m really proud to have designed a product that can actually bring both of them together in a way that also makes the customer experience better.”
While Bowerbird will be Lashes of Change’s first big meeting with an audience, Tania is eyeing global domination.
“I want to be raising millions and millions of dollars for breast cancer research to find a cure,” she says. “And diverting millions and millions of mascara tubes away from landfill.”
The Triffid Tonic Co
“It was a lockdown business for us,” explains Triffid Tonic Co founder Nick Port. “My business partner is a pharmacist and we’ve been making our own tonic for years, because it’s kind of a bit of an old school pharmacy thing.”
With hundreds of hours of experimentation behind them, the pair are now producing their goods commercially.
“They have enough flavour and they stand on their own, so you can drink them alone,” Nick says.
“They’re lovely with gin, but we’re finding a lot of the people who are getting excited about our product are the people who aren’t drinking.
“When you’re at a party and you’re not drinking, you feel very conspicuous. This way, you drink exactly the same thing as everybody else and you feel a lot more included.”
Most tonic water sold in supermarkets has a sugar content close to that of regular soft drinks to mask the bitterness. The Triffid Tonic Co’s bitter orange tonic uses the original 19th century colonial Indian recipe – with only enough sugar to act as a natural preservative. It’s a syrup and you add soda water.
The range also includes an antipodean Tasmanian pepperberry and lemon myrtle.
“There’s a lot of people making gin, not very many making tonic. We’d love it to be a sustainable business,” says Nick.
To achieve this, the company encourages purchasers to reuse their glass bottle. And, after making use of the fresh ingredients – lemons, limes, oranges, quinces and aromatics – Nick turns them into compost.
This year will be The Triffid Tonic Co’s first time at Bowerbird.
“We’ve got some friends in Adelaide up in the Hills, and they said this is the market to do. I listened and I’m doing what I’m told,” Nick laughs.
Discover the full curated list of Bowerbird stall holders here.