Over the last few months, the Australian fashion industry has welcomed a slew of new labels with boundary-pushing design, youthful tailoring and a focus on minimising environmental impact. There’s a lot to be excited about.
Footwear label Maria Farro has reinvented the humble Aussie thong, while Esse and E Nolan offer different takes on tailoring for women. And with Terry, a Sydney fashion photographer has reinvented ’70s-style terry towelling in chic separates.
Here are seven emerging Australian labels to add to your cart.
Sarah-Jane Clarke has been fairly quiet since departing Sass & Bide four years ago. But she saw a missing piece in the fashion industry puzzle, and now she's back with her new luxury travel label, Sarah-Jane Clarke (SJC), which targets jet-setting women looking for stylish basics that transition easily from morning to night. Linen from her family-run mill in Italy is the star of the show here. The colour palette includes Sahara oranges, moss greens and creamy ivories, with some animal and floral prints, too. Eschewing the typical fashion calendar, SJC has two annual capsule collections released in small, weekly drops to minimise its environmental footprint.
Heidi Middleton – the other half of Sass & Bide – has launched her own ever-evolving digital creative space, Art Club. Middleton is more than a fashion designer – she’s dabbled in painting, collage, illustration, ceramics and interior design, and this new project is essentially an invitation to step inside her creative world. The platform features original art and limited-edition prints alongside vintage and slow fashions. The new garments have all been made locally, with 80 per cent of fabrics derived from remnant materials. Middleton calls it “fast-slow fashion”: a combination of regularly-updated boutique stock and pieces adhering to sustainable principles and manufacturing practices.
Emily Nolan, the Melbourne-based designer behind E Nolan, has filled a gaping hole in the fashion industry: custom business suits for women. The Whitehouse Designer of the Year awardee’s modern jackets and trousers are made natural fibres, which are designed, fitted and hand-tailored at trunk shows in Melbourne and Sydney. There are designer T-shirts emblazoned with the label’s trademark blowfly, too. Nolan believes suits shouldn’t be restricted to the boardroom, and recommends dressing them down with a simple T-shirt and sneakers on the weekend.
Fashion photographer Brigette Clarke and Lucy Halfpenny are more than just friends. They’re the founders of Terry, a fashion label dedicated entirely to terry towelling. The cotton file fabric – typically found in towels and bathrobes – has seen a resurgence in recent years, appearing on Pucci and Chanel runways. Terry’s range features five wearable summer separates that exude a ’70s poolside feel. The colours are also vintage-inspired – think muted lemons and bright corals. Several collaborations, new styles and colours are on the horizon this year, as well as an expansion into menswear.
Melma Hamersfeld has said goodbye to her basics empire Metalicus and founded a new luxury basics label, Base Bodywear, with friend Vanessa Brott. The uncomplicated wardrobe staples are made in a soft and flexible fabric that feels like a second skin. The contemporary cuts are perfect for “booby girls.” There are no scoop necks in sight, but rather tube skirts, new leggings and tank tops. The clothes are made locally in Melbourne dye houses.
This newcomer doesn’t stick to the rulebook. Founder Charlotte Hicks finds the rate at which we consume fashion alarming. Her debut collection of Italian-denim suits, cotton shirting and practical knitwear turns its back on short-lived fashion trends, embracing sustainable basics that are made to last.
Love it or hate it, the Aussie thong is a national icon. Traianos Pakioufakis, the designer behind footwear label Maria Farro, saw potential in creating comfortable luxury leather flip-flops that can be paired with smart pants or casual summer dresses, away from the beach. Each sandal is created in Crete using traditional techniques. The products are sold in canvas bags to reduce waste, and Pakioufakis is aiming to remove the plastic that’s used to protect the shoes during the shipping process in the near future.