Turning off the high street
March 28, 2019
Kristen Meaclem designs outrageous, “ethically-conscious” clothing and swimwear for those who can’t find what they want on the high street.
Operating from her central Wellington studio, Meaclem sells exclusively through her Instagram (@astroprincess_), on a made-to-order basis.
She has designed for Australian rapper/musician, Mallrat, including the pink, ruffled pants worn in her “Uninvited” music video, and the outfit she performed at the Adelaide leg of Groovin’ The Moo festival in.
This collaboration with the up-and-coming singer was fantastic exposure for Meaclem (and her ruffled pants), with the video for “Uninvited” having been viewed over 490,000 times so far.
Meaclem said she liked the idea of celebrity endorsement, as public figures were able to convey their personal values through the products they choose to promote, such as choosing to wear independent design over high street clothing.
Similarly, with Instagram’s new direct purchase functions, she said it had become a way to sell a particular ‘brand’, lifestyle or aesthetic, rather than a single product.
She hoped this would promote consumers to be more aware, as by choosing to buy from particular brands, they were buying the “whole package,” including their ethics and values.
Meaclem said she hoped her own work would contribute to the movement away from fast fashion, as buyers began to realise the value of independently-produced clothing.
‘Fast fashion’ refers to the mass-production of inexpensive clothing, in response to the latest trends.
As chain store brands, profitability and speed of production are prioritised over quality or ethical responsibility, workers often endure unsafe conditions and extremely low wages.
Meaclem said it was difficult for emerging designers to establish themselves, as known labels could rely on their brand identity to sell expensive products. However, people were often less prepared to spend as much on independent designers’ work.
Although her designs, particularly her bikinis, had gained interest, often potential buyers would stop replying to her after she told them the prices, which ranged from between $160 to $180 for a custom set.
“I just really want to ask the people that don’t reply, what did you expect it to cost?”
She said she considered lowering her prices after three similar encounters, however, did not want to undervalue her labour.
“People are just warped. They think it’s expensive but it’s just fast fashion stuff is too cheap.”
When compared to fast fashion giants, independently-produced garments might seem expensive, but Meaclem said she was concerned that buyers did not consider the wider repercussions of clothing produced so cheaply.
“People just don’t think. It’s like, how does something that was shipped from another country cost only $12? Someone’s missing out,” she said.
Conversely, Meaclem tries to be as waste-conscious as possible, using scavenged fabric from op-shops to make mock ups of designs, rather than buying new fabric, and reusing the paper from patterns as many times as possible.
She said 99 percent of her garments were made to order to avoid overproduction.
Most of her designs began as garments she made for herself, as she tried to make as many of her own clothes as possible, both for ethical and financial reasons.
“Basically, I just make stuff that I like, post it on Instagram and hope that other people like it.”
She said she tried to follow her own taste and instincts, rather than attempting to predict what would be popular, as even if nobody responded to a particular design, she could just wear it herself.
As a result, her work is an eclectic mishmash of various styles, ranging from faux-fur trimmed flares and mesh baby doll dresses to a bikini covered in sequins made from Victoria Bitter cans.
“I feel like I’m always unconsciously driven by trends. It’s almost in the sense that I’m driven by it, so that I know what I don’t want. I wanna do the opposite”, she said.
Rather than adhering to fashion fads, Meaclem said she is drawn to the aesthetics of individuals that she would like to see wearing her garments, who she then reaches out to.
She said her dream customers would be Miley Cyrus, Grimes and Brooke Candy. She would love to design for “anyone kinda crazy”.
With the turn of the season, Meaclem will be experimenting with converting swimwear silhouettes into lingerie, as “no one is going to buy a bikini in winter”.