Kloke is not one to flow with the trends and, in an era of fast fashion and obnoxious style cues – a bid to gain attention – the Melbourne-based brand is bucking the status quo. Like fellow sustainability business models, Kloke believes investing in pieces that will last not only through the washing machine but also through cyclical trends. Established by couple Amy and Adam Coombes, the brand ethos of Kloke began in 2011. For the brand, it has been a slow but sure progress to reach a mass market, and since its early inception, now boasts more than 20,000 followers on Instagram.
With an extensive offering of both menswear and womenswear, Kloke displays what is special within simplicity. The inspiration for each collection changes with unique hues of bright colour blocking and playful prints, while the pieces are grounded with essential outerwear and wardrobe staples – a testament to the cooler climate of Melbourne. This is reflected in the constant DNA of the label – a material exploration of the environment using tailored elements and technical fabrications. In 2013, two years after the launch of the little-known brand, the Coombes opened their first store on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. Its second store, boasting a stripped-back, brutalist interior, was opened in 2018 in the QV Melbourne in the CBD.
To shop the collection, visit kloke.com.au
CHRIS RAN LIN
For young designer Chris Ran Lin, fashion has always been in his blood. Growing up in China, his mother was a dressmaker and his grandmother was known for her expertise in the artistry of traditional Chinese craft. With an affinity for meticulous design, Lin, who was just 18 at the time, immigrated to Melbourne, where he undertook a Bachelor of Fashion Design at RMIT in 2011 before completing a Masters in Fashion Design in 2015 – one of the first students in Australia to complete the additional degree. Simultaneously, the accomplished designer launched his namesake menswear brand in 2013.
With a strong belief in the untapped potential of wool and other premium fabrics and knits, Chris Ran Lin’s designs are experimental and challenge the traditional stereotype of male dressing. Traditional knits are updated with unique weaves and unusual patterns, and tailored styles are created with feminine cuts. Elsewhere, Lin is a fiend for colour blocking, with each collection boasting trending hues of colour – most recently, Spring/Summer 2020 incorporated pops of royal blue and candy red. Lin describes his design process as a “contradictory conflict”. On one hand, the designer is interested in clean tailoring while he is also fascinated in texture and the unique intricacies of knitwear – best seen in his recent collection. With this experimental side, Lin finds a considered balance between practicality and commercial appeal.
Pieces from Chris Ran Lin will be available for purchase soon. For more information, visit chrisranlin.com
As the name suggests, Melbourne-born label Pool is an interpretation of classic resort, swim-orientated style for men, albeit with a luxury approach. From award-winning designers Alex and Tim Britten-Finschi – an Australian duo that has already been recognised internationally – the brand is slowly but surely garnering a fan base for its considered designs, having only launched in the past several years.
For Pool, it draws upon the brothers’ intimate knowledge of high-end menswear and sartorial design. By using cutting- edge, quality fabric and artisanal detailing, the coastal essence of the brand has been infused into a series of everyday staple looks. As it challenges the expectations of swimwear, swim shorts take on a ’40s-era style and are short, tailored and boast additional features such as fastening buttons, elasticised waistband and a three-pocket design – a style easily translated into street wearability. Other innovative swimwear pieces include the Bias Rib Swimsuit, a nod to not only the ’20s but also a sense of gender fluidity.
For the remainder of the newly released Spring/Summer 2020 collection, tailored chinos in deep tones of bottle green and earthy browns lend a sense of formality, while trend appeal is presented in the form of printed button-up shirts, aptly finished with tassels and fringing reminiscent of beach linen.
Shop the collection via pool-wear.com
I first met Gina when she won the highly prestigious Supreme Award at the annual Fleece To Fashion Awards in Armidale, New South Wales. She captured the attention of industry expert judges for her androgynous, Elizabethan-style capsule of male garments. Her aim to challenge societal and cultural perceptions of gender and dress has seen her namesake label blur distinctions between archetypal indicators of femininity and masculinity.
The result is spliced suiting, oversized pants, tailored skirts worn by men and voluminous outerwear. Gina’s signature style cues are small additions of early era-style pieces and include sheer lace and chiffon blouses and small hints of jewellery. In hand with her designs, the young creative has founded New Again, a sustainability project that aims to address the growing effects of mass production and waste. With only 10 per cent of donated clothing ending up sold in second-hand stores, New Again repurposes existing garments and deadstock fabrics to reduce waste within the fashion industry.
The distinctive design markers of the Gina Snodgrass brand – soft colour hues, fine lace and floral brocade – have been presented on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, worn on the red carpet and, most recently, on notable Australian musicians including Cub Sport and Jack River.
Pieces are available to purchase from ginasnodgrass.com
Made-to-measure tailoring is a luxury few can normally afford, and with the growing availability of off-the-rack suiting and a time-precious lifestyle, the age-old practice is often forgotten. Traditionally, tailoring was a time of leisure for the wealthy and affluent, but nowadays the highlight on craftsmanship is now becoming increasingly accessible, and for that, we can thank InStitchu.
Founded by James Wakefield and Robin McGowan, the Australian-based brand believes there should be no shortcuts taken when creating a perfectly fitted garment. Considered a coming-of-age experience, to wear custom suiting is to enter the unofficial gentlemen’s club and, as they say, you’ll never go back. With showrooms across Australia, New Zealand and North America, InStitchu invites customers for fittings with a dedicated stylist. Made from high-quality natural fibres – think Australian Merino wool, mohair, cashmere, cotton and linen – suits are designed by the customer and constructed by Savile Row-trained tailors. And, in the event that the garment isn’t perfect, alterations and remakes are made free of charge. Additionally, InStitchu offers ready-to-wear pieces and online customisations across classic styles and current sartorial trends.
