LIZ DAWES is no stranger to the quirky and volatile nature of Fremantle’s retail scene.
For seven years the textile designer owned Cocoon on High Street, selling clothes with bold designs that were inspired by Japanese, Scandinavian and Indian culture.
By 2013 Dawes was finding it tough to stay in the black and pulled down the shutters.
“Rent is very high on High Street, in fact rent is very high and that’s what is killing retail everywhere,” she says.
After a few years of selling her clothes online and in pop-up shops, Dawes has decided to relaunch the Cocoon brand at the Anjel Ms shop on High Street.
The shop is part of the ANJELMS Project, which hooks up local designers and artists with community-based producers in countries like Bali and Nepal.
The initiative aims to foster sustainable and fairtrade practices.
Dawes says she now gets her designs screen printed onto fabrics in India.
“Manufacturing in Australia has become incredibly expensive, and because I have been in retail for a long time it became apparent that people were looking for a less expensive option and I can’t give them that unless I manufactured offshore,” she says.
Dawes says she chose India because she feels an “affinity” with the culture and the people, and has always loved travelling there.
She is adamant that sweatshops and slave labour in India are becoming a thing of the past.
“I work for two families in India, where I actually spend time and work with them everyday, the conditions are good, there is no child labour, they are all fairly paid for their work, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it,” she says.
Dawes says she is delighted to return to High Street and aims to provide women with an alternative to chain stores by offering stylish, long-lasting and comfortable clothing.
Dawes says the best thing about working in Freo is the support from loyal customers and neighbouring retailers.
“People assume when you are a shopkeeper you are in competition with one another, but in fact they are our greatest support,” she says.
“We go out there and chat and discuss how we are going to make this better”.
Anjel Ms (Cocoon)
70 High St, Fremantle
by ANNA HAY