Bassike: Creating Quality, Authentic Collections, Honestly Made

Ahead of the Australian Made Runway, Stephanie Vigilante sat down with bassike’s Co-Founders, Deborah Sams, Co-Founder & Creative Director, and Mary Lou Ryan, Co-founder & Director of Sustainability and Supply Chain, to discuss the brands’ evolution over the years, and how bassike are creating high quality, timeless collections that are authentically Australian Made.

You’re based in Sydney in the Northern Beaches. Can you set the scene for those that aren’t familiar with the area? 

Deb: I grew up on the Northern Beaches and am now raising my own family here, so it’s always been a place of significance to me personally. To me, the Northern Beaches really encapsulates the laidback Australian lifestyle and the relaxed, but elevated way we like to dress.

How has the current collection – featured in the Australian Made film – evolved from bassike’s first ever collection?

Deb: You could say that bassike has certainly ‘grown up’ over the years, with the introduction of our denim, mainline, accessories and mini collections to complement our original organic cotton jersey line. But our ethos remains centred on authentic clothes, honestly made.

Pre Collection 22 is deliberately very bold and very structured. For me it was about creating an impactful energy in the clothing. It just instinctively felt like I needed to design with colour.

Do you pay any attention to trends – and if so how do you put your own spin on that?

Deb: bassike has always been about creating quality, design-led, timeless collections with signature bassike details. There always needs to be a functionality and utility to bassike garments. It needs to be useful, it needs to be practical, and it needs to integrate seamlessly into your existing wardrobe.

A lot of assumptions are made about Australian beach culture. We know it’s not all shorts and bikinis but the international audience maybe isn’t aware. Can you tell me about the bassike aesthetic? How does it differ from other Australian brands? 

Deb: I design the way I like to dress and I think that sense of androgynous ease that is present in all bassike collections, comes from the laidback lifestyle and connection to the natural environment that the Australian culture embodies.

The idea of ‘high-low’ has always been part of the bassike DNA. Signature bassike details such as twisted seams and contrast topstitching always set our garments apart. There is a utilitarian influence woven throughout all our collections, ensuring our product is relevant, useful and worn with ease – showcasing the balance of functionality and luxury in the modern uniform.

Can you tell me about the history of the label?

Deb: Mary Lou and I started bassike back in 2006, as we noticed a gap in the market for quality, design-led wardrobe essentials. Organic cotton wasn’t widely used at the time, so this was a conscious decision for us when developing our very first collection – we still use this same, exclusively designed, jersey fabrication today. We also knew we wanted to support local industry, by making our garments onshore in Australia.

Where can international customers purchase bassike?

Lou: bassike is available in over sixty independent retail locations around the world including Bergdorf Goodman and Intermix along with online destinations such as Net-a-Porter, Shopbop and FRWD, and subscription fashion service Rent The Runway.

Where is manufacturing based? 

Lou: Over 95% of our bassike collections are currently produced in Australia.

Tell me about the fabrications you use. Where are they sourced from? 

Deb: I’m always very inspired by the drape and feel of fabrications when designing bassike collections. We predominantly source our luxurious fabrications from the finest European mills, working closely with our suppliers to select the most sustainable options available; including FSC certified viscose, recycled nylon and responsibly grown linen.

We are proud to have recently transitioned our denim fabrication from Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to GOTS certified organic cotton as part of our on-going sustainability commitment.

Are you doing it because you know it’s the right thing or because consumers are asking for it?

Lou: Over the years we have always remained true to the bassike ethos – authentic clothes, honestly made. When we launched the brand 15 years ago with a range of organic jersey wardrobe essentials, we knew we wanted to support local industry by producing in Australia and working with ethically sourced organic cotton from the very beginning.

It’s been wonderful to see a positive shift in recent years, as brands, industry and consumers alike are showing more interest and engaging in more conversations about how and where their clothes are made.

Do you see yourselves as leaders in the sustainable and ethical spaces? How important is that for you? And why? Why do we need people to lead by example?

Lou: We are aware that we’re not perfect and being sustainable is only ever a work in progress, but we’ve been doing the right thing since we launched in 2006. For a long time we didn’t think we needed to speak about it, we were busy doing it. In recent years I have taken up the formal title of Director of Sustainability and Supply Chain, with a commitment to accelerating and amplifying positive change at bassike, within the community and the broader fashion industry.

I think the most important thing is to continually ask ‘how can we do better?’ By regularly evaluating your processes and striving to lessen your impact on people and our planet, you’re always stepping in the right direction. I hope to see innovative thinking, industry-wide co-operation and continued education lead the future – as we are all in this together. There is always more to do, but I’m proud of the work we have accomplished so far.

Watch the Australian Made Runway here.

Written for Shop the Runway for Melbourne Fashion Festival.

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