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Clea is the Melbourne label creating wardrobe staples you’ll want to keep forever

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“In our current fashion sphere that’s saturated with evolving trends, it was important to me to craft authentic, artful pieces.”

Natasha Gordon spent over a decade working for some of the fashion industry’s finest, including a stint in the womenswear design team at Alexander McQueen, but it wasn’t until the world ground to a halt that her own label was brought to life.

Like many creatives, it was “the stillness of the pandemic” that provided her with the time to bring a long-held dream to life. The resulting label is Clea, an artfully curated range of womenswear that prioritises neutral palettes, staple knitwear, soft suiting and premium fabrics.


For more fashion news, shoots, articles and features, head to our Fashion section. 


Her debut collection was met with much fanfare, and the entire range was ordered by David Jones before the label had officially launched (impressive stuff). Below, Natasha shares Clea’s journey, from inception to success.

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

Graduating in 2012 from RMIT I have been actively designing and creating within the industry for over a decade. Within this time a diverse range of company experiences has shaped my vision for the brand and given me a clearer path for my own direction. In 2013 I was fortunate enough to have the career experience of a lifetime when placed within the womenswear design team at Alexander McQueen.

Working alongside Sarah Burton and an incredibly talented team this placement honed my process for design and instilled a desire for refined quality and exceptional cut. In addition to working alongside the most talented experts in their fields, this experience really crafted my process for design – extracting inspiration from a variety of places to create a new and unique vision. 

 

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The research process was extensive and I spent countless hours collating visual references, trawling through vintage stores, sketching and creating technique swatches. This process has become the foundation for the creation of each Clea collection. Upon [my] return to Australia, I started working for [a] small womenswear label where I was introduced to the world of fully fashioned knitwear and also gained valuable experience in many aspects of running a small business. 

This leads me to my most recent career experience as [a] knitwear designer at Witchery where I learned invaluable retail experience and was exposed to exceptional quality assurance and sustainability practices. The stillness of the pandemic gave me a moment to reflect and consider the prospect of bringing the childhood dream of my own brand to life and this is when Clea was born.  

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

It was always a dream of mine to establish my own brand. Grounded in a myriad of inspiring elements to create a new and unique vision, sourcing within architecture, art, furniture design, historical fashion and textural visual references. The process commenced by crafting our brand aesthetic and signature designs while synonymously focusing on the development of meaningful relationships with our suppliers.

 

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Where possible, we support our local manufacturing industry, with key styles being made in Melbourne. Challenges were mostly COVID-related including delays and logistics. However, with the amazing support of my teams and [the] ease of communication technology allowed, these obstacles were overcome. 

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? 

We are proud to be continually evolving and elevating while remaining true to our signature appeal. Following the launch of our debut winter 2022 collection, we have an insightful understanding of our consumers and [their] perception of the current womenswear market. While we are always seeking to evolve, we cultivate our core values to ensure each piece is crafted to be cherished beyond a single season.  

 

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

Clea is a premium womenswear label, based in Melbourne. Distinguished by an appreciation for exceptional quality, cut and finish, classic silhouettes and wardrobe staples [that] are reimagined with a modern approach. Embracing an aesthetic that proposes a fresh balance of opposing elements – masculine and feminine, textural and clean, strength and softness, intricate and minimal.

 

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With meticulous attention to detail and carefully considered creation, each garment is designed with enduring elements and longevity at its core. We are dedicated to the creation of the highest quality garments, in a conscious and considered manner, striving towards [the] best possible practice for both people and our planet. Each piece is crafted to be cherished beyond a single season.

Where did the name come from? 

 

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I called the brand Clea because I am quite shy. I felt vulnerable using my own name and Clea as a facade has allowed me to express my creative vision. Clea is my muse. 

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

In our current fashion sphere [that’s] saturated with evolving trends, it was important to me to craft authentic, artful pieces, signature to the Clea aesthetic. I am proud that our collections are mindfully produced to be planet-friendly and of enduring quality, with transeasonality and purpose as a propelling force.   

 

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What do you wish you knew when you started? 

I think the beauty of having your own business is the journey and the personal growth that comes with such a venture. Despite having nearly 10 years [of] industry experience, I am faced with new challenges and learning opportunities every single day. I don’t think there is anything specific that I wish I knew, I am just grateful for the support of my family and team who are always there for every new challenge we face.  

What about the Australian fashion industry needs to change?

 

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I would love to see additional support for local manufacturing. Machining is an incredible skill and from my experience, the demand for Australian-based manufacturing is currently outweighing the availability of supply. It would be wonderful to see additional government lead initiatives implemented to ensure these skills and local manufacturing are protected and supported to see growth into the future. 

Dream Australian collaborators? 

I would love to work with Amanda Shadforth on a creative venture. 

Who is in your wardrobe right now? 

 

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As a designer, I take so much away from wear testing the styles and have a lot of fun doing it. As you can imagine, there are a lot of Clea samples currently in the works and I find trying them an important part of the process to understand how they fit, feel and wear. 

How can we buy one of your pieces? 

Clea is available to purchase online at clea-galerie.com.au. We are also honoured that Clea is available to shop at David Jones and beautiful stockists across Australia and New Zealand. 

Explore Clea’s latest collection here.

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