We sat down with The Arlo Studio co-founders Charlotte (right) and Julz (left) about their unique brand, NY fashion week, and their burning passion for fashion.
When did you realise you loved fashion and when/how did The Arlo Studio come about?
Jules: The moment for me was when I was quite young – my grandmother taught me the basics of sewing and left me to play around with it. I was instantly fascinated by how I could cut and mold a two dimensional piece of fabric into a moving and functional creation. From a young age, I played on my grandma's sewing machine and it was the start of a long-term love affair with fashion.
Charlotte: The Arlo Studio was originally my graduate label that I started in my final year of design college. My fashion design story began much later than Jules’. I always loved clothing and halfway through a law degree at the Australian National University I was bored with my studies and I was craving a more creative career path. I think coming from a non-creative background made me hungry to learn as much as I could. Since graduating in 2018, The Arlo Studio has shown at Vancouver Fashion Week (2019), and New York Fashion Week (2020). In 2019, I was fortunate to win the 2019 Graduate of the Year Award (Fashion Design) from the Design Institute of Australia.
What is the main purpose and vision of the brand?
Jules: Our goal in this industry is to find a way to make sustainable fashion desirable and accessible. Our experience in the industry has been incredibly gratifying, but has also unfortunately taught us how destructive it can be. The fashion industry is one of the greatest pollutants in the world and our mission is to help educate the consumer on this while providing a fun and sustainable alternative.
Charlotte: Covid-19 has been a great opportunity for us to stop and reflect on what kind of business we’re building. While every business needs to be viable, we feel it is integral to incorporate social responsibility into what we do. During the months of lock down restrictions, we’ve put our skills and resources to designing and sewing reusable face masks for the staff and visitors of Wayside Chapel – an organisation dedicated to providing services and support to the homeless and marginalised groups.
Jules: We chose face masks for two reasons; 1. Covid-19 has really emphasised how unequal access to crucial resources are across society and 2. At our core, we care about sustainability and being eco-friendly. We kept seeing disposable masks littered across the city, and thought that if we could help in some small way, we should. We currently sell our face masks at our website and for every mask sold, we donate another. To date, we’ve donated 120 masks – and counting!
What are some of the biggest challenges of having your own brand?
Charlotte: When you are starting your own brand and small business, you’re wearing so many hats. You’re the designer, the delivery person, the website developer, the social media coordinator. You have to be on the ball all the time, or you miss opportunities. Having a partner who is on the same page is so important, and having strong communication skills is an absolute must!
What is something you've learned about the retail/fashion industry during Covid–19?
Charlotte: I have extensive retail industry experience, and Covid-19 has exposed that the Australian fashion business model is truly broken. Our industry is driven by a discount culture that means shoppers rarely buy full price.
The long-term impact of this is that large, long-established companies who mass-produce and often don’t have the most sustainable or ethical approach to production are able to survive, while smaller design operations who are trying to push the envelope of what Australian design can be ultimately struggle because they don’t have the same ability to produce and discount large quantities of stock.
It doesn’t have to be that way, and it is up to designers to be brave and refuse to compromise on ethical and sustainable standards, and to educate their audience about their pricing, and also for the shopper to prioritise longevity and quality over price. It's a long road ahead but we’re optimistic!
Do you have models you work with regularly?
Jules: We prefer to work with a diverse range of models, however one of our favourite Sydney-based models is Sydney Barber. She's just so lovely to work with and a lot of fun. We recently shot our “Gone Bush” Look Book in the Blue Mountains during winter with Sydney and an incredibly talented photographer Cole Bennetts. It was a small team of creatives, and we had the best time up in the mountains shooting among the regenerating bush.
Can you tell us about your experience working up towards NY fashion week, as well as the event itself?
Jules: The whole time leading up to the show we were both working separate jobs to help support our goal of reaching NYFW so it was a pretty intense and stressful time for us both. We spent a lot of long nights (and early mornings) working together on pattern making, sewing toiles, perfecting our fits and at times reassessing our designs and starting again, all because we wanted to present something that we both felt was a quality product.
We developed a really great personal and professional relationship through this process and loved every moment of it! There were days we would have set backs or misadventures but we were always able to laugh about it together and come up with a solution on our designated snack break. Even though there were tiring moments, we always knew that the other person was there for support, making it such a special journey. There were a lot of laughs along the way.
Charlotte: The event itself was a surreal blur of jetlag, adrenaline and pure joy. We had a great team of volunteers on the day and the energy backstage was buzzing with excitement. The show itself went off without a hitch and we were so happy with how it went – the feedback from industry and press was great and we had the opportunity to speak to so many incredible creatives and team members. Seeing our work appear in major publications like Harper's BAZAAR, Grazia, Elle and marie claire since the show has felt like a dream come true!
Have you hit a learning curve since the brand’s establishment?
Jules: The whole process has been a learning curve, and what we discovered most about the role of a designer through this process is that 80% of it is problem solving. Luckily problem solving was something we both excelled at, especially as a team.
By the end of it we found we really enjoyed finding and executing creative solutions.
Charlotte: Working on a winter collection in the heat of high summer (in a studio without air conditioning!) was a real challenge. There was a moment when I was sewing our massive puffer jacket in 40 degree heat while wearing a swimsuit just to keep cool! People tend to think that being a fashion designer is glamorous but let me tell you – sweating profusely in a tiny studio on very little sleep with tight deadlines is not glamorous in the slightest! Despite that, I wouldn't swap it for an office job!
If The Arlo Studio was a ____ it would be a _____:
A flower: A sunflower – because we’re not afraid to be bold, and are always looking for positives!
A TV show: Black Books – because our work has so many hilarious moments that leave us giggling.
An iconic woman: Marlene Dietrich – because she was glamorous and not afraid to be controversial!
A colour: Fuschia or Flame – because who has time to be a wallflower?
A dessert: Jelly and ice cream! Because sometimes the simple things are the best.
A song: Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill – a song to play during very late nights in the studio.
A cocktail: A Pink Negroni – because we’re strong, ambitious women aiming to lead the next generation of designers towards a fashionably sustainable future.