At the risk of stating the obvious, the clothes we wear matter. And not just in the sense of sartorial splendour and self-expression, but for those across the supply chain and beyond working towards a more sustainable fashion future. To celebrate these creatives putting people and planet first, we’ve introduced a digital series called Nice Rack! (…get it) so we can go behind the seams with some of our favourite sustainable brands, together.
Founded in 2021 by partners in love and business Melanie and Dean Flintoft, Sunset Lover is an Australian designed and owned resort wear brand “born to leave a zero footprint.” It represents a turning point for its founders who, after 30 years of industry experience and seven fashion brands, have found new purpose in dedicating their design mindset to sustainability, diversity and inclusivity in fashion. Their gorgeous garments show off eye-catching shapes and silhouettes and scintillating patterns – created in collaboration with the South Australian Museum and Botanic Garden of South Australia, drawing inspiration from their archives of global flora and fauna.
Tell us about yourself…
I am Melanie Flintoft, founder, CEO and creative director of the Australian women’s resort wear brand Sunset Lover. I am Adelaide-based and a mother of two amazing boys Tyler (23) and Hudson (13). I’m married to my business partner and best friend Dean Flintoft. I was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, my family moved to Adelaide when I was six years old when my beautiful sister was born. I completed high school and immediately studied Fashion Design. I have been crazy enough to always work for myself from the beginning. I have had an amazing full-paced career in the fashion industry, and I now feel Sunset Lover is what it has all been for.
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
My transition to sustainable fashion with Sunset Lover has been a profound shift. After two decades in fast fashion relying on polyester and plastic, I realised the environmental toll. Sunset Lover’s zero polyester and plastic policy, for both fibres and packaging, reflects my commitment to a greener future.
Sustainable fashion, to me, is purposeful. I create timeless prints that transcend trends and honour the artisans. The aim is to connect consumers with our brand’s values through our designs.
Looking ahead, I’m driven by the goal of making Sunset Lover a certified compostable luxury brand. This mirrors our dedication to responsible practices, from creation to disposal, offering enduring value to conscious consumers.
Beyond a brand, I’m crafting a legacy of environmental responsibility.
The blend of sustainable textiles and technology excites me greatly. Innovations in fabric and transparent fibres hold immense potential to reshape fashion’s impact.
In essence, my journey is about transformation and impact. Beyond a brand, I’m crafting a legacy of environmental responsibility. Each step aims to inspire the fashion industry toward a more sustainable future.
When did you know you wanted to get into fashion?
I was born into the industry. My parents owned a fashion wholesale and ran a multi-store retail company. I loved to sew and I loved the business of fashion. I studied fashion straight out of school and started my first retail store at 21 and grew that chain to five stores then started a locally made sustainable brand with upcycling. When I met my husband Dean Flintoft we decided to start a business together. That business grew into seven global brands with offices in China, Los Angeles, Melbourne with Headquarters in Adelaide. We are now full of purpose and have a greater vision using our 30 years of experience to create something special and make a difference.
How do you incorporate sustainability/ethical practices within your brand?
At Sunset Lover, we firmly believe in collective action and transparency, and we are proud to be aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our brand values are closely linked to the following specific goals:
‘With every sunset there is an opportunity to R.I.S.E.’ (Responsible Impact on Society and Environment) is the Sunset Lover tagline we live by. These goals represent our commitment to making a positive impact on society and the environment while staying true to our core values.
Our philosophy of modern design encompasses the duty we have to drive Responsible Impact for Society and the Environment. We care deeply about our people and planet so we’re continually investing time and resources into developing new ways to be better.
Every decision from our garment design and wearability to our thoughtfully sourced natural fabrics and packaging are made to support our environmental goals. The acronym R.I.S.E form the foundations of our conscious business practices.
Tell us about any standout moments in your career…
There are so many. I’ve had the privilege of showcasing at Australian Fashion Week three times, a testament to our brand’s recognition.
Notably, we achieved a pioneering feat by establishing the first Australian Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE) in China, underscoring our global footprint. Seeing up extensive wholesale and retail offices worldwide further solidified our international reach. These accomplishments, among many others, reflect our dedication and passion for pushing boundaries in the fashion industry.
In essence, my journey is about transformation and impact.
Our presence extended to dressing prominent celebrities like JLO, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian, and Nicole Richie, a testament to our brand’s appeal.
In reflection all the milestones have happened working with amazing people by our side and the moments make remarkable memories because of the talent I have had the privilege to work with.
What are your favourite pieces to wear?
I love the Sunset Lover Palm House silk set. This print is of our iconic glass house at the Adelaide Botanic Garden very precious to me and other South Australians.
I love the Twist front silk midi dress Beetle Print launching online at the end of this month. This print is created from the archive at the South Australian Museum. Working with the collections managers to find these beautiful storytelling pieces is what makes them even more special. Our future collections have custom embroidery with silk threads. I cannot wait to wear all of these.
Who are a few of your favourite local designers?
GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag is essential for my washing machine. We only buy natural fibres these days although I still wear my old activewear and swimwear and am trying to not replace them until we find a zero plastic elastane. We are looking for zero polyester elastic for Sunset Lover too. 35% of microplastics in oceans come from clothing. Each time an item of clothing is washed, up to 700,000 microscopic fibres make their way into our oceans. The Guppyfriend washing bag is designed to collect shredded fibres that come off in the wash.
Bassike has achieved a B Corp certification, a goal for Sunset Lover. I admire their focus and design discipline along with their responsible business practices.
Sarah and Sebastian, I love their beautiful accessories and commitment to the ocean. They have a wonderful return and repair program as well as recycling program all aligning with their corporate responsibility statement.
What do you think needs to change in the Australian fashion landscape?
Accountability – this will take government legislation to even the playing field as a large part of the industry is not capable of self-regulation. The consequences of the industry practices are catastrophic for the planet and people and there is no accountability or transparency. People are getting sucked into fast fashion and polyester (petrochemicals) with low prices and they do not realise the consequences of those low prices in slavery, pollution, micro plastics etc. We all need to be thinking about end-of-life solutions for the product and being circular.