Australian manufacturer launches fashion label showcasing artists on the autism spectrum

Little Red Pocket Co
Little Red Pocket Co, Image supplied:

What happens when you build a career in one industry then create a start-up in another?

Plastic and electrical components manufacturer Goran Andonovski found out when he founded Little Red Pocket Co, a fashion label that is registered with Australian Made and showcases the work of artists on the autism spectrum.

The first thing Andonovski noticed when he started exploring the fashion industry was how different it was from plastics manufacturing.

“When you go into something completely new, the challenges are huge. Fashion is very different from parts manufacturing. There’s less regulation, and people work in much more creative ways,” says Andonovski, who co-founded Australia’s leading engineering, product development and plastic injection moulding company, Custom Mould Plastics (CMP) in 1999.

“There were advantages of having been in manufacturing my whole life. While plastics offers zero creative outlet the fundamental nuances of it and garment manufacturing are the same.”

Andonovski drew on transferable skills like being able to manage costing, lead times and payment terms, then set about engaging skilled fashion personnel that knew what they were doing: a pattern maker and designer, a fabric merchant and a garment manufacturer, to bring the idea to market. And so Little Red Pocket Co was born.

Little Red Pocket Co, Image supplied:
The label produces high-end, limited-edition hoodies featuring designs by young emerging artists who are on the autism spectrum. It releases three distinct collections per year, each available for just four months.
The hoodies are 100% locally made, from the signature fabric – organic cotton on the outside and 100% Australian wool on the inside – produced for the label by MTK in Oakleigh, to their made by hand status, via Ethical Clothing Australia accredited CGA in Brunswick, Melbourne.

Little Red Pocket Co is also registered with the Australian Made brand, which is currently being highlighted by Australian Made week.

The autism focus is personal for Andonovski. His son – now almost a teenager – was diagnosed with autism aged four.

“If I had the power to change him, I wouldn’t. He’s the happiest person around, he loves every minute of every day. I’ve realised he’s not the problem – the problem is the world and the way it receives him, and others like him.

“So, how do you go about changing the world? Well, you can try. We decided we’d bring awareness to the autistic experience in a way that showcases the talents of these individuals who are often extremely talented in a particular area,” says Andonovski, citing Elon Musk as an example of a high achiever who is on the autism spectrum.

Andonovski says it’s important that Little Red Pocket Co be seen as a business venture, not a charity.

Winning artwork ‘Kaleido Tiger’ is currently featured on Little Red Pocket Co jumpers.

“When you buy a Little Red Pocket Co garment you are buying something that the artist has been paid directly for and paid well.”

The young artists are paid a flat fee of $5,000 for their artworks, which are sourced via an international call out. Andonovski hopes it will encourage the artists to pursue a career in the creative arts.

The label’s inaugural submission round received more than 300 entries from emerging artists on the spectrum from all around the world. Thirteen-year-old Aneka Gibson’s vibrant artwork, Kaleido Tiger, was selected.

Image supplied: