Shiny polka dot raincoats, whimsical tea dresses, daring patterns, bright and playful colours – look around in any major Australian city and you'll see them en masse.
Instantly recognisable and perpetually coveted, Gorman has become the uniform of fashion-savvy Australian women. The cult surrounding the local label has swelled to the point where past season pieces often sell for over twice their retail price on Facebook groups dedicated to the brand, the largest of which boasts over 8000 "Gormies" searching for their "unicorns" – the pieces they lust for most.
The label has a charming back story – it was launched in 1999 by nurse-turned-designer Lisa Gorman in Fitzroy, an inner-city Melbourne suburb known for its distinct local vibe. In the 17 years since, Gorman has become an iconic Australian brand, proudly positioning itself as sustainable and local, with organic collections and small, personable boutiques country-wide.
Due to its high price point, with dresses costing up to $350 and jackets hovering around $600, there's also a touch of elite about Gorman – it's a status symbol as well as a fashion statement.
In 2009, the label was bought by retail giant Factory X, which also parents brands including Alannah Hill, Dangerfield and Jack London. Gorman continued to put out popular collections, recently collaborating with artists Fred Fowler and Camille Walala to produce interesting, unique designs.
In the last week, Factory X has come under fire after receiving the lowest possible rating on a report on Australian fashion ethics from Baptist World Aid Australia, covering policies, suppliers, auditing and worker conditions – placing them below companies like Kmart.
This stands in stark contrast to the fairly ambiguous social and ethical compliance policyon the Gorman website, boasting "safe working conditions", "sustainable living wages" and "fair and equitable treatment".
Though Gorman was not included in Factory X's assessment as they have separate supply chains, the parent company received the F grade for choosing not to participate in the survey – which begs the question, why stay tight-lipped if you've got nothing to hide?
Immediately following the report's release, a petition was launched online calling for the company to disclose details of factory working conditions and provide transparency to its loyal customers. So far, it has amassed over 1200 signatures, as well as pages of comments demanding fairer ethical practices.
The woman behind the petition, Hannah Bowen, started buying Gorman in 2005 and has noticed a decline in quality in recent collections. She was inspired to take action when discussion around the report started on the Gorman buy/sell Facebook page, and members began asking the same questions she'd had for years.
"I wanted to know why Gorman and/or Factory X didn't respond when they claim to be so proud of their ethical standards," she said via email.
"I think, like me, people are just disappointed that a brand they have loved, supported and promoted for such a long time appears to have strayed so far from their ethical roots … So many customers are purchasing under the assumption that Gorman's ethical practices have never changed."
Gorman's first public response was an Instagram photo of Liao, a worker in Gorman's Chinese factory, who's quoted as saying he loves the label's colours, as though that quells ethical concerns. It has a faint air of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's recent"apology" video – forced and insincere.
The brand tagged the post with #whomademyclothes – a social media campaign forFashion Revolution Week, focusing on ethical fashion. Despite claiming that they'd been planning for weeks to participate, Gorman only jumped on board after the campaign had ended and the questions regarding their ethics began. Judging by the angry comments, the post has raised more questions than it's answered.
When contacted for comment, Factory X's PR manager, Kara Brooks, replied with a statement confirming that the company did not participate in the study. She said that Gorman's customers have been misled, but did not expand on how, and rather than responding to direct questions regarding the brand's ethical practices, she pointed the query back to the online compliance policy.
Lisa Gorman has also released a statement promising that the brand will publicise audit reports in the coming months.
None of this has placated fans, with many boycotting the label altogether, and others vowing to only purchase second-hand items, until it provides the transparency they're after.
Gorman's demographic is not only fashion focused, it's also largely socially aware.
Student and Gorman enthusiast Katie Buddle has taken to her Instagram account, on which she posts about fashion, to inform her 6500 followers of the issues.
She said the strongest responses have been from fellow ethically minded students, who save for months to buy Gorman.
"When we want to make a purchase on a big-ticket item, we want to make sure it's going to last and that it's been made ethically," Buddle said.
"If they become transparent and honest about their manufacturing processes – that's literally all it would take for me to run off and buy a pair of Gorman socks."
Browsing the Gorman Facebook groups, it's not hard to see the rising discontent. Customers complain about dye running on $300 bedspreads when they're washed, inconsistent clothing sizes and stitching coming loose, and factory seconds and faulty items at the chain's discount outlets that often still have three-figure price tags, despite obvious imperfections.
In a recent study from Oxfam Australia, 89 per cent of consumers surveyed said they'd pay more for ethically produced clothing. Yet Gorman lovers are expected to pay exorbitant prices for garments that are reportedly decreasing in quality, and have no assurance that their money is going towards ensuring that the workers behind the scenes are treated and compensated fairly.
As a fan myself, it's frustrating that the company expects its followers' heads to remain in the sand, and condescending that when questioned, they deflect instead of providing concise answers. All the while, they continue to take advantage of brand loyalty to pocket fat pay checks for clothing that appears to be fast fashion quality at designer prices.
