Phoebe Baker is a jumpsuit fanatic. As one of the lead singers of local act Alpine, Baker has worn countless iterations of the style on stage. Boiler suit, ’70s flares, glittery, fringed, kaleidoscopic – name a variation and she’s probably worn it.
“They’re a solid, strong garment I’ve always been attracted to,” she tells Broadsheet. “I promise – everyone looks more fabulous in a jumpsuit.”
With a well-stocked personal archive of more than 30 of them, Baker has turned to designing and making her own range.
With her mum Poppy and cousin Kate McCracken, Baker has launched jumpsuit label UNC (pronounced “unc” as in “uncle”). The family operation works out of the back of Poppy’s house in Melbourne's Fitzroy North where the women sit together to cut, sew and chat. The name of the brand harks back to Baker’s dad, whom McCracken grew up calling “unc” instead of great uncle.
UNC’s take on the jumpsuit is a modern version of the boiler suit. The unisex pieces are available in three different fabrics (cotton, corduroy and canvas) and are made to order. With a zip front that pulls all the way down to the waist, and contouring pockets, they’re more relaxed-sexy than work uniform.
Baker and McCracken’s aim is to perfect the style rather than reinvent it.
“Vintage boiler suits are tricky because often the waist isn’t right,” Baker says. “It can be hard to find one to fit your body. With UNC you can send your specific measurements and we can choose the right sizing.”
Their inspiration board includes iconic images of David Bowie, Grace Jones, the Charlie’s Angels and old Vogue Italia pictures of glamorous couples wearing matching jumpsuits.
“It’s a powerful look,” Baker says. “I only want to wear jumpsuits on stage because it’s just one item, so there’s no tucking or skirt flowing up. You can make huge, grand steps.”
The idea for the brand first came about at a family dinner to which Baker and McCracken both rocked up in jumpsuits. “We laughed and said we should make a brand,” Baker says, “We didn’t do anything about it for a year, but then we got back together recently and just started making prototypes. Every day we’d walk out of the house wearing a different jumpsuit. Our neighbours must have thought we were a weird cult.”
Baker learned to sew from her mum, who also makes most of the jumpsuits she wears on stage with Alpine. “Mum is incredible at sewing,” Baker says. “Back when she lived in England, her dream was to sew for the national theatre costume department, but she never got to do that because a family member passed away and life changed. Now she gets to.”
While UNC’s first offering reflects a casual, daytime look, don’t be surprised if Baker ups the drama in the future. “When I’m performing I like to have big gestural arms while wearing a huge bell sleeve or tassel,” she says. “Maybe I’ll make a crazy UNC in the future.”