how melbourne label tlc are very politely disrupting fashion
From repurposing blankets into It garments to taking part in guerilla fashion shows, TLC aren’t interested in the fashion rule book.
Photography Agnieszka Chabros
To say the fashion industry is speeding up is an understatement. Fast fashion, fast media, fast trends and fast style means brands can be metabolised in an instant. So it makes perfect sense Melbourne label TLC is choosing to slow right down. Designers Thea Blocksidge and Linda Nguyen are valuing collaboration and sustainability over massive — perhaps unchecked — growth.
Together they're building a reputation for sustainably and creatively repurposed garments. Already, their fingerprints are visible on the city's fashion scene, with their signature blanket pieces making regular appearances on Instagram feeds and at house parties. The pair's profile rose once again following their involvement in what they call a "peaceful fashion protest."
At this year's Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, TLC took part in a guerrilla fashion show which stormed the festival hub beside the Royal Exhibition building. Although they're fully engaged in the city's commercial fashion community, they took part to respectfully express their commitment to Melbourne's independent fashion spirit. We caught up with the pair to chat about what it takes to make something truly original.
TLC feels like it subscribes to many fashion ideologies. How do you describe the brand?
TLC stands for Thea x Linda Collaboration — it's a Do It Yourself art and clothing project between us. Essentially, our work revolves around four key elements: repurposing pre-loved clothing or dead stock; using excess fabric to create new garments; incorporating artisanal techniques like weaving, embroidery, fabric manipulation, drawing and painting; and showcasing our work across various mediums, including performance, film and installation.
I like that focus on recycled materials. What interests you about repurposing garments?
We enjoy the freedom of working with second hand materials. It's very experimental and you're forced to think outside the box and problem solve. We've always altered the way we wear clothes: a shirt worn back-to-front, a skirt as a top, cut this off sew this on. Versatility and interchangeability are important factors. We also believe there's enough waste in the world and utilising pre-existing materials means we can minimise the waste output in production. The resulting aesthetic is pretty unique. We describe it as artisanal, unconventional, playful.
We've talked about sustainability, but I feel like the other tenement of TLC is collaboration.
TLC thrives on creative partnership — we constantly inspire each other and rely on this dynamic for our projects. We share the same core values in our work, so the design process happens organically as a team. What makes us unique is that we both approach our craft differently: Thea is experimental and always pushes the boundaries between fashion and wearable art, whereas Linda has a more refined and methodical approach to her work.
Tell me about the renegade show you did during, but not as part of, VAMFF.
It was a kind of a peaceful protest, very playful, we were approached by Folk Collective to dress as many models as possible in TLC. The presentation also featured works by Seb Brown and Post Sole Studio, with makeup by Tara Lama. Our collective desire was to provoke the audience, to question traditional standards within the fashion industry as well as the consumerist culture that drives our current fashion system. It was also a wonderful opportunity for us to release our third collection Urning Time alongside some archived pieces.
I think it's fair to say your pieces are in high demand. But looking to the future, they're not easy to produce on a larger scale. How could you grow your business without disrupting the design?
That's something on the radar for us. We're not driven by the desire to sell better, but to create garments with more wearability by searching for a balance between art and fashion, and a way it can be incorporated into an everyday lifestyle.
How do you do that though: maintain aesthetics and principals while growing a business? Especially when social media has seen your audience expand so fast.
We are not consumer driven or pressured to design in a certain way because of the way we approach our craft and the materials we have. You're definitely right in that social media is a huge tool for us, we're constantly meeting like-minded artists that inspire our work through those channels.
Text Jamie-Maree Shipton
Photography Agnieszka Chabros
Hair and Make Up Janice Wu
Model Abby Martin @ Azalea Models