A look at local clothing line Alpha60

Melbourne based label, Alpha60, emulates the best of Melbourne urban culture, local artists, and retro style in their quirky, yet sophisticated clothing line.

Brother-Sister duo Alex and Georgie, the visionaries behind Alpha60, launched their line in 2005. In the 12 years since, it has emerged into a label known for its unique style and themed colour scheme each season.

Meg Dunn, a retail assistant currently working at the Alpha60 men’s concept in store in Fitzroy fell in love with the brand that suits all ages and wears the line herself.

“What I love about this line is that it incorporates Melbourne style as well as designs from local artists.”

“I am the oldest member but I love it here,” she said.

The line at Alpha60 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Photo: Zathia Bazeer

Alpha60 aims for minimalism and sophistication with a hint of quirk, and rather than following trends they intend to set them.

Susan Bag, who has been working with the brand for five years wears the pieces to experiment with style and step out of her comfort zone.

“When I lived in London [Alpa60] was one brand I missed shopping at. The brand is style based not trend based and is particular to Melbourne.”

The brand is in its 13th year, with an Alpha60 concept store, which incorporates minimalist and monochrome pieces, opening last year in support of St Paul Cathedral.

The brand is known for its suitability for all ages and sizes, and its gender neutral pieces, which have been part of its signature style long before Vogue’s gender fluid cover with Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik.

“There is something for everyone, [it] isn’t very girly or very androgynous,” said Susan.

In addition to a successful line and strong following, Alpha60 has had successful solo shows at Australian Fashion Week and Loreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. The brand has showroom’s in both Paris and New York and is a two-time finalist of the  Tiffany and Co. Designer Award.

With an outfit displayed in the National Gallery of Victoria’s 200 Years of Australian Fashion Exhibition in 2016, Alpha60 is making a notable mark internationally and at home in Australia.

Written by Zathia Bazeer. 

Cultivating workplace culture: how migrants are enriching this Collingwood enterprise

Consumerism, fast fashion and immigration are issues that are fast becoming household discussions. The ever-increasing conversations surrounding these socio-economic and environmental topics are making them much harder to ignore.

As we all struggle to be better humans, to find a way to make a meaningful difference, one social-enterprise in Fitzroy has already done just that. For almost a decade, The Social Studio has been employing a globalisation of a different kind using an untapped resource many Australian employers are ignoring – individuals of migrant and refugee backgrounds.

In February of 2017 it was reported that the unemployment rate of East African and Middle Eastern immigrants was averaging 33 percent in the first five years of settlement; six times higher than the national average. While, most migrants will cite employment as an integral part of their settlement, they often face hurdles in getting into the Australian workforce.

The Social Studio, situated amongst the cultural crucible of Collingwood’s Smith Street is a not-for-profit social enterprise on a mission. Founded in 2009, what originally began as a provider of design and sewing classes has since evolved into a successful, multi-faceted organisation intent on improving the lives of those most marginalised in our community. According to CEO Eugenia Flynn, the enterprise’s objectives are simple; “We use the vehicle of a fashion and hospitality business including a clothing label, retail shop, digital printing studio, café and a catering business to create meaningful social change”.

Through its fashion label, textile studio, and café, The Social Studio employs young refugees and immigrants, or those hailing from migrant backgrounds, offering employment with a creative twist. Employees are encouraged to express and share their culture, forging links between refugee and migrant groups and the wider community. Clothes sold in the Social Studio’s Smith Street store are produced locally, with sustainable resources to minimise environmental impact. Designs are affordably priced and feature vibrant, bold prints with significant cultural meanings behind each piece. The adjoining café, The Cutting Table, is also staffed by young refugees and migrants and serves a menu featuring a blend of East and West African fare.

The label’s designs feature vibrant prints all produced locally and sustainably. Photo: Alice Wilson

In addition to providing employment opportunities, the Social Studio makes it possible for refugees to get certified within the areas of hospitality and design. “Our purpose is to create meaningful and long-term pathways into employment for young people from a refugee or migrant background, and who may have experienced barriers to accessing education and/or securing employment.” Says Ms Flynn. “We provide TAFE level training, work experience, volunteer opportunities and employment in fashion, manufacturing, retail and hospitality, creating imperative education and employment opportunities and pathways.”

Since its beginning, the Social Studio has provided education and employment for over 580 people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. One such individual who has benefited from this enterprise is Abuk Bol, who worked as a seamstress in Sudan before she came to Australia in 2004 as a refugee. Abuk came across the Social Studio, after several failed attempts to get into the Australian workforce. She has since gone on to work for Brunswick-based bridal designer Mariana Hardwick and is now the owner of her own enterprise, Twich Women’s Sewing Collective, which sells clothing and homewares in her home town of Dandenong. “I was interested in clothes making and wanted to do something that could get me a job, being an immigrant and hardly knowing English, I decided to do the Certificate III in clothing production with the Social Studio.”

