OCC Apparel was inspired by a simple idea: freedom to choose.

Founded by Nick Barclay and his best mate Andrew Quinn, OCC Apparel pioneered the use of organic cotton in Australia. “We started our company to give Australians the option to choose world’s best quality organic cotton apparel items. When we started in 2004, you actually couldn’t purchase an organic cotton t-shirt in Australia,” Nick said.

The company stocks and distributes a variety of products including organic cotton single jersey knits, 100 per cent merino fabrics and a specialist collection of blended fabrics including merino and bamboo composites. Garments are custom manufactured in the company owned Sydney factory, as well as in partner factories in Melbourne, India, Vietnam, China and Turkey. Clients include Mountain Design, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, UQ Sport and Noosa Longboards. No resources are used for marketing, advertising or promotion and Nick says the company has grown steadily since its inception.

Nick and Andrew began their entrepreneurial musings when they met at school, in grade eight. As the pair grew up, they discussed different business models, at parties and through university, while trekking through Nepal together and sitting in the surf waiting for the next set to roll in. “We both arrived on the ‘organic cotton’ bus at the same time in 2004 and were ready to roll. OCC Apparel was born.”

Sourcing cotton that is high quality, sustainable and ethically produced remains a key business focus. The team devotes considerable time to researching and investigating all of the global factories, accreditation bodies, organic cotton farmers and print facilities used to get the products from cotton farm to factory to customer. “We have our ears, eyes, hands, heart at the ground level and are directly in touch with garments on a consistent basis,” Nick said.

And this drive to always do better extends far beyond the fabric. Nick and Andrew recognise and value the community involved for any business to be successful—from customers and clients, to staff and suppliers.

“We don’t have a business without our customers, we can’t physically facilitate our mission without our staff. Good luck trying to make the world’s best product without the support and integration of the world’s best suppliers and supply chain,” Nick said. “We have evolved to work together to make better apparel products that do less harm. In unison as a team, ‘we can’; this is very important to us.”

Allowing Australians freedom to choose was a good idea. Nick believes the demand for ethically produced and sustainable products is growing, now that more organic products are available and the price has come down. “You can feel the difference both mentally and physically,” he said. “If you know a little bit more about the supply chain, who has made your clothes, where the raw materials have come from, and then the physical product fits well, washes well and is within your perceived price range, then you will choose organic sustainable products. In doing so, you will help to drive even better apparel practices and apparel product into the future.”