Australian brands that do #cottagecore in a uniquely sustainable way

There’s a new fashion trend that’s been popping up, first on TikTok, and now it has moved onto Instagram and Pinterest. Cottagecore is a mix of 21st century hippies, Japanese Mori Girl and Lolitta, a touch of the 18th century, a love of enormous sleeves and a girlishness that harks back to simpler times.

The origin of the Cottagecore aesthetic is one that emphasises Western idyls of the countryside, farming, nature, simplicity and peacefulness, however it has also been adopted by a wide range of young people – particularly lesbians – searching for a decorative ‘soft’ place to identify with, somewhere to celebrate all things handmade, sustainable and ethical. 

This Soft Aesthetic, or Cottagecore fashion, is inspired by the Edwardian era – both the men’s and women’s clothing styles to be worn by either men or women now – and a touch of grandma style.

What is fascinating about this new style is that it comes at a time when a range of new fashion production concepts are also playing out in the retail world due to the impact of the coronavirus – the slow fashion movement, being locked down and dreaming of the great outdoors, the increased interest in using sustainable fabrics and the ideas behind #buylessbuybetter. 

In Australia there are a number of interesting emerging and independent brands that fit neatly into this new Cottagecore trend, making soft, voluminous, natural fabric garments that seem equally suited to roaming the meadows of the British Isles, as they do to traipsing the paddocks, forests and beaches of Australia.

MUSE THE LABEL

Established in 2016, Muse the Label is based in Melbourne and handmade makes everything in linen. The founder of the brand does everything from creating the patterns, choosing the fabrics, sewing the garments and even acts as the delivery driver. 

The linen is sourced from mills that guarantee a fair living wage, and are fully compliant with current REACH regulations. The brand also re-uses as much designer leftovers, mill overrun fabrics and deadstock fabric as it can. Muse only produces small runs of items that are trans-seasonal, so that they reduce wastage and can also create limited editions based on available fabrics. 

The brand’s aesthetic is based on a love of natural fabrics and being out in Australian landscapes, hence the mix of rich earthy and natural colours. This is Cottagecore done in a simple, feminine and slow fashion style.

To shop, go to https://musethelabel.com/ 

REVEL KNITWEAR

Another Melbourne brand also set up in 2016, Revel Knitwear is all about handmade knitwear that is ‘made by women, for women’. 

“I wanted to create knitwear that was classic and timeless. Being hand-made, it provides more of a bespoke and exclusive experience for the consumer. A knit that has been truly made for you, with a lot of passion and love,” explains brand founder and knitwear designer Shannyn Lorkin.

Revel Knitwear has five core values that they stick to. The first is Handmade; all the pieces are hand-knitted by a team of Australian crafters who take up to 20 hours to create one sweater. “I gained all my knowledge and skill of hand-knitting from my grandmother Beverley who this label is a legacy for. She taught me the value of wearing something that has soul and that has love in every stitch,” says Lorkin. 

Using only natural fibres like wool and cotton are the second core value; and repurposing waste is the third. Revel Knitwear makers save all the fibre off-cuts to be spun into new yarn, and use recycled cotton yarn fabric labels and biodegradable packaging. 

Value four is linked to reducing waste, the made-to-order production of garments. The items are all made on demand – which is why it can take 14-21 days for delivery after an order is made. They do have a small number of made to order items during different seasons – like winter – but everything is generally only made after it has been bought. The final value is tied to using natural materials – wool doesn’t need to be washed very often as it is odour resistant, and even if you do wash it, it only needs a light handwash saving on water usage. 

Revel Knitwear is oversized, with lots of textural details, fun coloured stripes and with fabulous voluminous sleeves – the perfect sweater to go on top of a Cottagecore linen dress.

To shop the brand, go to https://www.revelknitwear.com/

EVA’S SUNDAY

Eva’s Sunday is a brand that’s based in country Australia, and again works almost entirely in linen. The design philosophy is based around agelessness and comfort, and of course, slow fashion and natural materials. 

The brand doesn’t release seasonal collections as the majority of their items have been designed to be layered depending on the season, neutral shades like white, cream and grey are balanced with darker blues and touches of black, plus additional pastel shades of green. 

“We design and release new ranges consistently throughout the year and prefer to avoid the strict seasonal approach to garment design, opting instead for pieces that work well layered up or down depending on your climate,” writes Nic MacIsaac, the founder and CEO.

