By Melissa Keogh
Ethical fashion designer Anny Duff is championing the use of hemp fabrics to create her contemporary clothing designs with minimal environmental impact.
Her South Australian-based ethical and sustainable fashion label Good Studios features clothing and homewares made from luxurious hemp linens and hemp organic cotton blends woven in Adelaide’s sister city of Qingdao, China.
Industrial hemp is still a fledgling industry in SA, with a number of growing trials rolling out in the Riverland and South East.
Anny, Brand South Australia’s latest I Choose SA ambassador, is passionate about hemp linen as a sustainable fabric, which she uses to create simple and minimalistic pieces, with colour palettes of blues, greys, naturals, blacks, earthy oranges and khaki greens.
Hemp linen is made from the largely misunderstood hemp plant, which aside from the clothing industry can also be used in the manufacturing of some health foods, skin care, construction materials, paper and biofuel.
Anny is quick to point out the differences between the hemp plant and its infamous cousin, marijuana. While it’s a variety of the cannabis sativa species, the chemical compounds of hemp are different to marijuana as hemp contains little to no levels of the psychoactive ingredient THC.
“I could spend hours talking about the vast differences between marijuana and hemp, they are completely different plants, just of a similar species. If you were to smoke a field of hemp you’d just get a headache,” she says.
“It was only recently that SA changed legislation that allows farmers to apply for licenses to grow industrial hemp. But we still have a long way to go.”
Anny works hard to ensure as much of her supply chain as possible follows sustainable paths.
“We have really tried to find companies who are doing really incredible things and we showcase their fabrics as much as possible with really simplistic designs,” says Anny, who has showcased her pieces from creative workshop, retail and gallery space Ensemble Studio since 2016.
“One of our suppliers is an incredible organisation and is the first Chinese company to be fair wear certified. We work with them to get their surplus and deadstock if we can, so we try to not make too much from scratch.”
Once Anny has sourced the fabric, it is dyed by Oeko-Tex Certified dyes before all design and manufacturing is done in Adelaide.
Some of Good Studios pieces are made from Australian wool, while the label’s line of swimwear is made from up-cycled nylon from salvaged fishing nets.
Good Studios also has a homewares line with bedding made from 100% hemp linen, known for its durability, antibacterial properties and for being naturally thermoregulating. The bedding is made to order with the help of Anny’s mother, a talented seamstress.
Anny says having a sustainable supply chain is sometimes a challenge due to cost and logistics, but she “couldn’t do it any other way”.
“There are moments you have to compromise but my mantra is to try and not compromise as much as possible,” she says.
“There are things you could just turn a blind eye towards but at the end of the day why should some people have less of a livelihood than you just because of the way things are? “Things need to change and need to be transparent.”
Anny founded Good Studios in 2012 after working in the film industry but longing to get back to the roots of her upbringing.
She grew up on an organic farm at Wistow in the Adelaide Hills and attended Mt Barker Waldorf School, a Steiner school offering an education rich in creativity and dynamic learning.
After completing Year 12 she got an apprenticeship in the film industry as a camera assistant before moving into art direction and production design. She worked on local feature film One Eyed Girl as production designer and set out to find simple, minimalistic, op-shop-style outfits for the cast.
“That sort of aesthetic of really paring back design to the bare minimum was really enjoyable for me and was definitely the first seeds of Good Studios,” Anny says.
“It (fashion design) started as something on the side in-between film projects but then it took on a life of its own and I was hanging onto the proverbial coattails.
“I had no background in pattern making or sewing, I have done a pattern making course since, but it’s been a baptism of fire making sure I work with the right people to deliver my vision.”
Filmmaking still takes up some of Anny’s time. In August she travelled to China to document Good Studios’ supply chain beginning in the hemp fields, and hopes to release a film in the near future.
Aside from Good Studios, Ensemble Studios is also home to two other resident designers, Beccy Bromilow of BB Shoemaker and plant stylist Emma Sadie Thomson.
“That’s probably the best thing that has happened from starting my label, meeting an incredible group of people,” Anny says.
“Consumers are placing a lot more value on the handmade and it’s such a human thing to make. To be able to do it for a living is really special.”
Industry in focus: Craft industries
Throughout the months of November and December, the state’s craft industries will be celebrated as part of I Choose SA.
South Australian craftspeople make up some of our most creative thinkers and makers of sustainable and innovative goods. Read more craft stories here.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.