SWAPPING the catwalks of Parisian high couture for Bali’s street vendors might seem like a reverse career move for an ambitious fashion designer, but Fremantle’s Gaelle Beech couldn’t be happier.
Ms Beech started in the fashion industry with the iconic French label Hermes (whose luminaries include Jean Paul Gaultier) and worked with Ralph Lauren after moving to Australia, but while on holiday in Bali in 2008 she had an epiphany.
She was chatting to a couple of domestic workers about their love of fashion, when they hatched the idea of forming a label that could promote Balinese fashion without leaving the workers with a sweatshop income.
From that meeting, the two workers criss-crossed the island on their scooters, signing up potential collaborators.
Soon they had a solid core and the brand Anjel Ms was born; it’s not about celestial beings (although there is an air of righteousness about the business) but the initials of the founding partners.
When the Chook pointed out Ms Beech’s initial seemed to be missing, she says that was intentional as she believed the venture was about empowering the Balinese women, who’d faced far greater barriers in their life than she’d encountered.
While the Balinese workers produced the garments, Ms Beech started selling them under the fig tree at a stall in the Fremantle Markets.
She says soon after setting up she was approached by someone from the local fair trade network and started incorporating its principles. She became so enamoured with the movement she’s now a co-convenor of Fair-Trade Fremantle and a member of the WA Fairtrade Collective. The company is also a member of the Fairtrade Australia New Zealand Association.
The model proved a great success, and in 2013 Anjel Ms expanded to include workshops in Kathmandu, Nepal, and in 2014 Ms Beech was able to open a store on High Street in Fremantle.
The fashion items are made using sustainable and traditional techniques and the stitching is all done by hand.
Natural dyes are used to colour the items and these are sourced from eco-friendly vegetable, mineral or animals sources.
Each piece is hand signed by the manufacturer to comply with the fashion revolution of ‘who made your clothes’.
“We want to tell our customers the story of their garment,” Gaelle said.
She also partners up with other labels and inside the store you will come across a range of items from young local fashion designers.
Anjel Ms runs an annual design challenge called Fairly Fashionable which gives young designers a platform to show their skills.
Each person is given a bag of textiles (all ethical and fair trade) and they have 14 days to create a fashion piece which is then showcased and judged in a fashion show.
The winner receives an internship with Anjel Ms and the most recent winner is already very hands on in the design side of the business.
Ms Beech says she wants to create “a melting pot of people” with her label and hopes to continue growing her business and creating awareness about fair trade goods.
by HOLLY COOMEY
70 High St, Fremantle
Stall 13, Fremantle Markets
0430 889 642