By Peter Roberts
One of the truisms that come from the forces ranged against Australian manufacturing is that local labour costs are too high to compete with countries where labour is cheap and labour laws are lax.
Of course this was never true, otherwise why would high-cost Germany etc be seen as powerful and competitive manufacturing nations.
Competitiveness depends very much on what you make and how you make it, as one Sydney SME Corban & Blair has shown.
True it is going to be hard to compete if you make socks which low cost nations churn out by the billion, but if your product has a high level of design and embodies intellectual property, and even a hand made quality, competitiveness is entirely possible.
According to principal Gillian Corban, Covid forced them to take control of the design and manufacture of their most popular products, now making most onshore.
Corban said: “Clients want locally made, authentic and sustainable items to reinforce their company marketing messages and gifts.
“Most are made by our inhouse team and a new leather manufacturing partner also in Sydney, who has increased his staff to manage this new demand.”
The company’s Artisan range of homewares and home office accessories is made from high quality recycled leather made from off cuts of the European shoe and handbag industry.
A5 refillable recycled leather Journals have been the most popular. The refillable pad is made from 100 per cent de-inked recycled post-consumer waste and made in Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill, Victoria.
Created by industrial designer Ken Ting in the Corban & Blair’s studio workshop in Lewisham, Sydney, the company collaborates with artists Lucy Simpson and Thomas Avery, as well as indigenious, poets and
designers to ‘add their stories’ to the new collections.
“As COVID hit the solution was so obvious- why did we not do this before?
“We love the fact we can deliver, locally made meaningful, sustainable products – that really
are what they say they are) – that send positive environmental messages.”
Corban is now are looking for a way to prevent its leftover leather (pictured below) going to land fill.
“We have used every bit we can.
“It would be great if it could be reconstituted in Australia.”
Pictures: Corban & Blair
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