A.BCH TRANSITION

Today, I have a big announcement. And it comes with big feelings, and many words. I have made the difficult decision to close the clothing making aspect of A.BCH – a huge transition from A.BCH as you know it and into a new era. What I have written next is from my heart…

Image from our first campaign ever, shot by Sheree Porter and Creative Direction by Jasmine Holm and Marcus Hollands

19.01.2024

A.BCH Transition
Courtney Holm



A Strategic Transition


I'm just going to begin by saying it straight because every other introduction I have penned has been a page long.

Seven years on since our launch to the public, we are announcing a strategic transition for the A.BCH brand. By March 2024, we will wrap up all selling and making of new clothes.

It’s a bittersweet thing for me to write, because I really do still love to design and make clothing for others. It's been my life and my greatest joy these past seven years. I love seeing your reaction when you try on a customised garment for the first time. I love opening a message of gratitude after something has been delivered from an online order that’s been the first thing to fit you perfectly in years. Even when things weren’t quite right, when you gave me an opportunity to fix it for you, either through a customisation or offering our advice and then knowing you’d be back again and again. It made me happy when you would drop off your repairs and the team would work out the most durable way to mend them for you. Those moments are so precious to me and they’re the primary reason for A.BCH continuing in a clothing-making capacity for so long.

Simone Berman (head machinist) - Shot by Lily Clatworthy


I always said that we might not make clothes forever, but it doesn't mean A.BCH is entirely going away. In fact, this is something I have known deep down would happen eventually. You see, we started when there was barely a mention of sustainability, in a world where the circular economy was relegated to early adopter conversations and academia. Today, these concepts are exploding onto the market, and as a result of what we have achieved at A.BCH, I have something more I can offer the fashion industry. Something that’s quite difficult to do when you are running a brand in the smallscale, labour intensive and hands-on way I have (much as I loved it). I feel the deep desire to share the knowledge, practical years of experience and the many ideas I have with others and allow the A.BCH team to do the same. I want to help this industry transition to circularity in a meaningful, equitable and sustainable way. My dreams have to grow beyond A.BCH to make that happen. 

From March 2024, we will close our online store and will no longer make and sell new clothing. I'm sad but also excited because this is not a bankruptcy story and I do not see it as a failure. The spirit of A.BCH will continue to exist and serve as a consultancy and educational tool.

ABCH.WORLD the website will eventually re-launch as an educational platform, where you can browse the archive of every circular garment we ever made, see how it was achieved and learn from our free resources we have created over the years. 

And, I'll be taking on consultancy work. For small brands who want to make a difference and need practical help, to large brands who must now begin to lead the way in circularity, resource efficiency and reduced production and consumption. I’m excited to develop industry wide circular design tools for with the practical granularity and ambition that is required for us to truly embrace the future of clothing. Now, I can use my borderline obsession with understanding and planning for circular material flows across a value chain and designing for the entire lifecycle for a greater good. I can amplify the knowledge gained from the incredible people across the value chain. I can put the practical experience building a circular economy business and a diverse collection of biologically circular clothing, tried and tested with our wonderful customer base for nearly a decade, into a brains trust for others to learn from. 


Context

The past seven years have been ones of tremendous growth and change in the sustainable fashion space. Circular design has gone from a totally novel concept to something almost every brand will aspire to achieve in the very near future. Over these years ‘sustainability’ somehow became a buzz word that everyone wanted to claim. And where as a result of those excessive claims, laws are now being put in place to prevent “greenwashing” across product marketing. Now the consumer has become increasingly equipped with knowledge (if they choose to be), asking questions about who made their clothes and what’s in them. A big acknowledgement goes out to Fashion Revolution for that, who began grassroots campaigning for better industry practices in 2014. We love you guys.

