Mulberrys clothing retailer Mulberry has opened its first store in Melbourne, and has opened up the retail outlet to female workers in an effort to help them achieve greater parity in pay.
The company’s executive director, Heather Karp, says the opening of the store is part of a broader push to make its stores more gender-equal.
“It’s part of our broader strategy to empower women and girls in the industry,” she said.
“The gender pay gap has been there for quite some time, but it was only until the last couple of years that we really started to look at it.”
We want to be able to say to these girls and women that this is an issue that we are tackling, that we’re working with, that the industry is paying attention to.
“Our aim is to make it so they can have the confidence that if they want to do the job, that they can get paid fairly.”
The opening of Mulberry’s first store marks the first of its kind in the region.
While it has been a long-time dream to open a store in Australia, it is now the first time the company has actually opened a store.
It will be run by the women’s business program, Women’s Group, and it will be operated by a third party.
Karp says the store will be able offer free hand-washing and a small range of hand-crafted products, as well as a full range of free childcare for all women over the age of five.
Mulberry’s CEO, Paul Tudge, says there are a number of things that make this opening particularly exciting for women.
They have a very large retail operation, they have a huge amount of female workforce in the business, and the store provides a very direct pathway into their workforce, he said.
“They are doing things that we thought we wouldn’t be able or couldn’t do, so it’s very exciting to see that we’ve got a strong female presence in this store.”
Karr’s is also a brand with a strong presence in Australia.
She started working at Mulberry in 2009, and left to start her own business, Karr’s, in 2012.
But it wasn’t until the start of the year that she decided to move to Melbourne, which led to the opening at Mulberries.
Paul Tudge says that the store was an important decision for him.
“I’m very much of the mindset that you don’t just open a new store, you have to think through it, and I think it has helped us,” he said, adding that he expects the store to continue to open.
For women who are seeking to get their first career start in Australia’s garment industry, the opening is a welcome one.
Melbourne-based Karr says it is important that the company understands that women are often the first to get to the top.
“When we were first opening the store, it was very much a new concept,” she explained.
“Women were just getting the word out about it and there was a lot of women who were going in and getting a job.”
And then the women who went in after we opened the store and were successful were women who had never worked in a factory before.
“I was always a big advocate for gender equality in the manufacturing industry, and there’s so much work that needs to be done, and so many women, and that is just not reflected in the workforce.
Ms Karp says Mulberry is looking at other opportunities to open more stores around Australia, and says she hopes that the opening can help increase the number of women in the workplace.”
If we can help build more jobs, then that is really good,” she says.
The opening is not just about women, but also men.
There is an increasing awareness in Australia that many of our manufacturing jobs are low-paid, but there is also growing concern about the gap between men and women in these jobs.
I believe that Mulberry can play a big role in changing that.
Follow Michelle on Twitter: @MichelleWagner