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Chantelle Lucyl is defying fashion’s boundaries

IMAGES via @CHANTELLELUCYL

WORDS BY JASMINE SHEPARD

“Giving the power to the wearer to wear as they will is the ultimate goal for me.”

Upon returning home to Australia in the midst of COVID, designer Chantelle Lucyll decided to channel her energy into establishing her brand. With a degree in fashion design from RMIT, she drew upon her technical training to experiment with designs that defy the boundaries of what is considered fashion.

Initially intended as an exploration of sexuality and how materials can be used in different ways, the label has become a cult favourite thanks to its meticulously constructed cutouts. Each androgynous piece is a work of art, intended to be wrapped around the body and morphed from a simple shape into a tool for self-empowerment and individual expression.


Interested in gender-fluid designs? Find more in our Fashion vertical. 


To delve deeper into the gender-inclusive label, I spoke with Chantelle about the label’s challenging inception, artistic evolution and the issues currently facing the Australian fashion industry.

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

My background has been in and out of fashion. I’ve been travelling a lot. I’ve been broke a lot. I did a lot of internships in New York while working other jobs and landed a job working for a menswear brand – I did that for the majority of my stay in New York. I also got flown to do video work [as a filmmaker] in different states. But a lot happened during my stay. Ultimately I moved to London and was unprepared and confused about what I wanted to do. And I was broke. So when I got to London I had to work the moment I got there.

I ended up finding an internship with a fashion brand which held me until September 2019 when it was presenting at London Fashion Week. I was then working in a gallery when COVID hit. I was unemployed, that’s basically how I started the label. It was not with the intention of making a fashion brand it was to get back into that sensation of making something for myself. I hadn’t done that in two years.

I had this neurotic idea to create these sensual hypersexy garments with this reflective stretch fabric. I’d moved seven to eight times and had held onto this fabric. I have a background in leatherwork and tailoring so stretch fabrics were not really my thing. All of a sudden I was applying my skills to stretch – creating these straps and stretch wear pieces.

It took lockdown for me to stop that race of survival and to start being creative. To stop and not be so afraid of failing. To know you can actually make something out of nothing you just need to put time into it.

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

My label was not intentional. I knew I was good at fashion and had the skillset, but I wanted to pursue film. During the lockdown in London, I was putting together a short mini faux trailer about a sci-fi character. I started cutting this reflective fabric I had kept with me from New York to create erotica inspired stretch wear so the initial intention was leaning towards costume. The challenge was that I couldn’t afford regular supplies, so I became resourceful. I used paper tablecloth that I bought in a roll from the local hardware store to do my pattern making. I had ripped the back covers of magazines to create templates to grade sizes.

As I continued designing and making garments, my focus became more about the clothes than the video. I started a separate Instagram account and from there got three offers to consign with different stores across Europe and the US. That’s when I took it more seriously and started establishing the brand identity. I worked with Veronika Valtonen for a month on developing the font design for Chantelle Lucyl.

My housemate, Chris Monahan is a tech genius and brought to life the idea of having an interactive homepage that allows you to warp the image using your finger or a mouse. I wanted to share that experience because at the time, my process of making an item was to photograph it and then warp the image to find possible outcomes. I just didn’t have the financial luxury to cut and sew every idea, so I would warp images to get a closer view of what their potential could be.  

There were some setbacks. Having a strong community of people around you is important especially when you’re sensitive about sharing your work. Eventually, you’ve just gotta let go and share it.

 

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A post shared by Chantelle Lucyl (@chantellelucyl)

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?

In the beginning, I was just going with the flow and wanted to see how the straps could exist on all different forms, I wasn’t really trying to communicate anything specific. I did want to empower the body and figure out what the ultimate kind of sexy looked like or felt like and that sensation was initiated through my own experience of trying on the garments in different ways.

Now, I focus on the individual expression shown through others. I find it really interesting when customers tag me in their photos and I love sharing the way it’s worn individually, it makes me so proud to see that confidence and tenacity in a pose or that glimmer in their eyes, that’s really my favourite part of the job. I think you have to be unapologetically yourself to wear a Chantelle Lucyl piece. You’ve really got to make it your own because, without you or your body, it is nothing but a shape. Giving the power to the wearer to wear as they will is the ultimate goal for me.

Tell me about your return to Australia and how it’s impacted your career.

It became impossible to extend my visa in London, so all of my savings went into getting home. When I was doing my hotel quarantine in Queensland, I spent that time researching affordable equipment to be delivered to my Melbourne address. There was a rush in orders, as it was close to Christmas and as soon as I got out and flew to Melbourne, I basically locked myself in again and got working. I started declining but people didn’t see that.

It is already hard enough to have the courage to do it on your own and then to add moving a business to another country on top of the global crisis impacting all of us in so many different ways. It was overwhelming for me. People don’t really talk about the loneliness of success, but it is real and I am now more aware of it than ever. I am grateful for the internet because it has really enabled a global community to collaborate with each other from all over the world.

 

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A post shared by Chantelle Lucyl (@chantellelucyl)

What are you most proud of in your work on the brand?

I am proud of the persistence I’ve had to keep going despite all odds [being] against me, especially to start a business during a pandemic. I really believe that the world needs to heal right now and it’s our job as creative people to inspire and provoke that.

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

The future of fashion in Australia depends on the younger generation to lead in the innovation of design and production processes. So, there needs to be a stronger commitment from the executives of these events to give that opportunity to the younger, smaller businesses. These fashion week events could advocate for so much more. I believe we need to establish the industry here and stop outsourcing overseas. Providing more jobs, boosting the economy, establishing a quality that is ‘Australian claimed’ and putting us on the map for being known to produce high-quality goods.

 

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A post shared by Chantelle Lucyl (@chantellelucyl)

Who is in your wardrobe right now?

I’ve got this gorgeous number by Maroske Peech that I wear on frisky occasions and my go-to for an everyday mesh that makes me feel vibrant and young is Dom Sebastian, I’ve got two of his print mesh tops!

How can we buy one of your pieces?

Follow @chantellelucyl.When you make a purchase, I basically stop everything I am doing and start your order – everything is made to order. The following stores stock a select range of garments with no wait time on production. You can grab those pieces at Terminal Six, Aune, I Am That, Lunch Concept Store and [I’m] crossing [my] fingers for a new lineup in Berlin!

Keep up with Chantelle Lucyl here.

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