Co-founders Deborah Sams and Mary Lou Ryan forged an iconic space for themselves in the industry with their original cotton-jersey range, finding homes in wardrobes nationally and globally (including my own). Although pronounced “basic”, its pieces are anything but.
My collection of Bassike pieces can be relied on for off-duty, work, and cocktails-with-friends looks, a reflection of the brand’s versatility. Did I say their cotton-jersey dresses, shirting, luxurious knitwear, denim and accessories are hard to resist? As I explore their new pre-collection 21, it’s no surprise I’m unable to narrow down my favourites to one key piece. For the cooler months, I’m torn between the wool felt crombie coat I spotted on digital creator Annemiek Kessels, or the boxy v neck weekend knit worn recently by tennis player boxy v neck weekend knit.
But their latest collection doesn’t just embrace new seasonal designs. Last month on Earth Day, Bassike revealed renewed sustainability commitments and their goal to be carbon neutral by 2025.
The Bassike DNA is a core element of their success: oversized, twisted seams, raw hems and chain-stitching. But the irony is the signature “look” that garnered a cult following was originally a happy accident.
“It’s actually quite a funny story,” Ryan says. “We went through our very first production run and something happened…everything came out really oversized and with all the seams twisted, but we had to deliver our first collection. We tried all the products [on] and decided…this is amazing.” Turning a mistake into an opportunity is no surprise the more I get to know the ambitious co-founder.
Although previously reluctant to make noise about their sustainability credentials, like other brands I’ve spoken to of late, the pandemic gave them the opportunity to dive into this aspect of their business operations. “We really need to amplify and tell our story and own that space, because we were one of the original Australian brands to do sustainability and produce locally at the same time,” Ryan says.
That story began in 2006 in a ramshackle fibro beach house, located on the pristine Northern beaches of Sydney. As new girls on the block, Sams and Ryan became friends while employed as buyers for General Pants Co. Both had similar career trajectories, starting at ground level and working their way up. After becoming inseparable work spouses, they decided to take a risk and venture out on their own.
Fifteen years on, now with eight bricks-and-mortar stores across Australia, represented in over 80 retail locations around the world, and working in a custom designed office space near Warriewood, Ryan says it’s time to adjust to the evolving climate.
“The conversation has shifted in the last 12 months. I think you have to be equally as design-led as you are sustainable, because people are making far more conscious decisions.”
During the pandemic, Ryan moved from working on the creative team overseeing the men’s collections, to a role that manages the brand’s supply chain and sustainability initiatives. “If we’re going to go out there and say we’re a sustainable brand, we need to actually make sure that all the elements are verified,” Ryan says. Starting her day with yoga, meditation or a jump in the ocean, you’ll soon spot her in her favourite combo of Bassike denim and a Jil Sander shirt either in the office or out in the factories.
More than 95 per cent of Bassike’s garments are made in Australia with local manufacturers, which allows for total transparency and a reduced carbon footprint. While Ryan admits it can be challenging at times, she adds: “It was important to work with them and get them on board with what we’re doing, so [our sustainable measures] flow right through the whole supply chain and manufacturing process.”
Nothing sits in isolation; Ryan is the voice of the brand when it comes to responsible business. “We’re now being a little more cutthroat in our decision making…When we buy a fabric, we need to take it a little further than we have in the past,” Ryan says. The cotton yarn used in most of Bassike’s pieces is Global Organic Textile Standard certified (GOTS). From there it’s knitted into their jersey fabrications, before being washed, pre-shrunk and made into finished pieces in a solar-powered factory. By 2025, their goal is to achieve carbon neutral certification for their jersey program, which represents almost 60 per cent of their turnover.
Ryan believes the last year has created exciting opportunities for Australian fashion and for those working in the industry to come together to find sustainable solutions for the future, something she also hopes Bassike will continue to lead.