Inspirational Owners: June 2006
Slingfings clothing and bags are handmade in a rural community near Byron Bay, on the coast of New South Wales, Australia. All its products are made using recycled or reclaimed materials, and promote care of the environment and sustainable business. Rachel Bending, founder of Slingfings, shares her thoughts with Lovemarks.
Lovemarks: Why do you think people love Slingfings?
Rachel Bending: The Slingfings’ guiding principles are social harmony and environmental responsibility. Our stance on environmental awareness has always been an integral part of the brand. There are many reasons why our customers value Slingfings, but it is this above all that our customers love.
LMKS: An idea associated with Lovemarks is the idea of Loyalty Beyond Reason – in thinking about your brand, how, in broad terms, do you define Loyalty?
RB: Loyalty is built from trust. At Slingfings we believe in what we are doing and we approach it with integrity. That’s it. Bottom line. And customers trust and respect that. By building respect and inspiring love, we are watering the Slingfings seed. The loyalty that we have instilled in our customers is the fertiliser helping that seed to grow.
LMKS: Lovemarks is premised on the Love/Respect Axis and attaining both High Love and High Respect. How do you relate this idea to the way Slingfings works from day to day?
RB: It is part of our business ethos to promote low impact environmentally friendly production. This takes place at our studio, and in the homes of co-workers who share the Slingfings principles and sew using solar power. If business is managed from the heart, great things can happen. It doesn’t matter how big or small our contribution is. Anita Roddick of the Body Shop once said, if you think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito!
LMKS: Lovemarks recognizes that the senses are portals to our emotions. Sight, sound, scent, touch and taste…from packaging to music, from an intangible “feel” to the shopping experience. Can you identify how one of the five senses connects most strongly with your product?
RB: My training as a textile designer was fuelled by my passion for colour and texture and this is very much evident at Slingfings. The fabrics we use range from the late 50’s through to the 80’s and encompass such a wide range of colours, patterns and textures that it is a feast for the eyes!
LMKS: Attributes associated with design, innovation and resilient sustainability are a part of the evolution from trademarks to brands to Lovemarks. How highly do you rate these attributes and why?
RB: Our commitment to design and innovation has seen us pioneer sustainability in an industry with a particularly poor track record. We are living in an age of throw away fashion. Cheap mass produced garments, feeding a cycle based on fashion trends. Slingfings products have become a symbol of environmental consciousness, spearheading a new era of fashion consumerism. I believe it has given us a highly competitive advantage and is an integral part of why we have succeeded as a brand, so I cannot rate these attributes highly enough.
LMKS: Inspirational Consumers have been described as the people who, without any prompting, tell other people about the business you’re in and what it is doing for them. These savvy people take their Love of a brand very seriously indeed. Can you recall any encounters you’ve had where a member gave you a new insight to the rationale of both your business and your marketing?
RB: At Slingfings we receive a lot of feedback from customers. Some people tell us how they love our products, some on what they would like to see as our products. This was one of my favourite recent emails, it kept me going for weeks!
‘Don’t just flip it, flap it, flop it. Advocate it, believe in it, celebrate it, discuss it, elevate it, fashion it, give it, help it, immerse in it, justify it, know it, live it, manifest it, nurture it, be open to it, perpetuate it, quote it, revel in it, sling it, take it, understand it, validate it, will it, x-pand it, yell it, zeigeist it —the Slingfing philosophy.’,
Face to face contact with the customer has shaped the growth of this business. We started as a bag business, but had request after request after request to expand into clothing. In September 2005 we launched our clothing range and within 6 months it was approx 70% of our business. In March 2006 we launched our new brand ‘Bird’ in response to requests for our own range of fabric designs. In this first quarter, sales at Bird have already outsold Slingfings, and continue to grow. Our homewares and giftwrap ranges will launch in August and from there who knows.
LMKS: Can you name 2 or 3 other companies, and what you Love or Respect most about them?RB: There are two brands that spring to mind. Both fairly new.
Olivers is a fast food company with premises in freeway service stations. Spending so much time on the road, travelling the long distances required in Australia, I need to stop and grab something at a servo, and sometimes the lack of quality food can be frustrating. Olivers have set out to change the way the public think about fast food. They offer a healthy alternative in a positive nurturing environment. As they say. Real Food. Real Fast.
Go Get Car Hire are a great initiative offering a reasonable alterative to owning a car in the city. For a small monthly fee, you get access to a car share system where you can hire a car for an hour or two at a time, with easy access and no fuel or additional costs. A great service allowing people to live car free! Simple and effective.
LMKS: What are 5 of your Lovemarks?
RB: Neil Diamond (for my dad), Vegemite (for my fellow Australians), Dumbo Feather Pass It On (for inspiration), Dr Seuss (for nostalgia), the BBC (for no advertising!)