It’s no surprise that founder of active-leisure brand First Base, Alison Cotton, found her niche somewhere in between the worlds of sports and fashion...
With a lifelong passion for surfing and a background in fashion design, Cotton started First Base after becoming frustrated she couldn’t buy surf or skate clothes with clean, modern silhouettes.
“I was a water baby from a very young age and always wanted to be pro-surfer,” Cotton recalls. “But after an injury as a teenager, I turned to my second passion - fashion. I started work as a textile designer and began selling denim and leather scarves to local boutiques. People liked them even through in hindsight they were pretty ugly!” Then she started her own dress label in her home city of Perth. “It was successful but I grew out of it,” she says. “I wanted to work on something that really resonated with me and my lifestyle.”
A move to Sydney’s Bondi gave her the impetus to start First Base in 2013. “I wasn’t seeing any sportswear that had a lifestyle feel to it,” she says. “My personal style has a sports edge to it and I wanted to bring that feel to basics and great staples, as well as performance wear.”
Although she started simply designing clothes she wanted to wear herself, her aesthetic proved popular. First Base now has eight staff, and stockists in the US, UK, Asia and UAE, as well as throughout Australia.
An Ethical Approach to Clothing Design
As her business has grown from strength to strength, so has Cotton’s ethical approach to design and manufacturing.
“We’ve worked really hard to get to the point where all our garments are ethically produced,” she says. “It’s important we know things are being done right. We work with an independent body to have our factories bi-annually audited to ensure they’re meeting the WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) standards. From a sustainable perspective we’ve implemented a lot of great practices, such as bio-degradable poly bags, 100 per cent recycled labelling and packaging, and using organic cotton, sustainable bamboo and recycled nylon in our garments, as opposed to virgin fabrications."
"We also work with Carbon Neutral Australia and plant trees to offset the carbon emissions associated with our business.” She believes there’s still more work to be done. “There’s an endless amount you can do as a business to lessen your impact on the environment,” she says. “We continue to make changes every season. It’s certainly a work in progress.”
Moving Forward at First Base
Her tight-knit team are just as passionate about running a sustainable brand as she is. “The best bit about running my own business is working with an awesome team of girls,” she says. “They really care about the brand and being on this journey together.” Of course, there have been challenges too. “There are many and they can be relentless - but it’s all about perspective,” she says. “You can’t let the challenges weigh you down; you just need to find a solution and move forward. Such is life!”
Cotton’s can-do attitude means nothing is out of reach. “I’m just trying to finish another new range and I’d like First Base to keep growing – while still having fun,” she says. Although she’s adding to the range every season, the staples are still her favourite. “I love a good white t-shirt,” she says. “You can never have too many.”
Shop the First Base collection at The Myer Market:
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