The voluminous shapes, natural fabrics, asymmetrical cuts and additions like rosettes and flowers makes Eva’s Sunday the perfect example of Mori Girl Cottagecore style

To shop the brand, go to https://www.evassunday.com.au/

GARÇONNE

Designer Kate Thornell created Garçonne in 2018 after searching for clothes that not only suited her personal style – a mix of “French workwear from the 30s to the high-waisted pants and gorgeous dresses of the 40s; Harris Tweed waistcoats from the 70s to the denim overalls I wore as a child in the 80s” – but also fit into the Slow Fashion Movement.

Thornell chose the brand’s name for its historical links to the 1920s French flappers, as well as its tie to the Tomboy fashion aesthetic. “Garçonne is [also] used today to describe the modern gentlewoman: think Tilda Swinton and Dianne Keaton,” writes Thornell.

Although the brand originally started as an idea for a small knitwear range, after working with a knitwear consultant and enjoying the creativity, Thornell decided to take the leap and launch as a full womenswear brand also incorporating linen garments.

The brand only produces limited numbers of items using natural yarns like alpaca and wool, and linen in small runs per each trans-seasonal collections. 

Shop the brand at https://garconne.com.au/ 

MERRI

Merri is more of a boho Mori Girl style with influence from the 50s, 60s and 70s. The designer describes the brand concept as being “born out of a love affair with my mothers’ wardrobe”. 

The collections are again relatively limited and once sold out, they are not restocked. The garments are non-mass produced and ethically handmade, with the idea that the pieces will last long enough to become heirlooms.

“… at Merri I wanted to create beautiful clothing and accessories with meaning and soul,” writes the designer and founder Rhea. 

To shop the brand, go to https://merrithelabel.com/

VERONICA TUCKER

Veronica Tucker is a Melbourne designer who founded her label in 2019. Her brand is more like a traditional atelier where she designs, cuts and hand sews all her garments in very limited runs. 

What makes her work different and exciting is that she also produces bespoke designs on request that feature her signature use of volume, ruffles and natural fabrics. Tucker’s style is feminine but comes with a polish that adds an understated elegance to her work. 

Currently working on her new collection, you can’t actually shop her brand at the moment. As a slow fashion brand, Tucker only produces limited runs and once they’re gone, they’re gone. This also reduces waste as she only makes as many items as are being bought. 

To discover more about the brand, go to https://veronicatuckerthelabel.com/, and you can order a bespoke design by emailing hello@veronicatuckerthelabel.com

LIYA MIRA

Based in Sydney, designer and crafter Liya Mira creates handmade and hand-dyed clothing from organic fabrics. Her style is definitely at the hippy end of the Cottagecore spectrum with the simple silhouettes acting as a platform for her natural dying techniques.

The garments take about four weeks to make, and all of the colours are created from natural plants and other organic materials. Each garment is unique due to the natural and handmade nature of Mira’s process.

Mira designs, cuts and sews all of the garments, making the brand part of the slow fashion movement. As the unique aspect comes from the hand-dyeing process, the pieces are designed to be worn layered for a trans-seasonal wardrobe. 

Shop the brand at https://www.liya.com.au/

ESS LABORATORY

ESS Laboratory by designer Hoshika Oshimi sits at the gothic end of the Cottagecore trend with its focus on historical cuts and inspiration mixed with a focused attention to detail and high quality Japanese fabrics. 

Oshimi’s work is hand-crafted in Melbourne in limited production runs using natural fabrics and trans-seasonal concepts. There are no synthetic fabrics or non-biodegradable materials used, everything is made from hemp, wool, linen, cotton and silk. Even the buttons are made of natural materials like shell and horn, or self-covered using the same fabrics. 

The manufacturing is local and waste is avoidable by only creating as many garments as are needed for each trans-seasonal collection. The brand also makes special orders on some pieces so that they can tailor the designs personally. 

On top of all these sustainable practices, ESS Laboratory also offers a repair service for all their garments. Minimal repairs like buttons, and hem adjustments are free, however they will also do more substantial work like tailoring, large patching and resizing for a fee.

The brand’s aesthetic fits neatly into those of the original Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Comme Des Garçons, with the same attention to textures and timeless shapes with a unique artistic twist. 

To shop the brand, go to https://ess-laboratory.com/.

For more on Australian fashion, read Thoughtful, wearable clothes for every body by Jude Ng.

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