This growth has also made things harder for us in a way, competition has risen and if I am totally honest, I gave up on having the fast (and ultra fast) fashion debates, especially when it came to cost and what people can afford and what they think they’re entitled to. It takes a lot of cashflow to run a small business at the best of times, and there have been some really tough times, but also some times where things felt abundant. But we never really reached an equilibrium and all the typical levers like aggressive social media advertising, influencer marketing and retailing never felt right for the brand, not if I really considered its values and core purpose.


Purpose

The idea of A.BCH was born in 2016 - built on a set of values that I felt were essential to ethical business but also pretty radical for the time. I remember distinctly thinking “I do not want to be a part of this industry unless I can do something radical to change it”. It kind of became my catch phrase! So together with two of my best friends, Camilla Bar and Nathaniel Spain plus family design wizards Jasmine Holm and Marcus Holland (who now run a successful design firm in New York by the way), we began a brand that would serve as both an education mechanism and a clothing label. Research and Practical outcomes were to go hand in hand and it was an experiment really – a laboratory for ideas to become real.

In 2017 we launched the label in person in Collingwood, with large tiles of catchy phrases hanging from custom built grids for people to see why a transparent approach to what’s in our clothes and who made them, was sorely needed. These snippets of information would have full explainers on the backs of them, setting the stage for all kinds of learners to engage, knowing we needed to capture the hearts and minds of both the deeply critical and those just starting out on their sustainable fashion quest. These educational tiles sat alongside our first six minimal designs (A.01 - A.06) which were simply designed and made to be worn and loved for a long time. 

A.BCH Launch Event

Launch Event circa 2017 with friends volunteering and so many supporting us from the get-go


Flash forward. Just this week I re-engaged with a customer who had bought one of the first shirts (the A.05) at one of the first pop ups (Curated, anyone? IYKYK), and she told me she is still wearing it often and counting it as one of her most loved shirts - the drape, the cut, the neck and that FABRIC - organic linen will do that to you, make you fall in love with wearing it until the day it finally falls to pieces.

While that’s not necessarily WHY I started a clothing business, it’s 100% why I continued and kept going, reinventing during COVID, tapping into resources, being scrappy - all to continue this hard earned joy. To create loved clothes that would serve people’s everyday lives. Things that made people feel wonderful - both emotionally and tactically, helping them feel included and catered for.

A.BCH Original garments

An early design that we still sell today – the A.05 Organic Linen Shirt


The designs would not follow trends or try to grab attention through busy prints or the colour of the year; they wouldn’t be sold under false pretences that the style would never be produced again and you had to act now. There would be no discounts and rather than quick purchase endorphin hits, they would somehow, at the point of sale, ask you to think on it first by providing context into the how and the why for which it was made. These would be the staples we turn to again and again. When worn, people would compliment you, because you just radiated your best self. They’d be classics, reimagined from quality menswear and archetypes, maintained by us through free repairs and even alterations down the line. And then, at the end, we’d take them back to recycle or compost them because they were made from the right materials to do so. After all, we’d know the clothes better than anyone, and that was entirely the point. 

A driving force was this idea of how we might maintain some sort of relationship, a connection with these pieces even 5, 7, 10 years after they were sold for the first time. Like, what if we could design clothing to retain value through the material choices we made, ensuring that future lifecycles and recycling could be achieved? 

This is what we did. And all the while we developed a robust methodology for operating in this unique fashion. Using it, we’ve made so many beautiful items for so many beautiful people over the years. I am so very proud of what we achieved.

So, with that, I am saying goodbye to a very big part of myself.


Most Importantly


What I want to say next, is Thank You. Small business in this country is not easy. A micro clothing business making locally/in-house is not easy. Doing something with so much (too much?) obsession around biological circular design is not easy. I have been so fortunate to serve the most diverse, beautiful, kind and stylish customers in Australia and around the world. To you I say, thank you. Every item you purchased, every little thing you sent in for repairs or overdye, every ticket you bought to hear from me, attend one of our runways, events or open studios, every email you opened and read, every customisation consultation and try-on appointment – they all counted towards us being here doing what we did for so long. So thank you – our dear customers and community, for all of it. We truly love you and hope you’ll stick around to witness the evolution of A.BCH for 2024 and beyond.