Over to you, Gorman.See more at:evening dresses online
Would it be overstating things to say that Ikram Goldman is Chicago fashion? Not by much. A protégé of the legendary Joan Weinstein at Ultimo, Goldman made a statement of her own in 2001, opening an eponymous boutique on Rush Street. Fifteen years and one relocation later, Ikram is one of the world’s most renowned centers of style, with an elite clientele of power players who travel from near and far like pilgrims to a fashion shrine. As Goldman celebrates the 15th anniversary of the boutique, the famously passionate fashionista offers a summary of its history in a series of bons mots.
Style storyteller. “I started Ikram because I wanted to curate a story that was not being told anywhere in Chicago. It was a place where I felt people would want to gather.”
Now and then. “When I first started, the amount of collections I saw was minuscule compared to what I see now, because [now] everyone wants to be a fashion designer. So I can actually curate in a much more profoundly interesting way.”
The first store. “Our accountant said, ‘You don’t need [more] than 2,000 square feet.’ Our Rush Street store was 5,000 square feet—and we outgrew it within a year.”
Seeing red. “We didn’t want the façade to look modern, but we wanted it to have a modern feel. And we saw this slab of red metal, and we thought, This is it—this is exactly what we want.”
Think pink. “One of my favorite moments at Ikram was a midnight [candlelit] dinner we hosted for the band Pink Martini after their performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We invited 10 friends with the band and sat here until almost 5 in the morning, where we ate, drank, played music, sang, tried on clothes, and had the best time.”
In it together. “I take on these [young designers] who really just want to be recognized, and we just go together.”
Creature features. “When I first saw the collection Creatures of the Wind presented in New York, I thought, These are two kids that are submerged in their culture.”
Girl crush. “Rodarte aren’t just designers—they’re creating cultural movements. They speak the language of the moment.”
Show me more. “Thakoon [Panichgul] was the first person who ever interviewed me and wrote about me, for Harper’s Bazaar, so we became instant friends. We had dinner and he said, ‘I’m thinking about doing [a line of] sweatshirts and sweaters, blah blah blah,’ and I said, ‘Really? That’s nice. But show me what you really got.’ So he made a collection of 20 pieces and sent them to me. I bought every one. They were flawless.”
For the archives. “I pull one to three pieces per season for [my personal] archive. Original Alexander McQueen, Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe… It’s like art; I invest in them. I’d love to have them someday in a place where they’re curated properly—and they will be.”Read more at:bridesmaid dresses online
For many students, prom is a special night, but for parents, it can be a bit pricey. Now for the second year in a row, Lamphere High’s Spring Dress Extravaganza aims to ease the burden with a variety of good deals. And students from other schools are invited as well.
The April 16 event, to be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lamphere High, 610 W. 13 Mile Road in Madison Heights, costs $5 to get in and will provide access to a wide selection of formal dresses costing $20 or less. The dresses are good for prom, homecoming — even the eighth-grade dance. There will also be shoes and jewelry, men’s ties, and services including nails and tanning.
Organizers are still collecting donated dresses, shoes and accessories, as well as other items that could make for prizes: limo rides, dinners for two, pedicures and manicures, hairstyles and makeovers, photographers on prom day, tickets to prom, and more.
Once the sale is over, the remaining items will be taken to a shelter for runaway or displaced girls and allow them to choose their own dresses, shoes and accessories. After last year’s sale, organizers took the remaining donations to Vista Marie Home for Girls in Dearborn.
The event is organized by PACT — Power to Achieve and Conquer Together. PACT is a club at Lamphere with about 50-60 students from all four grades. Students encourage one another to achieve academically and otherwise, according to Jackie Gilmore, a teacher at Lamphere and one of the club sponsors. They also reach out to others in need and help them achieve as well.
Twice every year, the PACT students go on a team-building retreat. They have speakers, activities, lessons and training. Last year, the students went rock climbing at a new business in Madison Heights. They also continue to put together a canned food drive each fall, taking the goods to a homeless shelter or Gleaners Community Food Bank, where they’ll also volunteer. PACT also presents the annual Black History Month assembly at Lamphere.
There will be at least a dozen PACT students working at the Spring Dress Extravaganza, which will raise money for club activities. Gilmore said in an email that last year’s event was a big success, with people standing in line before it even opened.
“We began this effort because last year, we had a set of 12th-grade triplets who were girls, and it dawned on me that if it’s tough for parents to afford long formal dresses for one student, imagine how hard it would be to have to buy three prom dresses, shoes, accessories, hairdos, nails and such,” Gilmore said. “For most, prom is a once-in-a-lifetime event. To miss it because of a lack of a dress or because you cannot afford it would be a shame. I want as many girls as possible to save as much money as they can on prom!”
Gilmore said this year will feature a wider selection of dresses, as well. The event will be held in the high school cafeteria.
Fellow teacher and PACT co-sponsor Amy Guzynski said in an email that the event aligns with one of PACT’s core values: helping others.
“Prom, especially now and especially for girls, represents a significant cost,” Guzynski said. “Many parents and students ‘stock up’ and buy their prom and homecoming dresses for the next couple of years.”
She noted that they’re still collecting donations of gently used prom or homecoming-style dresses, shoes, accessories and men’s ties, but there are other ways people can help too.
“You can help make this event successful by spreading the word. Please post the information on social media, and tell all your friends,” Guzynski said. “Also, please consider donating food, beverages or your time to the event.”