tesla. It’s spelled with a little t. “Not sure how that started but I like the symmetry of it,” says designer Anneliese Tesselaar of her one-woman fashion label. Like the name, tesla clothing is small but sturdy, and though still relatively new to the fashion arena, has its sights set on building a brand with solid foundations.

As is the case and probably a rite of passage for so many designers, Tesselaar spent many years designing for other labels before creating her own. After she realised making clothes was what she wanted to do, she completed a pattern-making and then a shoe-making course. While at shoe-making school Tesselaar began making belts and accessories out of leather, which slowly morphed into a small range of tops and skirts, all handmade. During this time she was also designing for a surf label and working retail.

“These jobs made me realise I wanted to design my own clothes and not be working on someone else's dream,” she comments. So one day she strolled into Alice Euphemia and met owner Karen Rieschieck, who began stocking the label immediately – simple as that.

And so Tesselaar began designing annual summer ranges, only recently broaching garments for the cooler seasons. “Winter 2010 was my first winter [collection],” she says. “Before that I only made summer [clothes] as I was little scared of winter [clothes]; winter is more structured than summer. Summer feels light and floaty, but winter feels more formal – it has to protect you from the elements and look good.”

Despite this, Tesselaar says it just takes one small thing to get the ball rolling for design ideas, usually building each collection around a story. “I just came back from Montenegro and while I was there I found this crazy knitted hat. I started wondering who it was made for, where they would wear it and what with? That is the beginning of my next winter range,” she notes.

Full of easy to wear garments in natural fabrics, tesla’s new summer 10/11 collection was recently launched at Melbourne Spring Fashion Week. In fitting with an age of borrowed nostalgia, much of tesla’s new range is inspired by the 40s and 50s with its streamlined cuts and cutout and panelling details.

“I wanted a range where a girl could fall out of bed in the morning onto a pile of clothes that she took off the night before, and still have something to put on for going out that day.” This is the kind of simple, elegant casual-chic epitomised in the tesla collection.

With all garments made right here in Melbourne, tesla believes in quality not quantity. This seems to be a familiar thread running through many evolving fashion labels; the focus is on the handmade, the quality material, the time-consuming production and the expensive finished product. It makes you think about how difficult it must be to survive for some of these small, independent labels.

Luckily, Tesselaar doesn’t seem to be too concerned, and has her sights set on the important foundations of the brand, like finishing off a range that will brace the elements next winter, a recently launched online shop, and starting to grow her small venture, even if it takes a bit of time.

www.teslathelabel.com