Abuk’s story is a great example of how increasing just one persons skill set can, in turn, work towards increasing many. The Social Studio champions multiculturalism and demonstrates that these individuals contribute to, rather than diminish the economy. “I now have my own store and space where I can help women like me get certification and jobs.” Abuk says.  “I would like to provide women, especially ones in a minority, the opportunity to get an education and a job. Or just somewhere they feel they belong.”

The Social Studio and Cutting Table Cafe, located on Collingwood’s Smith St. Photo: Alice Wilson

This sense of belonging is perhaps the most important contribution the Social Studio provides. “For students it’s developing friendships and broadening their community, branching out and become more open to everyone else.” Says Helen Kelabora, a teacher for the Certificate III clothing course the Studio offers. The benefits of an organisation like the Social Studio are as diverse as the services they offer to those they employ and to the Yarra community. For Eugenia Flynn, the is much more work to be done, “we would love to consolidate our work across the past eight years and create a deeper social impact” and it’s through the help of the Yarra community that this can be achieved.

Written by Alice Wilson

Ashley’s American vintage dream taking Melbourne by storm

Californian native, Ashley Tell, arrived in Australia with her suitcase, ambition and a mind full of big dreams. After landing in Sydney with a three-month working visa, she had no idea she would quickly call Australia home.

“I came down with a three-month ticket expecting to leave,” she said. “[I] Landed in Sydney and I rang a girl who was my roommate when traveling Greece … she said ‘Come down to Melbourne.’ I moved down here, stayed with her for a week and it just kind of evolved from there.”

Ahsley sorting. Photo: Marnie Cohen
Ahsley Tell sorting vintage clothing at Global Vintage Collective. Photo: Marnie Cohen

Twenty-two years later, and Ashley owns one of the most sought-after vintage clothing businesses in Melbourne. Located on Church St, Richmond, Global Vintage Collective features a grand selection of hand-picked vintage items straight from the U.S. Her collection is stylish and unique, and there is always a piece or 20 that will catch your eye.

Ashley Tell opened the doors to Global Vintage Collection just four years ago and hasn’t looked back.

“It was an organic process,” Ashley explained. The store is owned by former business partner, Ann. In the past the two had a clothing label, Darling Clementine, which featured an array of vintage dresses. The pair’s work was successful, with the label being sold in Sportsgirl.

When Ann approached Ashley with the idea of opening a shop together, Ashley quickly jumped on board.

“Long story short, I don’t have keys to the front door. When [Ann] is shut on a Sunday, I’m shut on a Sunday. I’m part of her umbrella,” she said. “We’ve always had a great working relationship.”

It was from this that Global Vintage Collective began. Ashley explained that her deep love for thrift clothing inspired the store’s concept and quirky style.

“It started with a trip to California,” Ashley recalled. “I called some of my cowboy friends and said ‘Look, when you’re done with your cowboy boots, just keep them. I’ll sling you some money for them,’ and then the concept started.”

A string of success at market stalls across the state ignited Ashley’s passion for selling the best of American vintage selection down under.

Instead of receiving shipments of clothes to her doorstep, Ashley flies back to the U.S. for months at a time to stock up on hand-picked items.

“I love what I do but sometimes I think, ‘gosh this is hard,'” Ashley confesses. “I am hand-selecting everything, and it might be financially less beneficial for me, but I also think that’s the part I enjoy the most.”

Ashley Tell amongst the racks at Global Vintage Collective. Photo: Marnie Cohen

With annual trips back and forth to California, Ashley brings home the latest vintage fashion and makes it available to the hungry Australian market. While these individual pieces are full of character and life, they don’t always come from the happiest of places.

‘The people who I buy my stuff from, I want to say they’re down and outers. Life has been hard to these people … like seeing a full set of teeth is rare. It sounds horrible but it’s true,” she said.

Despite the tough living conditions of the people she sources her items from, she is always amazed by their fighting spirit.

“These people are always so gracious … it’s always a humble time when I’m purchasing. When I shop in America, I’m not in glamorous places, it’s quite the contrary. It’s always an eye-opener.”

Ashley has confronted many challenges along the way and is proud of her work and the journey she has taken so far.

“I can’t really say there’s a big regret,” she said. ‘There has never really been an ‘Oh shoot … why didn’t I do that?'”

She remains passionate about her work and positive about the success and future of Global Vintage Collective.

You can visit Ashley at Global Vintage Collective, 245 Church Street, Richmond
With opening hours subject to change, first visit the Facebook page.

By Marnie Cohen