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Sydney-based designer Brendan Plummer’s conceptual collections are rooted in academic research

Photography by Drita Ajredin
Words by Kate Streader

I think my work and brand are best described as experimental and a clusterfuck of conceptual referencing.”

When Brendan Plummer began sharing his designs on Instagram, he didn’t expect his work to receive the level of attention it has. In fact, his entire foray into fashion has been a somewhat unexpected, yet natural, progression.

He first became interested in fashion through being immersed in skate culture and streetwear, which eventually prompted him to leave his job to study fashion.


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It was during his studies that Brendan became interested in the connections between fashion and academia, which he now explores through his label. His collections seek to unpack ideas, usually associated with particular spaces.

The seed for the latest Brendan Plummer collection was public male bathrooms which bloomed into an investigation into masculinity, body image, and the lenses through which society views men. We caught up with Brendan to hear about his process, what he wants to convey through his designs, and when we can expect his online store to launch.

Tell us about you. What’s your fashion background? 

 

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My fashion background isn’t super extensive. I come from a family completely absorbed in music and music theatre, but I started to get into fashion through skating back in the early 2010s. From there, I got into the world of high fashion through the boom of streetwear a few years ago. When I was a tradesman after leaving school, I put all the money I earnt into clothes and brands I liked.

 

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I only delved deeper into fashion after I decided to study fashion amidst an existential crisis whilst still a tradesman. I thought it would be a good idea to put two and two together and combine my love for art and design with my interests in fashion. While studying, I was continually introduced to different fashion genres and influences – for example, the importance of sociology and ontology [in fashion].

There are tutors at UTS like Ailsa Weaver and Kinae Kim – and, similarly, people I have interned for, such as Jordan Dalah – who I felt really recognised my interests in conceptual art and fashion alike, and guided me in the direction of where I am now.

How did the label get started? Talk us through the process and the challenges. 

 

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I’m not exactly sure how it started, if I am completely honest. Because I am still studying, I enjoy sharing my process, work and research on my Instagram. I think people really liked the print work I was doing and it’s taken off from there. I guess I wasn’t really expecting the reception it’s had but, nevertheless, it’s a great opportunity. 

I think in regards to process, with every capsule collection or idea I have, it always starts with a space. For example, my last collection looks at representations of masculinity within the bathroom. From there I think it’s just me becoming obsessive with practices and events that take place within a selected space and unpacking it for all. 

What were you trying to achieve from the project at the time? How has this evolved and what are you trying to communicate through the brand now? 

 

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I think I was just trying to show exactly what is felt within a male bathroom and the almost unspoken anxieties and effects of the space on anyone who uses it. I think most of this is best seen in language embedded into my work, such as the phrase ‘he’s packing’ which is seen in the briefcase jeans and my print work of Fia and Tom which gives clear reference to ‘size matters’.

 

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I guess I was aiming for a collection rich with references but, at the same time, being more commercial than previous work I have done. I think, overall, my work is evolving from broader studies of spaces to something that is more personal and perhaps even more perverted or grotesque. I take a lot of inspiration from Harmony Korine and Gaspar Noe for their in-your-face films and I would like to aim to be able to replicate that impact within my clothes and research as much as possible. 

How would you describe your label to someone who’s never seen it before? 

I always find this question hard because sometimes I don’t even know, but I think my work and brand are best described as experimental and a clusterfuck of conceptual referencing. The bland and boring background of corporate wear or a simple shirt and jeans allows for form and print to be explored and linked to any research I think is valuable to my concept. 

What are you most proud of in your work on your label?

 

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I am proud of my work in a range of areas. Specifically speaking though, I think with my last collection I was stoked to be able to make a collection that mostly looks at dick jokes and somewhat hilarious references, but put it into something that isn’t tacky and edgy but perhaps something more ‘academic’ and considered. 

I do a fashion film for every collection with a very close friend Sinclair Suhood. We’ve done three short films now and our previous two have been selected for film festivals overseas. It was particularly honouring and surreal as a student to be selected for Milano Fashion Film Festival with our film Objekt in Raum in which we competed against Comme Des Garcons, Gucci, Dior Couture, British Vogue, etc within the Experimental category as one of 12 films. 

What do you wish you knew when you started?

Simple is key, design-wise. I always over-research and then inherently over-design and the end result isn’t exactly what I wanted but I think it’s super important to be able to recognise what’s most important and focus on it.

More broadly speaking though, I think vulnerability is the key to being able to create well and show off to people exactly who you are and what you want to make, because the horror of throwing yourself head first into awkward situations always ends up as a confidence boost when it works out.

Who do you think is most exciting in Australian fashion right now? 

 

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There are so many people at the moment who I think are really exciting. I think the likes of Jordan Dalah, Alix Higgins and Amy Crookes, Laura and Deanna Fanning for Kiko Kostadinov are definitely ones who are showing what Australia has to offer.

But also (as I’m still studying), there are other students around me such as Luca Sheridan, Alex Enticknap, Ben Mich, Kristen Higgins and Woosin Cho who are making incredible work and I think Australia has a lot of potential in people such as those mentioned, so the best is yet to come. 

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

If I’m brutally honest, I think a lot needs to change. I think there are brands out there who are run by smart business folk, but I feel like they should be paying interns or if it’s collaborative, credit and appreciation needs to be a priority before things end up in a sticky situation. 

I think as well, there’s an old guard in Australian fashion, but I think it needs refreshing and more importance and funding needs to be put on talent coming out of our own academic spaces.

Perhaps even our own Fashion East would be amazing in being able to provide people that don’t have a lot of money with the necessary resources in order to continue to showcase their talent instead of graduates resorting to Masters degrees overseas in order to make the impact they would like.  

Dream Australian collaborators? 

 

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I’d love to work with some Australian artists, particularly Polly Borland who looks at these quite moulded and grotesque forms which I love so much. I think immediately, however, I want to work with musicians, conductors and people able to code for my next collection which revolves around the visualisation of sound – something I have previously looked at with textiles development and interpreting Erik Satie’s music instructions. 

Go-to dinner party playlist?

My close friend group is somewhat hilarious with the music choices we put on when we have dinner at anyone’s house. It ranges from Marty Robbins’ ‘Big Iron’, to Plantasia, Radiohead, Croatian Amor or Aphex Twin. Anything calming and interesting enough to keep us enthused is a go-to. 

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

Lately, I’m going through a bit of a refresh of what clothes I own. I aspire to dress like Balenciaga’s latest runways as that’s a personal taste of mine but I guess any samples I have lying around, hugely baggy and oversized clothes, anything football (Arsenal) related or able to wear easily is a must for me. Crocs, Needles x Troentorp mules, Kiko Asics and Docs are the go-to shoes.  

How can we buy one of your pieces? 

 

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The clothes will be for sale super super soon! Probably mid-July. I am currently in the midst of getting production and a website ready which people can pre-order clothes from. Printed shirts and some trousers will be available, so people must visit the website and get their goodies.

Anything else to add?

I make good pasta from scratch if anyone wants some, just DM me on Instagram.

Check out Brendan Plummer’s designs here

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