Behind the scenes with CGT
As we get ready to re-stock our Comfort Range pieces, we thought it was time to re-introduce our wonderful factory, CGT clothing, to our LH community.
We visited the factory and had a lovely chat with Vicki, the owner of CGT.
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Vicki. We know you’ve been in business a long time now! Do you mind sharing a bit about your background and journey with CGT? What was it like at the beginning?
I’m a bit of a veteran in the Australian Rag Trade! Before I started CGT I studied clothing production and design at McCabe university (now RMIT), and then worked for John Sackville as their assistant designer then moved to Marvella as their general manager.
CGT (Clothing Garment Technology) is 37 years old. We started CGT in 1983 and the first order we ever had we cut out on the floor because we hadn’t installed our tables yet! Phillip my son was helping out ironing and I remember him standing on a stool because he couldn’t reach the board. We still have the first two tables we installed that were built in 1971.
Once we were in, business started moving quickly. Our first order was actually for the Australian Yacht racing team for the Americas’ Cup, which they won! We made around 30,000 t-shirts and I remember they all had a boxing kangaroo on them.
Since those early days, how have you seen the manufacturing industry in Australia change?
I’m sad to say that the industry has shrunk significantly since we started back in 1983. Almost everything has moved overseas, with most of the large Australian retailers now producing offshore. It’s the new designers who are really supporting Australian Made which has helped keep this industry afloat. It’s also fantastic because we have really close relationships with these designers. So in a way, while the industry has shrunk it has also become a lot more personal, which is wonderful.
How have you built your business over time?
With a lot of hard work! We’ve moved factories several times since launching. When we started our factory, our floor space was about triple the size but we’ve had to adapt with the changing times in order to keep our business going. We’ve also built some great relationships with different people and have had the opportunity to do some big jobs. We have done the Olympic uniforms for the Australian team twice now (for the 2000 Sydney Games and then for Athens in 2004) and also the uniform for the Commonwealth Games.
What's your usual process with designers/brands? How do you communicate and collaborate?
We love to meet with the designers before we start working if possible, to show them our process and also to put a face to a name. Once we understand their needs and come to an agreement on how we will work together, we start either the sampling process if they need, or go straight into production. We try to communicate regularly with the designers every step of the way, to ensure we are both getting what we need from the partnership. For us, we want to create long-lasting relationships with these brands, so it’s important to take the time to nurture the relationships and grow with them.
What is the ethos of CGT? What are the business' core values?
Quality Australian-made clothing, with top notch service.
Are you able to give us a little bit of insight into the production process? How does a garment go from fabric roll to finished product?
The process differs depends on the client’s needs. But in general, it will start with the sampling process. We start by creating the pattern then making up the first sample, and from there work with the designer until they are happy with the fit, cut etc. Some designers don’t need to sample with us and in that case, we go straight into manufacturing. The manufacturing process involves the following steps:
Marking – Finding the best way to lay out the pattern pieces to use the fabric in the most economical way.
Fabric Laying – Laying out the fabric to bulk cut
Cutting – Cutting out the patterns in the fabric
Sewing – Constructing the garment, adding trims (buttons, zips, press studs etc)
Pressing – ironing the garments to ensure they fall correctly
Clipping + Quality Control – Removing any loose threads and checking over the garment to find any faults of issues that need to be fixed before delivery.
Tagging – adding swing tags
Where did you find all these talented seamstresses and pattern makers?
A lot are through word of mouth, friends of friends. Some of these women have been working with me from the very beginning, and a lot of our seamstresses have been with us for nearly 20 years. It’s been really wonderful being able to build a wonderful work family.
At our peak we had 85 employees working in house and 60 employees working remotely. We were producing up to 10,000 units a week before a lot of the big brands moved offshore.
How do you think we can ensure we continue to be able to produce in Australia and incentivise people to join this profession?
We need the government to support it and also TAFEs and universities to offer courses in production and make it more appealing so that more graduates will move into production rather than just design. We need more local buyers who are supporting locally made brands, and of course we need customers to keep supporting Australian made brands and businesses.
We will be picking up our next drop of Comfort Range pieces from CGT in the coming days – be sure to secure your favourite by pre-ordering here
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