Transit delays added to his headache, after DHL temporarily shut down its inbound and outbound services in China. Although those services resumed, it was too late for Ms McInnes, who switched to air freight instead of sea shipping at enormous cost.
“We now pay $15,000 a month for air freight, compared to $2,000 for sea freight,” she said. “That’s a lot of money, and it’s still late.”
Jeremy Hershan was also supposed to launch his menswear line, Haulier. But a few weeks before the event, he also decided to cancel.
“Our range is mainly made in Portugal, with components sourced from Italy and France, but the supply chain has been completely undermined,” he said. “It is even difficult to explain the disturbances. Everything is slower, from raw materials to finished product. Everyone is playing catch-up. For small brands like mine, we are small fish and not top of the list. Every step has a delay right now.
Local production is not an option
For both designers, manufacturing in Australia was not an option. “We tried to get samples made here,” Ms McInnes said. “But our manufacturing is too complicated – our collection has a lot of pintucks, hand-sewn lace, hand-sewn buttons – it’s very difficult to do that here, especially at a reasonable cost. We don’t have the mills and factories here to do that.
Mr. Hershan considered moving to Australian production, but ultimately decided against it.
“I’ve seen brands return to onshore production due to the pandemic, and it would be fantastic to reinvest in Australian manufacturing,” he said. “But right now we just don’t have the expertise or the equipment to do what I do in Australia. I want the best, and the best is in Europe.
For Ms. McInnes, the ongoing challenges forced a change in perspective.
“It gave us a huge boost to pivot,” she said. “You can’t have your supply chain continually shut down. We want to diversify our manufacturing, towards countries like India and Japan. But it takes time and energy. It is not an overnight change.
Mr Hershan is looking to June, when he will present his collection in Paris to international buyers, while Ms McInnes is hoping for a fashion week show in 2023.
“The most important thing is to appear in front of the media; we haven’t had that opportunity yet,” she said. “It would have been a very special moment for the brand. “We will get there next year – it will be the third lucky time.”