Turning plastic bottles into UV-protective clothing

This Townsville-based couple are innovating sustainability by turning recycled plastic bottles into UV-protective clothing. 

Townsville-based couple Dahé Wie, a graphic designer, and Dave Roggero, a jack of all trades, founded a UV-protective clothing brand.

Dahé: “My first business was upcycling and selling second-hand clothing online for pocket money as a teenager in South Korea. I’ve always loved being an entrepreneur. When I came to Australia 13 years ago, I was shocked by how extreme the UV is here, especially in north Queensland.

I met Dave and never left. We love being outdoors but all we could find in sun-safe clothing were plain white shirts or fishing shirts covered in – you got it – fish. So in 2017 we started creating our own prints and Design Works Apparel was born. We funded it ourselves and later applied for government grants. Our challenge now is the high cost of living – we’re finding that people are less keen to spend money on quality clothing.

Dave hates seeing plastic floating in the oceans and creeks so much of our range is made from recycled plastic bottles. We hope to transform all our clothing into this PET (polyethylene terephthalate) fabric and sustainability touches every part of our business – even using minimal air conditioning and less paper. Every little bit helps.”

Dave: “One challenge is that, because we’re creating functional items, the process can be costly – and with cost-of-living being so high we need to try not to pass those costs on to customers. And we won’t compromise by working with manufacturers who pollute with clothing off-cuts.

To attract customers, we always try to innovate. We recently created sun-protective clothing for dogs, inspired by our bull Arab, Kombi. She loves to sunbake with her belly up but thin hair means she’s more at risk of cancer. We also added a free design feature to our website, too. Even kids can do it!”

Dahé and Dave’s tips for start-up businesses

1. Follow your passion

Find a unique solution for a problem that aligns with your passion. As they say, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

2. Set specific goals

Reportedly 20 per cent of small businesses in Australia fail in their first year. Setting a clear vision and time frame for each goal helps.

3. Aim for work-life balance

Bite off what you can chew so you don’t burn the candle at both ends. You want to enjoy time with your loved ones. 

Want to reduce your environmental impact?

Explore useful resources and offers for your business with our award-winning1 Sustainability Action Tool.

Things you should know 

  • The full version of this article was originally published in Brighter magazine.

    1 Social, Sustainable & Responsible Banking Gold Winner, 2023 Qorus – Accenture Banking Innovation Awards.

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