Tara Whalley On Her Career Path From Art To Fashion

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 1 month ago | Features

Tara Whalley.

We love Tara Whalley’s illustrations, and we also love supporting local artists and designers on our sleeve. Which is why we commissioned an original illustration from Tara and printed it on a fairly-made certified organic cotton tee!

We’ve released the tee, Flowers In A Vase, today, so we thought it was a perfect time to catch up with Tara to discuss her career path from illustration to fashion, the biggest issues in the fashion industry, and why supporting local creatives matters.

Well Made Clothes: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career to date. You started as an illustrator then moved into fashion design yeah?

Tara Whalley: I clearly remember the moment I seriously considered art as a career: it was in year 12 and I found out my work got into Top Arts and would be shown in the NGV.  It was always something I loved and worked hard at, but it made me realise it was something I should actually pursue. I looked at a lot of different art-based courses, but something really clicked when I discovered the BA Arts Textile Design design course at RMIT Brunswick. You could learn to paint, illustrate, knit, weave, screen print and create physical fabric and create artworks that people could live with in their home, or wear.  The possibilities were endless.

When I graduated, there was an opportunity to work as a product developer for war affected weavers in Guatemala – it sounded like the perfect fit for me, and I was over the moon to be accepted. I thought I might just stay for 3 months, but I fell in love with Guatemala and stayed for a year, working with the women, and also working on some amazing projects with ALAS – developing a sustainable footwear collection and also textile design work with Rebel Yuths and some other brands.

My love of local made and bright colour grew in Guatemala, and I knew back home in Melbourne if I were to start a label – a life long dream – I would want it to be bright and local.

I have been running my brand ever since, and also freelancing as a Textile Designer.

WMC: Where does your illustration inspiration come from?

Tara: I feel the way I create my prints also comes from my time in Guatemala. I was on the road a lot visiting different towns for design projects, and the easiest way for me to record my memories and what I saw was by painting.  So I have a habit of taking paper and paints with me where I go, and often collections will be based on plants I have noticed, or a feeling of a time.

WMC: You make all your clothing in Melbourne? Why is supporting your local industry important to you?

Tara: I like being able to visit my makers – it makes it feel like it's not just your brand, but a team effort.

WMC: What do you think the biggest problems with the fashion industry are?

Tara: I think there is an opportunity for people to feel seen. We have come a long way from the ‘90s and seeing just one body type, but I think it makes a big difference for people on a personal level when they see someone that resonates with them. It is important for people to be loved as they are. That's powerful!

WMC: How do you think designers should work towards a better industry?

Tara: I think the designers I know are definitely working hard to do as much as they can, it can take a little time, but the more you support the brands who are working towards a better industry, the more they can do to improve too.

I also think collaborations are important, when a big brand works with a smaller brand, everything becomes stronger.  When two brands work together, great ideas emerge. I never get tired of seeing what another brand does with an artwork I create – it’s always so exciting! Iron sharpens iron.

WMC: What are you working on through 2021?

Tara: I'm working on a lot of prints for my next collection, while doing a lot of Freelance Textile Design at the same time – there is a lot happening! I'm also working on a lot of new products and some exciting one-off pieces, and have an artist residency in future months.

Stay tuned!

Shop our the tee Tara designed for us, fairly-made from organic cotton, here.


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