There's two things Andrea loves more than anything in this world, fashion and animals. It was these two loves that lead her to start Malc & Andi 18 months ago, a wholesale goods business that makes and distributes a variety of 'soulful' products, from vegan handbags to bamboo socks.
However it was their comfy organic thongs, which are stocked at one of my favourite local retail outlets, that caught my eye and prompted me to get in touch with Andrea.
We agree to meet at Malc & Andi's distribution centre in Northern Sydney and on my arrival I am greeted by two furry friends, Rosie (pictured) and Jack (who was too shy for the photo), both shelter dogs before Andrea took them under her wing. After a couple of minutes trying to befriend my new acquaintances, we begin to talk about her motivation to start Malc & Andi.
"I wanted to find a way that I could combine my passion for fashion and love for animals into a commercially viable business."
Andrea was continually frustrated at how hard it was to find good quality fashionable handbags that weren't made out of leather, leading her to start thinking about creating a quality non-leather alternative.
"The assumption is always that a good fashionable bag is leather. If you look in all the magazines, they're all leather. I saw a gap in the market to create a fashionable handbag that wasn't or wasn't trying to be leather. That's where it all started and has just grown from there."
Grown from there it has. As mentioned before, Malc & Andi now manufacture and distribute a vast variety of 'soulful' goods across Australia. The product evolution from handbags to thongs however, has been more luck than strategic planning, Andrea says. One of the business's suppliers in Thailand had decided to stop manufacturing their range of organic thongs and when Andrea heard about this, she jumped at the opportunity to take over the product line. They agreed and it has now become Malc & Andi's most successful product line. So much so, they are looking to introduce a kids' line next summer.
One key consistency throughout all the product lines though, is the influence of animals.
You'll notice that the embroidery on all their handbags are of a particular animal, and that their apparel will have a distinct animal silhouette of some description on it. Even the thongs have a paw print right next to their logo (see picture below).
This devotion to animals doesn't just stop with their design inspiration. 5% of all sales (yes that's sales, not profit) are donated to animal charities. When I ask Andrea where she thinks this level of caring and conscience comes from, she's not too sure,
"it's an interesting question, because it's like the nature versus nurture debate... I just feel better knowing I'm making an effort to make a difference"
One thing she is certain of though is that there needs to be more ethical products available in the mainstream market.
"I've had a few debates with people as to how best to market the brand. Are we an ethical label that is fashionable or a fashionable label that is ethical? The reason for the debate is that I believe you shouldn't have to compromise on the quality or look just because it's ethical."
This really strikes a chord with me as it is exactly what Got Soul is trying to promote and support.
I have no doubt that Malc & Andi will continue to grow and flourish. Just need to remember next time I visit Andrea to bring some organic dog treats with me.
Head to Malc & Andi's website www.malcandi.com.au to see their full range of products.
You can also buy their thongs at the following retail outlets:
Sosmue - Online, Australia wide
Dr Earth - Newtown, NSW
Patagonia - Manly, NSW
Shop Next Door - Manly, NSW
Also, be sure to go like their Facebook page too.