One half of local brand COMMAS, we've been drawn to Emma Jarman's effortless style, natural beauty and idyllic Australian beach lifestyle for quite some time now.
Emma and her husband Richard have together turned what started out as a modest line of boardshorts, into one of Australia's most exciting fashion brands, with a cult international following.
COMMAS contemporary, genderfluid designs are inspired by nature and are made of the highest quality fabric sourced from Europe and Japan and then designed and manufactured here in Australia.
It was a great privilege to sit down with Emma Jarman and learn about the journey of COMMAS as a brand. She shared with us some incredibly thoughtful and insightful dialogue around circular fashion and sustainability, and we are thrilled to be sharing it with you.
You grew up in Nords Wharf, a small town on Lake Macquarie, has this influenced or shaped the person you are today?
Growing up, summer was spent on the lake or at the beach. We had no air conditioning, no TV, and my parent’s being country people, always had us outside.
The most obvious way my upbringing has shaped me is my addiction to the water and being a fairly low maintenance person.
What does a typical day look like for Emma Jarman?
It starts off with a swim, two shots of coffee, magnesium, and a meeting with my husband and business partner Richard. We then roll into a larger team meeting at 9:00am and from there, each day varies.
I could be organising a photoshoot, planning for sales in Paris, weighing into a range meeting, putting out some fires, creating a guest list for our next event, or even calling a mentor for business advice.
I get bored easily so having a variety of roles suits me fine. It’s fun!
Can you tell us a little bit about your career trajectory to date?
My first foray into luxury fashion was when I moved to London at the ripe age of 18. I landed a retail job at the CHANEL Old Bond Street boutique. It was a cultural melting pot, and that experience was my luxury fashion foundation.
In terms of comms, I started my career at luxury communications agency EVH in Sydney. Emma van Haandel the founder made an impact on me, she’s extremely entrepreneurial and thinks big.
I did PR for hotels, automobile and alcohol brands, fashion labels, furniture curators, and was also involved in the special projects (events) team. Managing a portfolio of clients felt like spinning plates and it expanded my capacity rapidly. It gave me the ability to effectively manage multiple projects and people at once, which is a must when running your own business.
I then moved into corporate communications at Tiffany & Co for a short season, quickly realising I preferred an environment closer to the heartbeat of a brand. COMMAS was young but growing rapidly. I had always supported Richard in my spare time and would use all my annual leave to help him overseas at showrooms. Over time I could no longer watch from the sidelines and see Richard having all the fun. In January 2020, I decided to dive in.
You recently unveiled your Spring Summer 2022 resort wear collection against the sunrise over Tamarama beach. Can you tell us what inspired this idea?
On one of our morning walk / swims the idea just clicked for Richard, and we rolled with it. People doubted the idea and questioned if anyone would show up at 7:30am. We didn’t mind either way, we knew the content would be phenomenal. It worked! We had an incredible turn out and people still talk about that show as an experience they will never forget.
What’s the meaning behind the name Commas?
The name COMMAS represent the comma (,) in a sentence – the pause you take to catch your breath. This is really the core message of the brand – linger a while, pause, relish in the moment, breathe.
Commas is committed to manufacturing in Australia. Has this been challenging for you as a brand?
Manufacturing in Australia became particularly challenging during COVID, and we are still dealing with the aftereffects. Bottlenecks, increased shipping costs, a reduction of artisans. Luckily, we have committed partners who we work closely with. When you go through as many ups and downs as we have had within the Australian manufacturing industry, you create strong bonds.
How do you approach sustainability at Commas?
Creating a responsible brand has always been something close to our hearts. A couple of years back, realising we were far from perfect, Richard and I set clear goals. Since then, we’ve educated ourselves, and worked hard, step by step, across all departments. It’s a constant re-evaluation.
What does circular fashion mean to you?
The first time I visited the factory our garments are made in, my perspective deepened.
Seeing first-hand the beautiful smiles of the people who create our garments, shaking their hands - hands that are filled with characteristics of people who have dedicated their lives to the skill (I met a cutter who was missing some fingers from failing to wear his chain mail gloves in his younger years!).
I believe to consider why circular fashion is important, you first need to consider how garments come to exist;
Imagine the designer who envisioned that piece, sourced the ideal fabric, went back and forth with their team perfecting the silhouette, brought together all the materials, and handed it over to the makers. Then the makers - who spend their entire working lives cutting, fusing, stitching, overlocking, matching prints, trimming, steaming, packing these garments ready for someone to receive it and love it.
It takes a whole network of skilled people who literally invest time, sweat, and energy to create a meaningful garment. That should be valued for the entirety of that garment’s existence and beyond.
Have you ever sold your own clothing or bought pre-loved?
I used to do a yearly market at Rozelle or Kirribilli and re-invest the money into new pieces. If I knew I couldn’t sell it, I would give it to my nieces to love and wear. I’ve always purchased items with a re-sell value in mind.
Is there any particular item of clothing in your wardrobe that you could never part with?
My first Commas silk shirt. It’s a champagne-coloured painted stripe and I love it so much.
What advice would you give young females who have followed your career path and would like to follow in your footsteps?
Embrace change and be a sponge for learning. Enthusiasm and dedication make up for a host of deficiencies.
Shop COMMAS here