To get started, visit institchu.com
In 2017, Sydney-based label Commas entered the realm of luxury fashion when it was selected by Woolmark to appear at the menswear fair Pitti Uomo in Florence. It was one of the first times the label had attracted the eyes of international buyers, and later, in 2019, it caught the eye of major online retailer Matches Fashion with a collaborative capsule. Fusing classic poolside styles with relaxed loungewear, the contemporary label boasts the essence of an Australian summer with international appeal, and since its early beginnings has cemented its position in the high-end market.
Founded by creative director Richard Jarman in 2016, Commas was launched with an ambition to create a complete resort wardrobe made to enter everyday wear. Jarman did not have a background in fashion design and was in property development at the time, but drawing from his beachside lifestyle, the Sydneysider has revived the Australian summer aesthetic through the lens of the ’60s era, rooted in a sense of serenity.
The name of Commas, as it suggests, represents a purposeful pause and serves as a reminder to catch your breath, to recalibrate and take pleasure in the moment. The brand is the catalyst to find calmness in the spaces between the clutter of life, and comprising the highest quality fabrics sourced from Europe and Japan, its ethos is reflected in its designs.
The most recent collection, Spring/Summer 2020, is inspired by the ’60s silhouette of fictional character Tom Ripley. Fronted
by Matt Damon in The Talented Mr Ripley, the famed anti-hero is known for his resort spin on sartorial silhouettes. And combined with the cornerstone of the brand’s styles – swim shorts, lightweight button-down shirting, silk shirting and loose linen trousers – the collection is presented with soft bursts of colour in original prints.
To accompany the collection, Commas also collaborated with sound specialist Arman Naféei to create a soundtrack based on jazz records from Hugh Hefner’s private collection.
Commas is available from Matches Fashion, MyTheresa, Harry Rosen in Canada and Monaco Marine – Merci La Mer.
Debuted in an abandoned tunnel in Sydney’s St James Station, Nique’s latest collection -U by Nique, an androgynous take on wardrobe staples – ultimately ushered in a new chapter for not only the label but also the Australian fashion industry. But for the company built upon minimalism, gender fluidity and an emphasis on quality, the brand story of Nique was, in fact, founded almost a decade ago.
Far from its clean tailoring and extensive offering of timeless silhouettes, Nique was first established as a line of graphic T-shirts. While the early product was most commonly seen at local haunts and buzzing raves of the early 2000s, its fitting ideology, “by creatives, for creatives”, is more apparent than ever. Donned on city-side millennials, the reimagined basics of Nique boasts alternative workwear to people who don’t hold a traditional job. While kit essential basics make up much of the curated selection, outerwear, shirts and pants are recreated with a utilitarian approach. Constructed from climate-considerate fabrics and finished with clever tailoring and unusual detailing, it follows the wave of leading designers – namely Jacquemus and Dion Lee – who blur the lines between genderless clothing, and, most importantly, abiding style.
Shop the latest from nique.com.au
Nowadays, there is an almost fascination for simplicity, for traditionalism and above all humanity. For Sydney-born, New York-based label FEIT, its brand philosophy spans far wider than sustainability, and more so, craftsmanship.
By definition, the term ‘feit’ refers to a piece of information about circumstances that exist or events that have occurred. Aptly, the offering of hand-crafted boots, sneakers and sandals is deeply rooted in human construction and historic practices. And behind the unique styles is a further commitment to the environment. Where possible, FEIT adheres to a strict policy of using biological materials and natural treatments. From an internal leather midsole, a layer of natural cork, bamboo shank stabiliser, a buffalo leather outsole, rubber tread and a vegetable leather strip to encase the silhouettes, its end product is a series of distinctive shoes albeit in line with modern trends.
Classic court shoes and bold combat boots are among its most coveted offerings, while kit essentials in the form of caps, knitted beanies, plain t-shirts and socks have expanded the brand’s position in the sustainability sector.
But to really understand and appreciate its values is to touch, feel and wear the item in store. Brick-and-mortar stores are reflective of its considered architecture and use of natural materials and can be found in New York, San Francisco and in Sydney’s suburb of Darlinghurst. For more information, visit feitdirect.com
Barney Cools is the epitome of the Australian lifestyle; carefree and unapologetic. So, when you combine a handful of local designers, an affinity for rebellion and the nonchalance you can only find in a beachside township, this is the result.
At the forefront of the Cools brand is self-dubbed “easy going” essentials and offbeat prints. Reminiscent of ‘80s resortwear with the added wearability of modern street style aesthetics, cult staples including corduroy jackets, Cuban shirts and sweatshirts are seen in a welcomed revival. The journey of expressive style begun in a coastal shack in Sydney thanks to founder and creative director Nat Taubman, and after just five years in the design game, Barney Cools can be found across the Tasman in New Zealand just as it is found in the bustling metropolis of New York.
The relaxed looks carry the brand, but its ethos spans across music and forms the laid-back DNA of the lifestyle label. Coinciding with the release of new collections, the Cools clan collaborate with international producers – such as Danish Turbotito and New York’s Ryan Cavanaugh – for poolside-worthy mix tapes.
Expanding the offering, Barney Cools will launch poolside suiting in September 2019 and footwear in October 2019. To shop the current collection, visit barneycools.com
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE OCTOBER 2019 EDITION OF ICON AUSTRALIA.
RECEIVE YOUR ISSUE HERE.