WITH a horticultural background that has taken her across the world, Olivia Thwaites has now captured an alternative niche in the industry establishing Green Hip; modern, comfortable and durable clothing for women working outdoors.
“From the very first day working in horticulture I had to wear men’s workwear and I thought ‘someone has got to do something about this’,” she said.
“The fabric was uncomfortable and took many washes to even remotely feel soft, the cut was all wrong and consequently I felt like a bloke every day while working on the tools.”
Olivia started her career as an apprentice gardener working at Methodist Ladies College, Kew.
“It was during my apprenticeship that I learnt a lot about garden maintenance, design and sports field preparation before they turned the oval to synthetic turf,” she said.
“In 2000 I was employed at the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne where I worked for five years.
“I curated the internationally recognised Camellia Collection and the South African Collection during my time there and have fond memories of being surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge and talented horticulturalists.”
Olivia moved to Bangkok, Thailand to follow her husband’s work and worked as a full time volunteer at one of the major Landscape Architect firms (PLA) as a garden designer and also travelled to the Maldives and islands around Thailand which were being converted into resorts.
“It was there, in the land of tailors, that Green Hip was born and I started developing the fabric and styles,” Olivia said.
“Back in 2007 I developed a soft durable cotton stretch fabric for light weight and heavy weight, suitable for both summer and winter.
“My fabrics have a moleskin-like feel and when customers feel the quality they want to try on my workwear.
“This blend of fabric was unique to the workwear industry when I launched however other brands have followed suit in the last year or so.
“All my fabrics are certified UPF50+ excellent rating, tested for zero AZO dyestuffs or formaldehyde and have to pass very rigorous testing standards for durability and strength. Workwear that wouldn’t fade quickly or didn’t wash well was my key focus to create a brand that stands for quality and comfort.”
Returning to Australia after the three year stint overseas Olivia, who is based in Geelong Victoria, ran her own garden design and maintenance business called Olivia Gardiner Designs (her maiden name was Gardiner).
When her daughter was born, Olivia’s attention turned to family and focusing on Green Hip.
“I was meticulous with my trialling period to make sure the fit was great for every body shape, and any new style we have created has been based off the original cut with minor changes.”
“My first garments launched were in Gardener Green; Pants Original, Shirt Short Sleeve and Long Sleeve and Shorts Original.
“I now have these styles available in blue and khaki and have also launched three other pant styles including a Hi-Vis reflective pants and cargo pants.
“My workwear is designed in Australia and made in China. Angie Martin (my sales manager) and I have visited the factory on multiple occasions and are proud to say the staff are very well looked after and really care about their garment quality.
“I did try to manufacture in Australia but unfortunately I couldn’t keep my prices competitive for the workwear market.”
Initially Olivia targeted horticulture, parks and gardens industries but now Green Hip is worn in the health sector (nurses and doctors), cleaning, engineers, miners, vets, government agencies, café workers, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts.”
As well as online sales Green Hip has 24 stockists around Australia and in 2017 was chosen by the Victorian Government to showcase at the International Mining and Resources Conference.
Olivia grew up on a farm in Victoria’s Otway Ranges and in 2017 also got involved with the local Land Care group (LAWROC).
“Since launching Green Hip in 2010 I pledged to plant a native grass, shrub or tree for every garment sold.”
“I wanted to do something to help the environment and instead of donating to an environmental organisation I thought I would gather friends and family to help a local Land Care group plant trees.
“So once a year I connect with a group and drum up interest from family and friends to join in.
“We were involved in a major restoration project in the Otway Ranges and planted 18,000 plants and we’ll be having another planting weekend in autumn.
“Tree planting is so easy and it’s such a great way to give back to the environment.
“It helps bring communities together and also supports the local ecosystems. I am quite proud that we have helped plant over 30,000 plants since starting my pledge.”