the empowering fetish universe of teale coco
The designer, model, photographer and social media star hopes her label will liberate you.
Teale Coco by Ben Simpson
Teale Coco is a young Australian designer making fashionable fetish wear intended to liberate and empower everyone brave enough to wear it. Launched almost two years ago and selling a diverse range of distinctive pieces, from harnesses and underwear to jewellery, the label is a natural extension of its designer. Teale is the striking, long-limbed model wearing her pieces in each shot and, as a trained photographer she's responsible for much of the imagery also. Something of a modern contradiction, with the face of an angel and a 666 tattooed on her butt, Teale and her spiritual bondage-goth creations have garnered a huge following of dedicated fans. We spoke to the prolific all-rounder about her label being for everyone, famous customers and her tendency towards the dark side.
i-D: Having amassed an (oc)cult following online, can you give us a bit of scope on how and where you began?
Teale: I started off with MySpace like everyone else in my generation. I never had a following, just watched and learnt from others who were making it big online. Then I migrated to Tumblr, a place where I could finally save and share all my accumulated images. It wasn't until I got my Instagram account, just over four years ago, that my posts started receiving attention. At the time I was 19 and studying my Bachelor Degree in Photography. I had always been fascinated with portraiture and became particularly passionate about self-portraiture. I never considered myself to be 'model' material - I had black damaged hair, piercings and was considered 'weird' - but taking photos of myself made me feel good and dressing up was half the fun! I am my own artistic outlet.
You work as a model now also?
Not long after that I was scouted by a Melbourne agency. I shaved my head, removed most of my piercings and went back to blonde. So when I finished uni at 20 I worked as a model in New Zealand, Korea and Japan. I had been designing and making harnesses for myself and they were starting to get noticed online. That's when Teale Coco was born. Once I was back in Australia, I sought out local seamstresses to construct my designs and help me with my huge leap into the fashion industry.
People really respond to your designs.
I started my @tealecocothebrand instagram and watched as followers flooded to see my strange, fetish inspired designs. After less than a year of opening I was noticing big influencers and celebrities where showing interest. Kat Von D was the first recognizable person to order from me with people like FKA Twigs, Skrillex, Azealia Banks and Christy Mack following. I also have a personal instagram, which isn't far behind in terms of followers, it's exciting.
You promote a participatory culture and preach body positivity across the spectrum. In an industry notorious for catering exclusively to a certain look or size, what prompted you to rebel?
Born a rebel, die a rebel. I have always had a problem with authority and this comes across in my brand. I am fitting real people, not sizes. Real people do not come in standard sizes, we are all unique and beautiful. From my perspective, there is something seriously wrong with the fashion industry and what society deems to be normal. I want to help people see the change that is so very clearly in front of their eyes. Being an industry-working model, I see all sides of this industry. It helps me to see what is lacking and how to change that. People feel empowered and sexy no matter what shape and size wearing my designs and that is all I could ask for.
If bondage and fetish wear are considered synonymous with sexual liberation, how do you see your fashion as a medium to unleash internal freedom?
I was actually surprised by the amount of people who were showing interests in my designs initially; people from all different walks of life. Everyone has a fetish, I am just helping them play with it.
Yet you challenge the stigma that limits fetish wear to a certain subculture, sans the dilution. What is it about the dark side that you're most enamoured with?
I have always been drawn to the darkness because the light is boring. Everything is clear, the darkness leads to mystery, opens up doors you never knew existed.
What wisdom would you impart to other young creatives looking to follow in your footsteps?
Be you! All of you. Never limit yourself to one thing and don't over-plan your future because you NEVER can guess where life will take you. We are all here on this earth with a path, a purpose, a reason. Pursue what makes you happy and don't worry about where it will take you.
What inspires and influences your work?
I am a dreamy Pisces lost in my own reality. I don't know what's real anymore.
What's something we wouldn't be able to deduce about you from your online persona?
I am misunderstood online. I am often accused of worshiping the Devil, which is false. The Devil's not real (but if he was he'd worship me). Hell, however, is real and you can find it all around you. I have created my own sanctuary in the inferno.