The way fashion is taught in Australia encourages young designers to create their ideas locally, but take them offshore to be manufactured.
After spending four years working in garment design at one of the world’s largest surf brands, Brisbane-based Megan Todd craved getting back to her fashion dreams of creating handmade designs.
“I studied fashion and garment design, and was always interested in knitwear on the side, but colleges didn’t really teach, or embrace handmade items,” Todd tells Dynamic Business.
Spending some time in London working for a number of smaller brands, Todd says she realised it was time to go it alone after constantly thinking to herself “If I had my own label I’d do this, and if I had my own label I’d do that.”
Under the mentorship of London designer James Long, who had a number of handmade knitwear pieces, Todd was inspired to move home. “By the time I was at James long, I was completely itching to start my own label and really explore my love for knitwear. He also showed me for the first time ever that you can create a label with handmade items.”
Back in Australia, Todd started exploring her creativity. With her past experience in garment design, Todd initially thought she would do a clothing range but soon discovered the market was flooded with machine knits.
Instead, a range of knitted necklaces soon proved to be the start of what is now Todd’s label, Knots & Knits. Initially stocked in one store, tom gunn, the necklaces made a splash among Brisbane’s fashionistas.
“I was in a period where I was experimenting, and just making lots of different things and seeing what people were responding to. There was a huge response to these necklaces, and I found that people were asking for custom made ones in particular colours and so on,” Todd says.
“Parallel to this I was continuing my exploration of knitwear. I’ve always knitted with giant needles, and one night I just picked up some neon yellow rope, pulled out my giant needles and made a rectangle which formed a bag, and I just thought, ‘I love this.’”
The next morning, Todd posted a picture of the bag on Instagram, not realising just how quickly momentum would build.
“I threw it on Instagram, and honestly, the world went crazy. There were stylists in Sydney going bananas for it, a stylist in Melbourne who wanted to take my bag to L’Oreal Fashion Festival who had celebrities wearing it front row. I didn’t think I’d be there so soon, and it was all of a sudden. At the same time, the tom gunn PR agent saw the bag, and said ‘What is that? I need to represent that’. From there, I had to quickly put together a range for the PR agent, and that was my first range, which was all neon. From that I was in a number of magazines, and gained a lot of stockists which was great.”
In just a week after making the first bag, Todd had PR representation, international recognition, and a signed stockist. Yet, Todd adds these were all the first steps in a steep climb.
“When you create a product, and it becomes well known you’ve really got to push yourself because things can get old really quickly. People want something new and original, and they’re not going to continue to like the same thing forever. In knowing that, I thought, ok so I’ve done a range and it’s been well received – but I need to step this up a notch, I need to push this even further.”
With the skills gained from many years in the garment industry, Todd knew she had to put together a strong brand. Sourcing metal logo badges, hardware, rope from Australia and around the world, there were many elements needed to take Knots & Knits to the next level.
As with many unique products, it wasn’t before long that a number of copycats studied replicating Todd’s bespoke designs.
“Copiers have come and gone, but it’s the people who have replicated what I’ve done that have made me realise, ok I’ve got to move on from this and keep evolving. There’s no point getting upset about it, and it’s actually a good thing because it pushes you to keep going harder and further into areas that you know people can’t follow easily. For example, I think my latest weaving styles are something that I can’t imagine people replicating any time soon,” Todd says.
Now in existence for two years, Todd is keen to keep pushing the limits of her brand. Employing a number of local Brisbane-based staff to assist with knitting her products, Todd has also switched to a direct-to-consumer business model in order to stay at an accessible price point.
What’s more, Todd had done away with designing collections by season, and instead makes her knitted products according to her own schedule.
“Putting together a collection and then replicating the same designs again and again was draining creativity and passion,” she says.
Instead, Todd now sticks to her own production schedule, as well as taking custom orders. She says the response from her customer base has been positive, and there are no restrictions on colours or what comes out when.
Looking to the future of Knots & Knits, Todd knows just one thing is for sure: she’ll keep looking to evolve and move with the times.