The “slow living” movement has been around for a while now, but it’s taken some time for the fast-turnover world of fashion to latch on. The traditional model of fashion design – at least at the mass-market level – has always been about getting the new trends out quickly to satisfy a (supposed) appetite for the new.

A growing number of makers and designers are bucking the fast-fashion system and slowing things down to create sustainable, small-batch collections that are high in quality and comparatively low in environmental footprint. Perth-based designer Sarah Watanabe’s Monster Alphabets label is one such project. Founded in 2012, the brand draws on Watanabe’s architectural background to explore dark, minimal silhouettes, quality fabrics and unusual textures.

Her latest experiment is a line of sustainable T-shirts made from upcycled men’s business shirts. Called Monster Alphabets Dilemma, the shirts began as a conversation between Watanabe and architect Emma Williamson.

“We were talking about the environmental impact of the fashion industry and ways we can proactively work to address that,” Watanabe says.

“This year I have committed to making small capsule ranges as part of that. I want to focus on quality, design, form and minimising waste – doing quality over quantity. We thought it would be fun to re-imagine men’s business shirts for women, taking advantage of their beautiful fabrics to make playful garments that women could wear.”

The label’s new main line, called Eclectic Kaleidoscope, introduces more colour to Watanabe’s traditionally dark palette. The range brings in hues of purple and lime green plus metallics, inspired by the idea of lights flickering against dark shadows. A limited-edition collection, the exact styles cannot be repeated as they are made primarily from dead stock fabrics.

“I think it’s more important than ever to be both conscious and proactive about the impact of our choices,” she says.

“It’s really important, especially with the Monster Alphabets Dilemma shirts, that no new materials are consumed in their creation. Even the events we choose to get involved with, like the Made Local Market – we do that because it creates a direct dialogue between the maker and the consumer.”

Pieces from both the Monster Alphabets Dilemma and Eclectic Kaleidoscope collections will be available at August’s Made Local Market Winter Edition, which takes place at Fremantle’s Stackwood studios. The market hosts more than 30 stalls selling locally made fashion, jewellery, artist prints, textiles and skincare products. The market will also offer various food options including Brazilian street food by Comida do Sul, Vietnamese fusion by Bantastic Mi, coffee and sweets by Stacked Cafe and vegan treats by Bean Eatin’.

During the markets, Stackwood residents will also open their studios to give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the space. Current residents include the Neighbourhood Press design studio and print store, Winterwares ceramic studio, artist Sara Winfield, and Clean Slate Skin Care’s apothecary.


Made Local Market: Winter Edition is at Stackwood Studios (10 Stack Street, Fremantle) between Friday August 9 and Sunday August 11.


stackwood.net.au