Sustainability is at the core of the Simon and Mary family business. Besides establishing a business that has grown with one generation to the next, the Pozniak family has made quality products that last. This heritage milliner takes intentional steps towards good over harm in their transparent manufacturing process.
From the classic grey tweed flat cap, to the flamboyant military Fez range, third generation milliner and grandson to Simon, Dean Pozniak says inspiration for colour and structure comes from pop culture, heritage within the walls of the factory, and nature: “I often find old photos of styles we haven’t made in years lying around the factory, and look to reinvent them.” Electric blues and saturated yellows in the Fez collection were inspired by the beadwork of the Ndebele tribe in South Africa.
Using 100% wool felt and hemp, the millinery has always tried to work with organic, natural material. However, sourcing these materials is tricky, says Dean. In the past the factory made felt material using South African wool. Their biggest business came from exporting this wool felt material from the 1970s up until the early 1990s. When China started producing materials at a cheaper price, competition became near impossible.
The factory had to sell its felt machinery to keep the business afloat and their employees employed. Now, Simon and Mary materials are sourced from its partners in China (to whom they sold their machinery) and Bolivia. But Dean is in the process of persuading their suppliers to purchase wool from South Africa instead of Australia to support the country’s wool industry.
“We have looked at purchasing machinery as well as local wool in order for us to start making raw materials again, but unfortunately it isn’t viable at this point. With our suppliers now looking at buying wool from South Africa we believe it will be a small success and the start of us regaining control over the raw material supply,” says Dean.
In a continual bid to find new and better ways of producing their hats, Simon and Mary’s latest venture includes dabbling in durable and biodegradable cactus leather. Cactus leather has recently gained traction in sustainable production because it uses very little water in the growth process and grows in abundance in the right conditions. With samples already made, Simon and Mary hope to launch their cactus leather hat range in the coming months. “I read an article about two brothers from Mexico, and how they developed cactus leather to help the animals and the environment. I immediately got in touch and requested samples. The fabric works beautifully when making hats and we look forward to launching these at some point this year.”
The milliner is conscious about packaging and works with companies that share their values. With *extended producer responsibility in mind, the only packaging the milliners use is recyclable boxes for distribution to various retailers, pins that are made from sustainable material, and swing tags from recyclable paper. “We have received certificates from our suppliers with proof that the boxes are recyclable and friendly to the earth. We also work with recycling companies who collect any discarded boxes which are then recycled.”
Simon and Mary use rain water collected in water tanks in their boiler which saves them up to 30 000 litres of water per month. They are also part of a tree planting project with reforestation organisation Greenpop.
In an industry that is going through an existential crisis during a devastating pandemic, Simon and Mary are well on their way towards being sustainable.
“Look after your business and your business will look after you. Try and remain positive and find the opportunities in this crisis rather than letting yourself get down which will ultimately lead to your business failing. My favourite quote from this has been ‘innovate or die’,” says Dean.
Watch how Simon and Mary’s Traditional Mountie hat is made:
To learn more about Simon and Mary, visit their website here
*Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is the notion that a manufacturer’s responsibility for a product does not end once the product is sold, but extends from its design to the end of its life and beyond.
- Images: Courtesy of Simon and Mary