I like clothes.
I like clothes that are bright and colourful. Clothes that make me feel happy. If it pays for a living wage and helps out local talent, all the better.
In the world full of fast fashion and sweatshop manufacturers, it’s wonderful when you come across a store that makes slow, ethical fashion fun. I was scrolling through my social media feed when I came across Kablooie.
Kablooie started small.
It is was a tiny online store that was all about big bold colourful clothes and had giant ambitions to make fashion sustainable. Unlike the usual Instagram shots of tasteful pastels and elegant neutrals, Kablooie clothes are loud and demand attention.
The business is the brainchild of just one mum, Keneena Fanning, who wanted to earn a little income after she had children. She sewed colourful skirts for kids and sold them on Etsy. It was a one-woman fashion house that was earning spending money for her family on the side.
It was also a long way from her business career where she specialised in strategic financing, working for the Government negotiating budgets that ran the entire State. It was a rewarding role, but one that would fall by the wayside when her three children came along.
“I was looking for a job that offered more flexibility after I had my children,” Keneena tells me over the phone. We’re both on speaker. I’m in Sydney and Keneena, in Brisbane. She is multitasking — cutting patterns as we speak and apologises for the sound her scissors are making.
“My youngest was two at the time, my middle child in Kindy and my oldest was in Grade one,” she continues. “I saw incredible women at my workplace juggling their careers and then rushing home to pick up their kids by a certain time, and it just wasn’t a life that was sustainable for me.”
Keneena left her career in search of a more flexible role that would allow her to be there for her children. After the dust settled and her children started to go to school, Kablooie was formed.
“The business grew slowly. The first six months was a fair slog and it would have been difficult to keep going if you didn’t love what you were doing,” Keneena explains.
“The turning point was when I made a skirt with giant broccoli patterns on it. It was initially for girls, then a friend asked me to make it for her. So I did.”
That giant broccoli skirt sold out in a heartbeat. People started to notice Kablooie on social media and the demand for her clothes started to rise.
Then it all exploded when she launched her Prawny Prawn collection a couple of Christmases ago. Demand spiked and Keneena had to hire three seamstresses, an administrator and packer just to be able to meet the orders in time.
“Kablooie had to grow. There was just no other way. I was cutting and sewing around the clock just to keep up with the orders coming in.”
While the demand has been a gift and a challenge, the growing success of Kablooie hasn’t been the main thing that has kept Keneena going. What has encouraged and motivated her is the fact she is making a lot of women happy.
“When you’re selling on social media, it’s not just a shop front. You are catering to a community who know and love your product. The Kablooie community has grown over time and it has been wonderful to hear the feedback from so many women about how our clothes are making them feel!
“I used to think that fashion could be a shallow business, but then I realised we all need to wear clothes and it’s been fantastic to be able to make so many people happy.”
Spreading joy has been key to Kablooie’s success. But this micro fashion lable is also all about giving workers a living wage and making bright, bold clothes that showcase local Australian talent.
“The people who now work for me are mums as well. They have their own families to support so I am conscious of paying fair wages and super,” says Keneena.
I like that.
I like the fact that this local business is highlighting Australian sensibilities. I love its bold colours and quirky prints. I love the fact that my money is going towards helping Keneena raise her three kids and her five staff members earn an income to support their families.
Most importantly, I think the dress I just bought on their online store is awesome. I can’t wait for it to arrive in the mail and try it on.
It’s this one.
Crazy right? I love it!