An interview on Caz Rowland by Ally Feiam
Citing Coco Chanel as one of her core inspirations and educating customers on the importance of sustainable fashion, Cazinc the Label has come a long way since launching in 2018. We sat down with Founder, Carolyn Rowland – AKA Caz – to discuss what drives her every day, the future of retail and how consumers are changing their perspective on the planet’s impact from the fashion industry.
Caz Rowland launched Cazinc the Label (CTL) in 2018, harnessing her knowledge of fast fashion’s impact on the planet and people. With a gap in the market for sustainable, stylish and diverse clothing choices for women of varying sizes, heights and body shapes, she set out to change the game.
CTL operates as a multichannel platform, with an online store, a boutique in Essendon, Melbourne and stockists across Australia and New Zealand. At the 2021 All Star Bash, the retailer was nominated as the Emerging Online Retailer of the Year; in the same year, it was named the 2021 Ethical Label of the Year by Australian Enterprise Awards. “Before establishing CTL in 2018, I researched how fast fashion is destroying lives and the planet, so it is crucial to create a label to change this pattern and winning the 2021 Ethical Label Of The Year thrill and honour,” she tells us.
The aim of CTL is to “break the cycle” and educate shoppers about the lifetime value of products, rather than simply looking at the price. “The reality is that the cheaper you buy, the more you will waste, which throws people into a mindless consumption cycle,” she tells Power Retail. “Consumption leads to waste and build up in our landfills, not to mention the workers behind those pieces are often poorly treated and underpaid. CTL aims to break the cycle and educate clients to stop being distracted by low prices but looking at the lifetime value of what quality items can offer them. We will continue to create classic, stylish and functional designs for women.”
Currently, the fashion industry makes up 35 percent of all online transactions. It was one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, as retailers shut their doors and shoppers stayed inside for months on end. While CTL struggled during the initial stage of COVID, the team “didn’t sit back and watch Netflix,” Caz tells us. “We utilised this time to expand on our marketing and other areas required to build a solid online presence and continue this adventure. Our whole marketing team has made considerable adjustments to capitalise on these changes and provide an excellent online educational and style service to our clients.”
E-commerce is a channel that certainly isn’t going anywhere or slipping back to pre-COVID levels, but Caz tells us that she still appreciates the shoppers who continue to visit small businesses in traditional stores. “As the [e-commerce] figures have shown this year, we think a huge yes,” she says in regards to the longevity of online popularity. “Although we are thrilled that clients still love to shop at their local boutiques where they not only shop but enjoy quality service. What we have found with our online success is to communicate with our clients and offer an outstanding service. They love our quality, cuts and styles, but they love the service even more.”
As a result of the pandemic, Australian consumers are becoming more aware of the purchases they’re making. For CTL, this was apparent with an increase in ethical consumption and mindfulness, resulting in more value-driven purchases. “We have noticed consumers are becoming more aware of the quality of the items they are purchasing,” Caz says. “There is a lot more mindfulness surrounding ethical, eco-conscious and slow fashion, which has been incredible for our label. Clients are praising how we have these values.”
Within the realms of the fashion industry, while it is traditionally cut-throat and fast-paced, the key to CTL’s core strategy is to empower, educate and inspire its customers using platforms like social media. “The CTL team love social media and use the platform in many ways, from educating how to wear our styles to our values and, of course, influencers. Our influencers are incredibly loyal to our label and values, and we love working with them,” she explains. “They were loyal to us during the pandemic and did everything they could to help, and we continue to work with them today. Our strategy hasn’t changed since the pandemic; we have a vision of what we want to achieve with our label, with education and filling the gap in the market and continuing the journey because it is working.”
CTL is on a mission to encourage fashion purchase decisions with eco-friendly and sustainable practices in mind. “Our focus is on zero waste during the production and the use of high-quality, breathable, ethically made fabrics sourced from eco-conscious suppliers. We commit to continuously looking for improvements across the production and supply chain,” she says. “We will continue to encourage consumers to take a green approach to fashion by investing in clothing that will last in both style and integrity. Improving fashion can positively impact the tens of millions of people working directly and hundreds of millions working indirectly for the industry.”
In the early days of the label, Caz felt the pressure to ‘please everyone’, but as the business developed and matured, she realised that this was not only unattainable in the long term but could impact the brand’s loyal shoppers. “Rather than please everyone, I now satisfy our clients who loyally love the label and reward them with an outstanding rewards program,” she says.
What inspires Caz to get her creative juices flowing? The Melbourne designer has always admired Coco Chanel, her minimalism and how she ‘thought out of the square’ – “a pun as she made perfume bottles square!” she says. “Coco had her vision with fashion and wasn’t afraid to follow this vision, which I often think about while following the CTL journey. Oh, and I love how when Coco passed away, they found only five suits in her wardrobe, proving you can be a fashion icon without wardrobes full of clothes. Less is more again,” Caz tells us.
In the broad scheme of things, the fashion industry is intensely competitive and trends are fleeting. What’s in one minute is out in the next, so keeping up with the fluctuations in the industry is integral to staying ahead of the curve. In such a rapid and somewhat aggressive environment, what does Caz enjoy the most about working in fashion and retail?
“It’s weird because I have always been told how fast-paced and cut-throat the industry is,” she shares. “Still, I would have to say what I love about working in the industry other than designing clothes that I love seeing how our clients look and feel wearing them would have to be the people I have surrounded myself with. From the fantastic CTL team (honestly, I stand on the shoulders of giants who educate me daily) to our amazing clients and wholesalers. The beautiful people I meet and work with daily are my inspiration.”