Finally to our beautiful, passionate and amazing team both past and present. Thank you for being drawn to what we do at A.BCH. Together we built this and we can all be proud of what we did together.

 

A.BCH Team

A.BCH Team 2022 at the Underground Runway for Melbourne Fashion Week: From L to R - Simone Berman, Camilla Bar, Courtney Holm, Lily Clatworthy, Michelle Nace, Nathaniel Spain


Thank you to the early team who invested so much into the brand: Camilla Bar, Nathaniel Spain, Jasmine Holm, Marcus Hollands and Ewan Kingsbury. To those who came on board at later stages - Michelle Nace, Lily Clatworthy, Simone Berman, Siarn Beattie, Kalaurie Carl-Crooks, Philip Pederson, Ella Mcgreggor-Bellaart, Armeda Hammonds, Erina Menezes, Rebecca Willington, Sarah Prescott, Tim Boyd and to the incredible team at Harvey (most especially Simon Smallchua) and to Darren Van-Zyl from Elements Advisory. 

To the many creative collaborators we worked with including the insanely talented Cydney Cosette, Studio Hi Ho team (Patrick Scanlan and Tal Levin), Monique Hanouch, Tracey Benson plus so many other brilliant photographers, HMUA and models - there are so many of you and we thank you, I am sorry if I missed calling people out individually. To everyone who gave us their time pro-bono or el-cheapo, if you ever believed in us and helped us along the way - thank you. To our many wonderful interns, thank you for the part you played, and for teaching us new things too. To our families, thank you for absolutely everything you gave to us – I think of the times where our mums seemed to hold the business up, supporting us with clothing purchases and so many others offering their help along the way.

Our current team (Nathaniel, Sim and Lily) – I love you all so much more than you could know and thank you for making A.BCH a place of safety, collaboration and quality. I am going to miss this and each of you immensely.


Practical Things


We want to give our customers a chance to place final orders before we wrap up production. I know how considered some of you are with your purchasing so we wanted to provide as much notice as possible for you to stock up or make that investment purchase you have been waiting for.

There are two key dates to be aware of, one for ordering Made to Order and Custom, and one for Stocked Ready to Wear items (contact us if you’re unsure). With these dates in mind, we encourage you not to leave it until the last minute as some of our fabrics and/or styles may sell out before these dates and we want to avoid disappointing you. However, we’ll do our best to accommodate everyone and we’ll keep the site updated with stock levels every day. We also have Afterpay available site-wide.

A note on Gift Cards, we will be emailing individuals with gift cards to alert. We highly encourage you to use your gift card balance before the final dates here as we cannot guarantee that we will have the stock to fulfil after these dates.

  • Final Day to Order (Custom and Made to Order items): 11th February 2024*
  • Final Day to Order (In-Stock Ready to Wear items): 3rd March 2024*

*unless sold out earlier

 

A.BCH Education

Circular Fashion Now – One of our favourite events from 2023

Last Thoughts + Posit


There is simply too much to put into one post after so many years of history together. So please stick around for my posts over the coming days and weeks - including a lovingly crafted timeline and story of the brand and other announcements. We are also thinking about some limited edition commemorative items to mark all the things we ever made from A.01 – A.65 and are open to your ideas as one final co-design experiment.

We’ll also be around for repairs and overdyeing after orders close and will send updates about how this will work and the next stage for the factory over the coming days and weeks.

As for our other ventures, Circular Sourcing will live on in a big way. And I will write more on that soon, but let’s just say its days are just beginning and a big focus of mine will be on its success. Circular Factory will also continue to stock and sell all the circular trims you’ve come to know and love - so don’t panic buy these items please! I promise I’ll be sending more updates soon.


Until then,


Courtney Holm

Founder, Friend + one piece of the A.BCH heart