Over the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to meet with some extremely talented designers here in Melbourne. Each designer has taken time out of their busy schedules to chat to me about their labels and answer some questions I had about their manufacturing. First up is Chorus. Chorus is an independent fashion label, designed and made here in Melbourne. The label was set up by best friends Cassandra Wheat (Cass) and Louise Pannell (Lou), here is what these lovely ladies had to tell me when we met.
About Cass & Lou:
Cass and Lou became friends in High School when they were 16 years old. Each of them went on to further their education at RMIT; Cass studied Fashion Design and Lou Visual Merchandising. After the pair graduated Cass took on a Masters of Fashion Design in Milan, before moving to Amsterdam to design for her long time hero's Viktor and Rolf. Whilst Cass was off kicking goals in Milan and Amsterdam, Lou was also building up great experience as a Visual Merchandiser in the UK. Before heading back to Australia to take on a role at Mimco and have two beautiful little girls.
It was while Lou was pregnant that they decided to come together and utilise their complimenting skill set to start their own label, and Chorus was born. Lou was actually pregnant, not just pregnant with Chorus. The pair now apply the vast amount of experience they have gained over the years to Chorus, using it as testing ground to explore diverse creative processes and the merging of their aesthetics.
What was your inspiration behind your latest collection?
In a departure from the traditional fashion cycle, Chorus are pleased to announce Monthly Editions, a new mode of practice that will see the release of a single, made-to-order outfit each month. With the desire to offer customisation and allow for a more sustainable production system. Chorus Monthly Editions provide a considered wardrobe for the contemporary woman who seeks courageous design within flexible clothing. The traditional working wardrobe of pants jackets and shirts has been explored and redefined to become pieces that enhance the individual and take them effortlessly from work to leisure and beyond.
How do you start designing your collection?
For each collection Chorus brings in a creative partner, this time, Maria Montes. Cass explained that the design process starts based on whatever she is obsessed with at the time. She loves to bring to life what is happening in her world through the design of the clothing. Working closely with Maria Montes they let the design process not the concept of a season dictate the aesthetic choices, whilst keeping true to their own functional and playful values. The core thread that binds each collection to the next is the belief that looking dressed up and feeling relaxed needn’t be mutually exclusive.
Do you ever get designers block?
Cass explained that she rarely gets designers block however, sometimes when a style isn't working out the way she imagined, it can get very frustrating. "I need to learn when to let go!" Cass said as she held up a pair of pants for an upcoming Monthly Edition. "These pant's look pretty simple, but believe it not it took hours and many redesigns to get them right, I had to go back to them a number of times before I was happy". They're a great pair of pants and I'm especially happy that Cass stuck it out, these pants are comfy, stylish and smart all rolled into one.
Photo credit: Christopher Robert
What's your favourite item from your latest Monthly Edition and why?
Lou's favourite item is the Hashtag Coat - Wool. It's light yet warm & smart and can be worn all year round as a coat, jacket or even a dress. The coat offers a slim elegant silhouette, cinched at the waistline with inset elastic. Cass's favourite piece is the the Hashtag Shirt, the beauty of this shirt is it can be worn buttoned up or open and relaxed, easily transitioning from day to night.
Photo credit: Christopher Robert
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Gao
Does your work have an environment agenda ?
In the past Chorus has launched a full collection, however, this would often mean that they would over produce some items which meant they would then be put on sale or go to waste. This really devalues the amount of time and effort that has gone into each collection, so Cass and Lou decided to change their business model. Their new Monthly Edition business model means Chorus will release an outfit each month and made to order. This mean's NO WASTE and allows for a more sustainable production system. Also, as each edition is not trend driven each item can be worn for years. The wearer is considered the final and ultimate, collaborator.
What does sustainable fashion mean to you?
Slow Fashion has changed the business model for Chorus, designing with longevity in mind and not contributing to landfill. Producing low units provides a sense of exclusivity and emotional durability. Cass explained how they want to make clothes that last and will be worn time and time again. This to them is more important than using fibres such as organic cotton that uses gallons of water to be produced. DID YOU KNOW? The average cotton t-shirts wastes 700 gallons of water during the manufacturing process.
What would you say to consumers who think sustainable, ethically made clothes are unfashionable?
There are many misconceptions when it comes to sustainable fashion. Providing skeptical consumers with information and education on the design process and how long each items takes to make can really make a difference. Education is key.
Finally, what do you think the future of sustainable fashion looks like?
The younger generation of designers have sustainability high on their agenda. They start the design process with sustainability in mind rather than it being an after thought. Small companies have set an example for the larger high profile companies and more of them are coming to the table with new sustainable practices, environmental values and ethics. Things are looking bright for the future, certainly not hippy or hemp.
Photo credit: Christopher Robert
The first outfit to launch on April 20th showcases the Hashtag Coat, Pant and Shirt as seen above, each style offered in two colour ways. The amplified version, for the brave woman, features an energetic print by designer Maria Montes. This outfit will be available for order online as of April 20th, with orders individually cut and made, no additional stock will be produced, so it is exclusively within this two-week order window, closing 4th May, that clients can secure their piece. Be the first to hear about the very first Monthly Edition by Chorus and Maria Montes by signing up to their newsletter here or you can follow them on Facebook & Instagram.