A fair amount of sustainable womenswear or loungewear brands can be found in Australia. However, it is hard to tell how much the scene is really taking off, and in particular how the approach to sustainable menswear fashions is developing. I spoke to one new designer who is embracing that arena at full pelt. Using illustration, print design and short films in addition to a core stunning menswear collection, Maelle Moreau tells a fictional (but not so unrealistic!) aesthetic and philosophical tale of humankind’s relationship with the planet.
What processes did you use to create your eco collection?
I designed, drafted my own patterns and made the garments myself.
I designed my own prints for this collection, which I developed from personal watercolour paintings and photographs. I used digital printing to print on my Certified Organic Cotton Sateen and sublimation printing for my Recycled Polyester, which I sourced from Offset Warehouse.
I also grew my own vegetable-based leather in my kitchen, from bacteria (Kombucha leather) which I died with Indigo. I did quite a bit of experimentation with that and got some very interesting results. I used the leather as panels/pockets for my accessories. I loved this process and was amazed to be actually creating my own fabric without chemicals or harming the earth or animals.
Finally, I worked with cracked paint on top of the jackets, which took quite a while. The recycled polyester reacted very well to that paint, it is such a strong fabric!! I was very impressed!
Why did you choose menswear?
After my first year at school, it became more and more apparent to me that I wanted to try something different from womenswear. Unfortunately however, on my course menswear is not taught, so I only got to do my first menswear outfit through a side project.
Throughout my studies, I was working as a wardrobe designer/stylist and made a suit for an actor for a short film. I instantly fell in love with menswear!
It was also during that year that I created my first print for a swimsuit design project and it was a big revelation for me. It seemed a natural progression to merge these two ideas for my final year collection; menswear and print design.
I feel a lot more creative with men’s shapes and I feel that there is so much room to play with. Everyday men’s fashion is generally quite simple and sometimes “boring”. It was really fun to create a collection for men with a feminine touch through prints and garments.
What inspired you to make your collection a sustainable one?
The story of the collection describes the end of the world and the birth of a new race of human; one that is more connected to their planet and to nature. I made a short fashion film to communicate this theme.
I always get really inspired by music and film when I create. This collection’s inspiration comes from three movies; Oblivion, Interstellar and Sunshine. I listened to the Oblivion soundtrack on repeat all day for at least six months! It must have driven my partner crazy!
It feels to me that the ‘sci-fi’ worlds in these movies are so close to us now, and it was only natural to create a collection that would reflect the problem and carry a suggestion of a solution at the same time.
Moving to Australia was also a big eye-opener on nature. I am originally from France and before moving to Australia, I spent five years living in Montreal. Nature there is very different and beautiful but it isn’t as luxurious and big as what you can find here. I really felt a switch in me within my first year in Australia. From the plants and the trees, the ocean and the insects; everything is so beautiful… and we are so lucky it is our planet. We have to protect it. There was no other way to me than to create a collection that would reflect my philosophy and what I believe in. That’s why I worked with kombucha leather, recycled and Certified Organic cotton fabrics and wools.
Sustainable fashion is still fashion, but in a more responsible way. It isn’t the answer of one of the biggest problems on the planet but I think that it is a great step forward until technology brings us a miracle solution and we start changing the way we consume.
What is the sustainable fashion scene like in Australia?
It is small but more and more people are becoming aware of it. Unfortunately, there is a big lack of education on what sustainable fashion is and fast fashion giants have grown immensely in the last decade. It is impossible to compete with these big retailers, and most people do not see why they would spend more money on beautiful, Australian made, sustainable garments.
Do you think there are differing challenges that arise from trying to be a sustainable designer in Australia than in other places?
I think there are, yes. Sourcing sustainable fabrics and fashion products for example. It has been a challenge (but a great one I have to say) to find the fabric that I needed for my collection. I found everything overseas which is a shame. I would have loved to source products locally.
Printing my fabrics was also difficult. I was able to have my Recycled Polyester printed in Sydney which was great but couldn’t find a company that would print my Organic Cotton. Most digital printing places would supply their own fabric and none of them would provide Certified Organic unfortunately. I had to outsource this from the US.
Are there many fibres grown or made in Australia?
Well, we do produce really beautiful wool and cotton.
How did you get scouted for Melbourne Spring Fashion Week?
Every year, a Melbourne Spring Fashion Week panel come and visit all the fashion schools in Melbourne. If you are interested, you have the opportunity to present your collection in front of their panel, when it is at a conceptual stage.
Then you wait and get the news… and then the madness happen!
They choose 30 students in total from all of the schools and you have a few months to produce three complete outfits with accessories.
What was the experience like?
Intense! But really rewarding. It does put more pressure on you, especially as you are still studying full-time and that the last year of study is pretty intense anyway!
My only disappointment I suppose is that the actual sustainable theme of my collection wasn’t shown or explained during the Melbourne Spring Fashion Week runway, which was the whole point of me doing something different. However, working towards a tight deadline was a great learning curve! I would do it again in a heartbeat!