Get to know our Product Development & Sustainability Manager, Sarah! An integral part of our RUBY core, Sarah shares her journey here at RUBY, giving us an overview of her role, what excites her and her hopes for the future of Aotearoa's fashion industry.
"People often ask what my job means and tbh its hard to explain as there are a lot of facets, but here I go…"
Sarah, tell us about your journey here at RUBY!
I started working for DeVere (RUBY’s sibling company) on RUBY business over 9 years ago. After a couple of years at DeVere I moved into RUBY, managing Offshore Production. From there I moved into the Production Manager role overseeing the development, local and offshore production teams. This is where I was more involved with supply chain ethics and sustainability which was still a relatively new thing then. In 2021, as RUBY was evolving, we felt it was a necessary step to create a role that encompassed more of this - there was (and is) just so much more to be done. This is when my current role of Product Development & Sustainability Manager was created.
My time at RUBY has really evolved over these 9 years, especially in recent years as there has been a worldwide focus on the climate crisis. There has been a major shift from the traditional way that the rag trade used to operate in. The requirement for brands to understand and take on responsibilities in their supply chain, and to evaluate the complex detail of all of the inputs that are required to make products, has been essential to kick start change in the industry.
When I went to University years ago, there were no sustainability classes like there are nowadays, so a lot of the knowledge is self taught by research and experience, but also through collaboration with other people and other businesses.
As our Product Development & Sustainability Manager, what does this role entail?
People often ask what my job means and tbh its hard to explain as there are a lot of facets, but here I go…
I work as part of the Development team. Development is where things like sourcing, sampling and setup for production is happening- it's the link between design and bulk production. Development simultaneously connects with supply chain ethics and sustainability, through the sourcing of innovative new fabrics, waste reduction projects, relationship building, and ethical practices with factories.
The other aspects of my role include getting technical on size grade rules and fits, cost analysis, timeline planning and people management.
What is your favourite thing about being in this role?
I love being a part of the process and seeing concepts come to life. I’m really into sourcing and finding better solutions for our materials. That’s where my problem solving skills from working in production come in handy.
Also the people; the team- both internally and externally.
What are the things that you have worked on within RUBY Toolbox For Change that you are proud of?
While I was compiling the materials, waste and manufacturing information for Toolbox for Change, it made me appreciate the progress that we have made. From the better practice materials we are using more of, to the waste from production that is being repurposed and recycled.
It can sometimes feel very disheartening and daunting, like an enormous challenge to try and solve every problem in the industry. But I have found that taking small steps is the only way to make progressive change. And then those things start to become standard practice/ the norm.
What are the things you are excited to tackle next?
SO many things (my to-do list keeps growing). Firstly, the nerd side of me is excited to reflect on the past year and pull together data and analyse the fabrics we delivered, so we can set some strong goals and bring the rest of the team on the journey. Another thing that I have been looking into is solutions for cut & sew production waste- we have a couple of things that we are trialling at the moment in collaboration with others, which is exciting.
What do you think needs to change within the New Zealand fashion industry?
It's starting to happen already, but we (brands) need even more transparency and information from our suppliers (the supply chain). We prioritise working with suppliers who are open to sharing, who are honest, and who also want to make meaningful change. MFNZ has been an integral part to initiate this and to educate the local industry. We work with some really great Makers and Fabric Suppliers who share these values, and there is mutual respect for one another when it comes to sharing information. If people are not on the same journey, unfortunately they will be left behind.