Clothing the Gaps are one of the hottest Indigenous clothing brands in the country. Having only been in operation for a few years, the organisation has built a massive, engaged online following, been instrumental in liberating the Aboriginal Flag, and continues to spark conversations wherever their items are worn.
But the company never intended to become what it is today. Fashion was the last thing on the co-founders’ minds when they started up a secondary outlet to financially support their main objective: improving the health of Indigenous people across the country.
Having expanded rapidly during the pandemic, the brand is now at the forefront of national conversations about equality, representation, and ethical capitalism. Plus, their clothing is just very, very cool.
In case you’re somehow unaware of the label, or just what they stand for, here’s everything you need to know about Clothing the Gaps.
Is Clothing the Gaps Aboriginal Owned?
Absolutely. Clothing the Gaps is Aboriginal-led and controlled, and a majority Aboriginal-owned social enterprise.
81% of staff who work for the label are Indigenous and the company actively hires people from Indigenous backgrounds.
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Not for nothing, the company is also a certified B Corporation and holds an Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation.
Although their clothing features Aboriginal designs and phrases, they have clothing that non-Indigenous people can wear too. Some of their items are marked ‘Ally Friendly’ while others are designated ‘Mob Only’, the latter intended only for people with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage to wear.
Where is Clothing the Gaps Based?
Clothing the Gaps is based in Melbourne. The company started out as a purely online retailer, slowly gaining stockists around the country until opening its first brick-and-mortar shop in Brunswick in 2020.
They then opened their second physical location in 2022 in Northcote, on Wurundjeri land, selling clothing in the same shop space as sister brand The Koorie Circle.
The expansion to physical locations has allowed the company to hire at least an additional 12 Indigenous people to work in their stores and distribution centre.
Who Is the CEO of Clothing the Gaps?
The CEO of Clothing the Gaps is Gunditjmara woman Laura Thompson. She co-founded the business with the non-indigenous Sarah Sheridan who currently serves as Deputy CEO.
Thompson mainly acts as managing and creative director of the business, having previously worked as a grassroots health campaigner for Indigenous communities.
She has described her upbringing living in commission flats in Collingwood, playing basketball with her cousins and nieces, as a “lucky” one.
” I never thought of myself as disadvantaged because of I where I lived or my background. I felt lucky because we had a walk up flat, the biggest mob of family and I was proud to be Aboriginal and a part of the Community,” she has said in previous interviews.
In addition to Clothing the Gaps, Thompson also runs Koorie Circle and Spark Health.
When Did Clothing the Gaps Start?
Clothing the Gaps was founded in June 2018. The business originally started as a means to provide funding to the Clothing the Gaps Foundation, an Aboriginal-led not-for-profit that supports health outreach programmes in Indigenous communities.
“We had always created merchandise as a bit of a carrot for people wanting to participate in our programs. When COVID-19 hit, we couldn’t run the grassroots community activations anymore,” Thompson has said.
In 2020, with the pandemic shutting outdoor activities, the company pivoted to ramping up its fashion output and streetwear designs. This proved to be excellent timing, with the massive interest in the Black Lives Matter movement over the winter of that year.
The label is a tongue-in-cheek play on the government’s long-term strategy for Indigenous equality in attainment, Closing the Gaps. The clothing company was also instrumental in forcing the non-Indigenous clothing brand WAM to sell the copyright for the Aboriginal Flag to the Commonwealth, essentially freeing the flag.
In 2021, the company lost a two-year legal battle with the American clothing giant, The Gap, which forced them to add an ‘s’ to the end of their name. Thompson said at the time that she was grateful the company did not have to go through a full re-brand and that the name makes sense as they are targeting “more than one gap in the community.”